“I will recycle, I`ll use my bicycle, I`ll walk into town, I`ll turn the heating down,
I`ll fill my kettle halfway, listen to everything else you say..
But don`t take my freedom away!
Don`t take my holidays, don`t take my time away,
Don`t take my wings away..”
– ‘Flying’ by Seize the Day
I am an active member of couchsurfing.com – an international network of people who host other travellers for free on their sofa, floor or spare bed. I have hosted a lot of people recently – an average of around one a fortnight for the last couple of months. This is great and I love doing it. I have met some wonderful people and have had no bad experiences, but something is starting to nag at me: am I encouraging people to take cheap flights by giving them a free place to stay?
I first started to think about this when I hosted a couple of girls on their way from mainland Europe to Edinburgh and spotted a flight card sticking out of one of their bags. I was struck with horror. Am I encouraging this sort of behaviour? I couldn’t bring myself to speak to them about it, it just felt too rude. Since then I have hosted a number of people and have only once had the guts to bring up the conversation. They had flown, although were quite anti-flying themselves. They said on this occasion they had little time and money and had no other option. I have heard this sort of thing a lot. It seems to me that it goes a lot deeper than just an unwillingness to take what is seen as an inconvenient option, and speaks more about the pressures of modern life and the way people view travel. The more a person is ingrained in modern society, the more they are under this sort of pressure. Even a part-time employee will usually only get a set amount of time in which to take holidays and full-time workers are usually exhausted by the time a holiday comes around, so they feel they deserve to just have a relaxing time in the sun, somewhere far away, with all of the apparent hassle and stress of travel taken away. This is added to by advertisers preying on fear of the unknown in order to sell safety – package holidays, travel insurance and pre-booked flights.
To me, travel is about adventure. The journey is as important, if not sometimes more so, than the destination. Fellow travellers are as interesting as those I go to meet. I have vowed never to fly again. Is this a huge sacrifice? Not really. Why? Because not flying is not synonymous to me with not traveling. I hope to visit hundreds of places in the future, just not in the sterility of an airplane, in front of a child that repeatedly kicks the back of my seat, with a little pre-packed box of something unidentified to eat and popping ears. People have been traveling the globe since the dawn of mankind and we have only had airports for about 100 years so why cement the two together in our minds?
I have just started a ‘Travel Without Flying’ group on CS. In case people are interested it can be found –>here<–