Many people over the many years have written many romantic sentiments about travel. I love travel. Travel can be romantic and wonderful. Travel can also be, and often is, nasty. Travel is barbaric. It has always been barbaric.
Back in the day, travel was much worse. If you were fortunate and wealthy, you had a horse you could ride. Maybe you had a wagon but probably not roads. The Roman roads were one of their greatest legacies, making travel slightly less barbaric. Their roads far outlasted their empire and weren’t equaled again for a millennia and a half.
But roads were not without problems. Even as recently as 200 years ago, travel was uncomfortable if not life-threatening. Few roads were paved and wagons when not suck in mud were tossed about by ruts and potholes. Bandits, brigands, and highwaymen understood that roads were mostly used by wealthier people and few roads were completely safe. You were best served to hire an armed escort if you traveled who hopefully didn’t decide robbing you was more profitable than fighting off other robbers. Even if you made it without being robbed or killed, the journey was uncomfortable and long. Sure, you could go by boat but then the threats were storms and pirates and being tossed about by waves.
200 years ago it would have taken two weeks to travel from England to Rome under fear of catastrophe and villainy. Yesterday it took me 12 hours and little to no threat of crashing or brigandage. Absolutely an improvement, but still, travel is barbaric. We simply have moved to a more refined barbarism.
Air travel is the new barbarism. To fly, one needs to go to an airport, which are limited in number and tend to be located in remote places. From my quaint village in England, I need to take a half hour bus ride to the nearest city from which I can take a two and a half hour bus ride to Heathrow. Of course, I have to be at Heathrow at least two hours before my flight so I can stand in line at the check-in counter, stand in line at security, then stand in line at the gate. So I have already spent five hours traveling before my two and a half hour flight to Rome.
Then when the plane arrives as Rome I get this:
That is Italian passport control. What is difficult to make out in this photo is that that is not a disordered mob. Snaking off to the left are roped off lines where hapless passengers are standing two-by-two waiting to be seen by border officers. I had passed through eight 50-meter “laps” and had reached the halfway point when I took this photo. Total time in line: 2 hours 50 minutes. Everyone was quite patient. A testament to human fortitude.
Then after a 20 minute walk through the airport, it took me an hour long taxi journey from the airport to my hotel. Total trip time: 12 hours and change. Only 2.5 hours of which was the actual flight. Travel is barbaric.
Next week I will extol the virtues of trains! (no, seriously, I love trains)
Interesting information on the history of travel.