Wonder and Awe of Modern Travel

Austria

Until just a few decades ago, most of humanity lived and died within a small area.  

After our hunter-gatherer ancestors learned to grow food and settled down, only the rare exception travelled further than 25 km. from his or her birthplace.

My great-grandfather was born in a small village.  His wife was from a nearby village.  They didn’t travel outside it at all.  

My grandfather was a knowledge-seeking maverick.  He left home at the age of 14 to travel 25 km. to the nearest town where he went to high school.  He then went 70 km. further afield to a major city, where he attended college and took a job that involved travelling across 4 states.  (His brother, who lived to be 98 years old, spent all his life within the radius extending to the nearby town.)

Royal Bedroom at Palace of Versailles, Paris, France

Palace of Versailles, Paris, France

My father travelled overseas to train in cardiology.  Over a five year period, he went around the globe to study in 3 different countries before returning to India.  Apart from his “educational tourism”, he never travelled abroad again, and indeed restricted his later travel to a very narrow segment of India.

After accompanying my parents on their round-the-world trip at a young age, I’ve done my own travelling, for both education and leisure.  By train, bus, car or airplane, each trip has been an interesting experience – for different reasons.

Stateroom Palace of Versailles

Stateroom at Versailles

My favorites, though, have been long-distance trips, made possible by modern flying technology.

On a recent trip, while watching planes land and take-off from the transit lounge at Doha International airport, something struck me.  

Travel has become more accessible and affordable today, thanks to technology.

Next time you’re on a plane, just look around you – and wonder.

The powerful metal ‘bird’ you’re inside has enough circuitry, fuel and aviation machinery to lift you (along with hundreds of others, plus your overstuffed baggage containing all the comforts of home!) high up into the sky – and set you back down on the ground, thousands of miles away.

Safely.

And, considering the distance, rather inexpensively.

In fact, kilometer for kilometer, it costs 7 TIMES more to get home from the airport by taxi than to fly from Chennai to Rome!

Mirabelle Garden Salzburg

Mirabelle Garden, Salzburg, Austria

Then, think about how complex it is to co-ordinate literally hundreds of such flights that use a busy airport every day.

On one runway in Rome’s Fiumcino airport, on a busy morning, I saw 4 flights take off in quick succession with barely a couple of minutes interval between each.  

The logistics of organizing this across airlines, language and personality differences among pilots from different nations, and varying sizes or types of aircraft is literally mind-boggling.

There’s so much more.

We, as tourists, get our knickers in a knot every time a bag or suitcase goes missing – but the airline industry juggles millions of pieces every day, without losing many.

When you book tickets (after, of course, ‘blocking’ them weeks ahead, then changing dates, times, seat choices and meal plan options several times in the interim) and get board the plane, it’s a miracle of modern technology that you actually get what you ordered.

Eiffel Tower Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

There are gazillion code-sharing deals and partnerships between smaller airlines and major partners.  For our plane from Rome to Vienna alone, there were 7 different codes flashing in rotation.  The entire announcement board was like a giant stock exchange ticker, flickering and changing every few seconds.

It seems like a giant, chaotic mess.

But everything gels together, and works in harmony.

Together, this gigantic network ferries people across the world – so we can explore and enjoy foreign lands, cultures and communities.

Truly, we live in a golden era of human civilization… where the world has shrunk to become so easily accessible.

This thought ran through my head on the six-hour flight from Doha to Rome.  But as the seatbelt sign flashed on and the 368-seat jet prepared to land, all this was replaced by a childish excitement over the places we were going to see, the things we were going to do, the people we were going to meet.

Like the richly resplendent ‘Hall of Mirrors’ at Versailles Palace in Paris, with its lavish royal chambers and ornately decorated staterooms…

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

And the scenic beauty of Salzburg, in the lush setting of “Sound of Music”… 

Sound of Music, Salzburg, Austria

Garden at Schloss Hellbrunn

Garden at Hellbrunn Palace

Or the majesty of Paris’ rich archictectural marvels

Notre Dame Paris France

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

Place de la Bastille

Place de la Bastille, Paris, France

That’s the real thrill and joy of travel.

Seeing new places.

Doing fun things.

Meeting interesting people.

Learning.

Growing.

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