Saturday, September 6, 2008

Peak Travel?

I realize I've been very fortunate when it comes to travel. I traveled a lot as a kid, because my dad's specialty is international agriculture. I hated it at the time. Being a rather geeky child, it took me awhile to adjust and make friends, and it seems whenever I had settled in, off we would go somewhere else. And sometimes it would be to places that had severe drawbacks from a kid's POV: no TV, no ice cream, sometimes no electricity or indoor plumbing. But Dad always told me that I would be grateful for the experience when I was grown, and he was right.

As an adult, I continued to enjoy travel. Not a lot by the standards of a wealthy nation at the peak of world oil production, but still, more than most people could dream of historically. I've fulfilled a lot of my travel dreams. I went to college across the country from home. I've walked along the Great Wall of China, and visited the old haunts of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien in Oxford, England. I've shopped in Hong Kong and seen plays on Broadway and the West End. I've explored the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, followed the path of the Bataan Death March, and experienced spring training in Florida.

But could we be at "peak travel"? I'm seeing more and more articles about it. Here are a couple:

Will fares go so high that only the rich can fly?

The end of travel

And of course, there are a lot of reasons why the peak oil aware should not travel. It's expensive, and peak oilers generally try to save money, not spend it. It's bad for the environment; the tourists flocking to see glaciers before they melt may well be hastening their demise. It's yet more consumption, generally by people who consume too much already. (And I really fear those "carbon credit" things are scams.)

But...I still want to travel. People are generally happier spending their money on experiences rather than things. And the idea that it might be coming to an end (at least for the American middle class) only makes it more enticing. Travel now, while you can.

There are still so many other places I'd like to visit. I'd love to see Angkor Wat. I'd like to visit Arches National Park before more arches collapse, and Gettysburg before more witness trees fall. I want to go on a walking tour of Scotland, and a bicycle tour of Provence. I'd like stay in a haunted hotel and go on a ghost tour in New Orleans before it sinks beneath the waves. (No, I don't really believe in ghosts, but I enjoy ghost stories, even though I don't believe them.) I'd love to attend a Super Bowl, and a World Series game. I want to go on an African photo safari, and tour Greece, and Tuscany. And yes, I want to visit Glacier National Park while there are still a few glaciers left.

Probably luckily for the environment, I can't afford to do all that, and would certainly not go into debt for it.

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