“An alpinist develops his power and gives proof of it; he feels and thinks simultaneously; this superior joy illuminates the snow landscape. But he who has taken an electric train up to the top of a famous mountain does not find the same sun.”Emile-Auguste Chartier, “Diogenes” in Alain on Happiness. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1973.
The Chinese sage, Lao-tzu, said that: “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” We can arrive only if we begin.
But, let’s consider a specific 1,000 mile journey, from Vancouver, British Columbia to San Francisco, California. Google Maps helpfully indicates the time involved for different modes of transportation.
If flying, it would take 2 hours and 20 minutes. If driving, it would take 16 hours and 11 minutes. By bus, it takes 1 day and 2 hours. By train, 1 day and 14 hours.
However, something interesting happens when we moved to human-powered transport. By bicycle, it takes 91 hours. If we assume 8 hours of bicycling per day, it would take just over 11 days. Walking, by way of contrast, would take 324 hours. Assuming 8 hours per day of walking, it would take just over 40 days. It might be one reason, “Forty days and forty nights” used to be short-hand for a long time.
Whether you are looking at Paris to Lisbon, Berlin to Naples, Istanbul to Jerusalem, Cape Town to Durban, Brisbane to Melbourne, Nagasaki to Aomori, Kolkata to New Delhi or Beijing, China to Seoul, South Korea, the challenges of each journey are quite different, if you are biking or walking. However, if you are travelling by air, it is largely the same. It’s a slightly more than two hour flight that, in large part, is a homogeneity of experience. Air travel is the McDonald’s of travel. It is the more or less the same everywhere.
There are sites like The Man in Seat 61 that make this point about train travel.
“Many people want to cut their carbon footprint or are simply fed up with the hassle of flying – and a significant number of people are afraid of flying or medically restricted from doing so. However, information on alternatives to flying is often difficult to find through a travel industry obsessed with flights, flights, car hire and more flights.
So the site aims to INSPIRE people to do something more rewarding with their travel opportunities than schlepping to an airport, getting on a soulless airliner and missing all the world has to offer. It then sets out to ENABLE people to take train or ferry by giving the the confidence and know-how to book their trip themselves, or call the right people to book it for them at affordable prices.”About Me, Seat61,com
The hassle of flying is that it is merely a means of transport and offers little in terms of experience. It is something to endure and get through. What makes travel rewarding is the experience of the journey itself, of being faced with challenges and surmounting them.
It is interesting to note that the main difficulty addressed above is of confidence and imagination. Flying is what everyone does in a world where there is a premium on efficiency and time. Seat61.com is trying to operate by a different set of values.
Of course, if we take this kind of thinking to its logical conclusion, then whatever advantages that train and bus travel provide in terms of making the journey itself worthwhile, then biking and walking offer even more advantages. If we look at it strictly in terms of time, presumably an extension of time by 45 in the case of bicycling and 162 by walking increases the richness of the experience by some function of that time, which factors in difficulty of arranging accommodations, food, water and the other necessities.
Maybe like with the Slow Food movement, we need a Slow Travel movement. If nothing else, it will help more people to see more possibilities beyond the default, live richer lives and contribute to increasing the possibilities of human flourishing.
“…travel on foot is slow. It is the speed that most of the human race experienced life for thousands of years, right up until the last couple of hundred years.
In the time span you have available for your adventure, you will see the fewest places if you decide to walk. But the places that you do see, you will truly see. And that is worth a lot.”
—Alastair Humphreys. “Let’s Hear it for the Radical Simplicity of Walking.” Adventure Journal.
“WeeCasa is a tiny house resort in Lyons, Colorado – the Double Gateway to the Rockies. We believe that life should be a balance of freedom and sustainability. We strive to express this new version of the “American Dream” by providing a new experience built around tiny living and outdoor adventure. Our mission is to provide high-end accommodations that highlight the possibilities of living in a Tiny House. Come and enjoy a night (or longer) in our beautiful setting, enjoy the outdoors and a respite from urban sprawl. Live Wee, Live Free! ”
“Every week Mark, Claudia and I encounter great podcasts, bingeable video series, amazing people to follow, memorable destinations, perfect tips, and many other types of things besides tools we’d like to recommend. Thus was born Recomendo a year and half ago. Conceived as a weekly email, Recomendo now has about 15,000 subscribers. (Sign up here, free.)
We thought that after 73 weeks of 6 recommendations per week, we’d make Recomendo even better by compiling a categorized version on the web. So Claudia rounded up the past issues and sorted all the recommendations by subject.
The Recomendo website now offers all the travel tips, or cleaning techniques, or browser hacks in one place. Check it out, it’s pretty neat. The links have been rechecked and updated. This compendium can serve as an alternative way to refresh what we’ve raved about recently, or it is also a perfect way to inform a friend about our collective recommendations. Over 450 great tips and recommendations of cool stuff.” h/t Cool Tools.
“Interestingly, one of the initial impediments to open-mindedness is not ignorance but ideology. This is especially true in America, where (particularly in “progressive” circles) we have politicized open-mindedness to the point that it isn’t so open-minded anymore. Indeed, regardless of whether your sympathies lean to the left or the right, you aren’t going to learn anything new if you continually use politics as a lens through which to view the world. At home, political convictions are a tool for getting things done within your community; on the road, political convictions are a clumsy set of experiential blinders, compelling you to seek evidence for conclusions you have already drawn.
This is not to say that holding political beliefs is wrong—it’s just that politics are naturally reductive, and the world is infinitely complex. Cling too fiercely to your ideologies and you’ll miss the subtle realities that politics can’t address…”
—Rolf Potts, Vagabonding. (New York: Villard, 2003), 161-162.