I was talking to a colleague yesterday, let’s call him “Sam.” We were talking about travel destinations. He was shopping for a place to go for a week with his wife this winter, and we were talking about Europe. He had some hesitation about going to Europe for short little trip because they have longer-term plans to “do Europe” later, and didn’t want to sneak in little preliminary bits of Europe before the big event, lest they ruin the surprise (I am paraphrasing here).
Here’s the thing: get in your car right now and drive to Halifax and get on a plane that leaves there tonight. If you fly west to Vancouver, it will take you about 9 hours to get there, including a 2 hour layover in Toronto. If you fly east to London, England, it will take you about 7 hours to get there, including a brief stop in St. John’s.
Once you’re at Heathrow, you’re basically less than 3 or 4 hours from of almost anywhere else in Europe. For example, you can fly from Stansted (a quick bus ride from Heathrow) to Prague the same day, and you’ll be in Prague by 4:00 in the afternoon (and on EasyJet, you’ll only pay $120 for the flight).
And so on.
San Francisco is 9 to 11 hours away. Whitehorse is about 12 hours. Dallas is 8 or 9 hours from Halifax.
Granted, there are passports, and borders and other things to consider when going to Europe (although arguably there are more complications going to the U.S. these days).
But for some reason we still think of Vancouver as “close” and Europe as “very, very far away.” To the extent that many think of traveling to Europe as being in the “once or twice in a lifetime” category.
And this isn’t something unique to travel: the thought of picking up the phone and actually calling someone in, say, Rome or Madrid would be something that I, even with all my voice-over-IP and “man of the world” posturing, would treat as a special event. Even though calling Rome right now would cost me about 7 cents a minute, which is about half as much as it costs to call Summerside at Aliant’s regular rates.
Even the thought of mailing something “overseas” seems exotic, and something that would deserve a special trip to the post office.
This concerns me on several levels.
Personally, I’d like to be able to get over my “far far away” hang-ups about Europe because I think I would go there more often, have more fun, be a better person.
Provincially (so to speak), I’d like more of the people I work and live alongside to be able to do the same: I think the way we plan our cities, live our lives, eat our food, etc. would be dramatically changed with more European travel under our collective belts.
And I think if we all treated European (and for that matter worldwide) travel less like a 50th wedding anniversary and more like a trip to the corner store, we would get a heck of a lot more out of the travel experience.
The thing is, I’m not sure how to make this happen, personally or otherwise. Maybe it just takes more traveling, calling and mailing.