Nov 4, 2010

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Why travelling is great – a riposte

Harry LawranceIf you’ve already seen our post ‘Notes from the world’s grumpiest traveller’, you’ll have read our resident Victor Meldrew’s complaints and grumbles about the hassles and annoyances of travelling. But the travelling element of any holiday doesn’t have to be a chore – in fact, I really enjoy it! Ok it’s not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, but the ‘getting there’ is all a part of the trip that can and should be enjoyed. So please allow me to offer a riposte to my colleague’s arguments and tell you all the great things about ‘the journey’ that our grumpy traveller has overlooked.

Airport Shops:

The fragrance stands

The fragrance stands

I love airport shops. My favourite is the newsagent / bookshop, because as an avid reader I usually take two or three books away on holiday with me, and I always look forward to choosing which books I’m going to read. The fact that I’m waiting for my plane to board gives me plenty of time to peruse a wide number and variety of books at leisure and find books that I otherwise may never have known existed. My second favourite airport shop is the fragrance shop. Unlike in your local boots, where all of the perfumes are kept in locked glass cases, manned (or wo-manned) by a spray-happy employee with a fearsome arsenal of sales skills – the airport fragrance shop allows you to slowly traipse around at ease, spraying and smelling the contents of each unusually shaped bottle in turn, to find out which I like best. And then I usually leave without buying a thing. The rest of my day is then spent smelling delightful. My fellow passengers are very lucky.

The Flight:
I can’t for the life of me see how anyone could fail to get excited by air travel. Quickly accelerating to high speed and bounding down the runway before rising into the sky, and getting a unique aerial panorama of the surrounding city and countryside is exhilarating to me. And it’s always sunny above the clouds, in flight gives me a great opportunity to do some reading, listen to albums or podcasts that I’ve not got round to listening to yet, play some games on my phone or watch a movie on my ipod. In other words, it is all essentially leisure time! Breaking under the cloud cover as the plane comes into land, provides what is often the first glimpse of a foreign land – and to me that is also very exciting!

The Onward Journey:

Just your typical car hire experience

Your stereotypical car hire experience

Once I’ve passed through passport control (and hopefully received a new and excitingly coloured stamp to help fill out the pages of my passport) the onward journey is something else to be enjoyed. If I’m hiring a car, then the experience of driving in a new country, on the ‘wrong’ side of the road,  seeing new sights and listening to indecipherable songs and chat on the radio is all great fun. If I’m climbing aboard a coach transfer, all the better – I get to see the landscape whizz by with zero concentration required and in comfort. If I’m on a city break, it’s even more fun. Trying to figure out bus or train timetables written entirely in a foreign language and navigating streets with eyes glued to a map and dragging a wheelie suitcase behind me are agreeable challenges, and that little feeling of being a bit lost is an exhilarating one.

  1. Harry – just what we needed in response to Mr Grumpy.

    However I do have to take issue with you about the Duty Free shop. A recent experience at Heathrow’s magnificent Terminal 5 waiting for a connecting flight back home has put me off going anywhere near. I was perusing the perfumes and after shave section for a piece of research I am planning and felt beseiged by the sales people offering to help me, assist me, spray me, help me find something. And they are all plastered in war paint and hairspray in uniform black. I had to say I found it very intimidating indeed and in the end I walked away annoyed by them after my long overnight flight.

    Something I love though is watching the departures board or TV screens. I love the myriad of destinations, flight numbers and gates, as well as the messages such as boarding now, check with airline, gate closed, deaparted and delayed. and all the strange airline names of carriers from foreign lands. I find this the most exciting thing of all. Who is going to these places, where have all these people in the lounge come from, what are their stories? Wonderful.

    If anyone wants a quick read, then check out a book written by Alain de Botton called A week at the Airport following his spell as the resident writer at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. an excellent read indeed.

  2. I agree 100%! The travelling part of a holiday is the best part! Only in an airport could I get away with having a Whopper burger for breakfast without feeling guilty! Follow this up with a cheeky drink in the bar to calm the nerves before getting on the plane and you’re set for the day.

    I still feel like a big kid watching the aeroplanes taking off and coming in to land just wondering where they are going and where they have been – I could probably work it out by looking at the departures screens but that’s just no fun.

    Also, I rather enjoy the sprint to the gates when your boarding number is called. It helps work off the Whopper I just gulfed down! So I’m in total agreeance with you here, Harry!

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