June 10, 2014

Why should we succumb to what Virginia Postrel calls the "seduction" and "glamour" of travel?

As you may remember, I'm skeptical about travel. Travel is promoted by the industries that profit from it, including writers who romanticize it, and I question whether the consumers who hemorrhage money and submit to the ordeals of travel even know their own minds as they profess to love travel.

Now, Virginia Postrel has this essay titled "The Glamour of Getting Away/No matter how unpleasant the real journeys, travel still has a way of seducing us," and I don't see why her observations don't lead her to the same skepticism that I have. She tells us about the advertising and photography that lure us into thinking travel will be sublime, and that in reality travel rewards our effort and expense with far less pleasure than we formed our expectations around.

But instead of seriously questioning travel, Postrel only shifts to self-help mode with a few sentences of advice on how to make the best of travel:
If you expect your vacation to be a series of perfectly composed still photos, with no sandy bathing suits, sore feet, or fellow tourists, you won’t have a good time. But you can... adopt a viewpoint that downplays the difficulties of your journey and highlights its pleasures. Expect the plane delays and enjoy the view. Focus on the beauty of Venice and ignore the stink. Create happy memory snapshots as you go, preserving the glamour of travel.
In other words, the hope for pleasure and fulfillment that makes you want to spend and work on travel comes from an illusion, but if you do additional work, work on preserving the illusion, you can still get some pleasure and fulfillment. There's no discussion of the alternative of resisting the sales pressure and not buying. Is there a better way to spend your money and your time? One could cast aside illusions and search for the truth, including the truth of what genuinely gives pleasure.

Postrel has made "glamour" her subject, so perhaps she would say we get pleasure from illusions, and truth itself is overpromoted and insufficiently pleasurable.

152 comments:

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

"They say that travel broadens the mind, till you can't get your head out of doors."

-- Elvis Costello

AustinRoth said...

To me the point of travel is not to re-create other people's concepts of a destination, but to experience, first hand, the incredible richness and diversity of the world.

And it is the challenges of travel itself that makes the overall journey more satisfying.

All my best vacations revolve around not only the things that did work out, but the hilarious (in hindsight) unexpected things you encounter along the way.

Michael said...

Professor, you are afraid to fly and building your thesis against travel around that prejudice.

You cannot appreciate Under the Volcano if you have not been to Mexico and tasted those things the Consul tasted. You cannot fully appreciate Dickens if you have not walked in London. A picture by John Singer Sargent is not the same as the photograph in the book. A walk in an Asian capitol or a Central American capitol changes the way you look at the world. Or should. Surely you understand this.

Postrel is focusing on the vacation, leisure, industry which is quite different from travel.

I find those who are opposed to travel as fundamentally incurious, smugly so.

Unknown said...

Why do you discount the pleasure of expectations?

Why do you presume to substitute your judgment for the judgment of those who do find pleasure in travel ("I question whether they actually know in their own minds ...")

vermonter said...

But you traveled back to your high school home. "Ah, there's the bridge" and you were transported back to the day. Have you thought of the bridge or the night on the peninsula before this trip?

The Crack Emcee said...

"Postrel only shifts to self-help,…"

Most white people think NewAge bullshit solves EVERYTHING.

Even slavery,...

Sorun said...

"Travel is promoted by the industries that profit from it, including writers who romanticize it"

I enjoy profiting from travel shows on TV. Recently watched a Rick Steves episode about the Burgundy region of France. A lot of interesting history was presented as well as nice visuals of terrain, architecture, etc. Just ignore the pretentious wine-tasting and snail-eating segments.

Ron said...

Haven't you through your frequent positive posts on staying at home tried to make that seem glamorous?

Paco Wové said...

"Why do you presume to substitute your judgment for the judgment of those..."

If people would only stop deceiving themselves, they would realize that deep down we are all Ann Althouse.

Althouse is the human paradigm. To the extent that we disagree with Althouse, we are in rebellion against our true nature.

hawkeyedjb said...

"Most white people..."

Most of the racist drivel in the world starts with a phrase like that.

Thank God that "Most black people" are not like Crack.

Guimo said...

Travel is overrated unless one lives in a foreign country for at least six weeks. Otherwise, one can achieve "Horizons of the Mind" by reading & using the internet.

hawkeyedjb said...

"Most white people..."

Most of the racist drivel in the world starts with a phrase like that.

Thank God that "Most black people" are not like Crack.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Q: Why do you travel?
A: Because it feels so good when I get home.

Actually I enjoy travel. I think it helps a lot that I am not looking for "seduction" or "glamour" from my travel experience. I expect the little inconveniences, so I'm not disappointed when they occur. I enjoy the travel for what it is.

Mark O said...

"I question whether the consumers who hemorrhage money and submit to the ordeals of travel even know their own minds as they profess to love travel."

When you woke up this morning, this was on your mind. And the other day as well.

Are not these musings related to
Socrates' bold statement that "The unexamined life is not worth living?"

It is, however, difficult to lead an examined life. We could all discuss predestination. That covers it.

madAsHell said...

I've made three trips to south and east Africa.
Each trip has been more fantastic than the last.
Attempting to intimidate a baboon that wanted my potato chips at the Cape of Good Hope.
Paddling down the Zambezi river with crocodiles joining us from the shoreline.
Crossing rain swollen streams on the Serengeti.
Sun rise with elephants grazing just outside the tent near Arusha.
Reviewing fossils on Rusinga Island.

Why should we succumb?
Beats me!?!?

Full disclosure:
I've also been to an all-inclusive hotel in Mexico. Don't waste your time.

The Crack Emcee said...

hawkeyedjb,

"Thank God that 'Most black people' are not like Crack."

I agree - it's just the 97% who vote against you every time,...

Roughcoat said...

I like travel. I like to see new things and strange places. I especially like Ireland and Greece. I always feel relaxed and carefree when I'm in either of those countries. In Ireland, I visit my great-grandfather and great grandmother's houses, watch border collies herd sheep, visit Yeats's grave, etc. In Greece I kick back on some remote island and imagine myself as a Bronze Age warrior, enjoying sun, food, and sex, and hanging out with some the friendliest, most hospitable people on the planet. Brings to mind this quote:

“At length, after long debate, Feanor prevailed, and the Noldor there assembled he set aflame with a desire for new things and strange places.”

MadisonMan said...

There are times when travel is highly recommended, IMO.

Mid-March in Madison, for example, is a bleak test of patience, waiting for Spring. It's soothing to leave town for a bit on a nice vacation and to come back when Spring has arrived.

Michael said...

Crack
Most white people think nothing of the kind. Quite stupid of you to think so.


By writing the word "everything" in all capital letters do you think you are improving on the word "everything" or trying to have your readers believe you have a screw loose?

On the topic of travel, one of my pet peeves is the announcement during the boarding of airplanes that the plane is "completely full." This is not only redundant but subtracts from the meaning of the word "full".

MisterBuddwing said...


For some strange reason, whenever I travel abroad (not that frequently), I always enjoy the forced incompetence of having to carefully read the money and figure out how much I'm spending.

There's something to be said for leaving one's (boring) comfort zone now and then.

Anonymous said...

Why do you presume to substitute your judgment for the judgment of those who do find pleasure in travel ("I question whether they actually know in their own minds ...")

Judging from the recent religion posts, I'm guessing the answer to your question is "force of habit".

The Crack Emcee said...

I was telling myself yesterday, when I was told my car was totaled, that if I was traveling this would all be an inconvenience.

Life as an adventure,...

Ann Althouse said...

"Professor, you are afraid to fly and building your thesis against travel around that prejudice."

There are ordeals in travel. I know it and you know it. One of the ordeals is the danger of some sort of accident along the way, such as a plane or car crash. But plane travel has the certainty that you will have to arrive and depart on someone else's schedule, go through the humiliation of security searching (submitting to searches and even physical touchings), and you will be confined and crammed into an aluminum tube.

Everyone should think for himself about he wants to spend his time and money -- that's my point on the psychology of travel.

I do see how you might want to defend your commitment to travel by painting me as fearful, but what is the psychology of your motivation to treat me that way. What are your fears and other negative emotions that cause you to be so defensive?

Michael said...

Guimo:

Could not disagree more. I have spent a month at a time in Mexico but don't value that experience more than the multiple three day excursions I have had to Nicaragua or El Salvador or Japan or England. In fact, I intend this year to take several long weekends in Europe traveling from my home in Atlanta. Air travel does not bother me in the least. Noise canceling headphones, lots to read. Oh, and first class.

If you mean concentrating on a particular area of a place I would agree. A week in London is more valuable to me than a week trotting around all of England.

SJ said...

"Travel is promoted by the industries that profit from it, including writers who romanticize it"

Postrel has discovered the business of marketing and promotion.

In the sentence above, replace "Travel" with "Football", "Higher Education", or "Rock Concerts".

Does the statement change significantly?

Does the change depend in how much you were interested in the field mentioned?

Does the charge that some organizations promote that interest to make money off it change your interest?

Roughcoat said...

In his poem "Ulysses" Tennyson expresses the allure of travel--travel as a transcendent, and transcending, experience:

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die. . . .
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

mrs.e said...

"In other words, the hope for pleasure and fulfillment that you want to spend and work on travel are an illusion, but if you do additional work, work on preserving the illusion, you can still get some pleasure and fulfillment."

You're both acknowledging the illusion so, it seems to just be a matter of opinion as to how to deal with it. You don't want to play and she does. I don't know that she's preserving the illusion so much, as just accepting it.

stutefish said...

Buy experiences, not things, they say. The older I get, the wiser this seems.

It's important to not try to force something out of a misguided expectation of what should be. This applies to travel as much as anything, but from this we cannot conclude that travel itself is deprecated.

Ann Althouse said...

"You cannot appreciate Under the Volcano if you have not been to Mexico and tasted those things the Consul tasted. You cannot fully appreciate Dickens if you have not walked in London. A picture by John Singer Sargent is not the same as the photograph in the book. A walk in an Asian capitol or a Central American capitol changes the way you look at the world. Or should. Surely you understand this."

I not only don't "understand" that. I find it perfectly silly. A trip to some other country doesn't really embed you in the place, and it can be far less "real" than reading something written by someone who really belongs in the culture and knows it. You can't visit the London Dickens wrote about, and even if you could time-travel back to his London, you probably wouldn't want to go to the dirty, ugly places he described, and even if you did, you couldn't experience them the way people who were stuck there felt them. I've been to London, and I've even visited Dickens's house there, and I don't think it adds anything to the experience of reading him, so I surely don't think tramping about London today is needed to "appreciate" his works. It would be better to spend the time reading more Dickens.

I do agree that seeing a painting "in person" is very different from looking at a reproduction, and I have gone to many art museums, and I've traveled to Amsterdam for nearly the sole purpose of seeing paintings in person. I have traveled mostly on what feels like a spiritual journey, where I have looked for truth and beauty. It has been exalted at times, but you pay for the beauty with a great deal of pain (deny the pain if you want). Anything you do has an opportunity cost. But I have found great beauty and spiritual fulfillment lying on my own front lawn looking up at the trees and the clouds.

If we scored happiness, I think we'd rack up a much higher score by finding a place to live and someone to love and cultivating our garden.

Roughcoat said...

I like adventure. I like the challenge and the hardship of travel. I like to brush up close to death and I like the feeling I get after I walk away from that encounter. I like the thrill. All my life I've sought that thrill. Now I'm getting old(er) and my greatest fear is that I will not be able have these experiences any more.

Sebastian said...

"I question whether the consumers who hemorrhage money and submit to the ordeals of travel even know their own minds as they profess to love travel."

Just as you question whether the faithful really believe what they profess to believe?

If your skepticism or "questioning" is really a denial that people can know themselves and their motives in any meaningful way, then that's the end of the story.

If your skepticism is itself open to revision and empirical challenge, what kind of evidence would convince you that (some, many, most) people do know their own minds when it comes to travel (or that believers really do believe what they claim to believe, etc.)?

Gahrie said...

Most black people think victimization bullshit solves EVERYTHING.

bandmeeting said...

But instead of seriously questioning travel,

Seriously questioning travel? What a waste of time. Time better spent traveling, which I'm going to do in a couple of hours. The mountains of Utah were still snow capped a couple of days ago when I flew over them. The fact that you are afraid to do so does not mean that I shouldn't do it.

Ann Althouse said...

"I find those who are opposed to travel as fundamentally incurious, smugly so."

He said, smugly.

Meade said...

"Now I'm getting old(er) and my greatest fear is that I will not be able have these experiences any more."

Your ultimate adventure: brush up close to that which you are most afraid of: non travel. Think of the feeling you'll have after you (don't) walk away from that encounter. The thrill.

MadisonMan said...

I do agree that seeing a painting "in person" is very different from looking at a reproduction, and I have gone to many art museums, and I've traveled to Amsterdam for nearly the sole purpose of seeing paintings in person

Visiting museums is tedious though.

I was in Paris this Spring, and we went to the d'Orsay and they had a huge Van Gogh exhibit, so I went in and looked, but it was so crowded that all I could think (almost) was that the extra heat/humidity from all the exhaling bodies was certain to promote mold growth on the paintings.

I've never seen La Gioconda in person because the lines at the Louvre are just too off-putting to me. (And I've only been in Paris once, too, so....)

Ebbers Palomino I said...

I just finished a 15K aimless wandering of the a East coast. In a couple of months, aimless wandering on west coast/Canada/Alaska.

Does this make me racist?

surfed said...

Depends on how you travel. We rent apartments for a month at a time with another couple...Barcelona for example. Then we travel out two or three days to see the sights always having a "home base" in one place. Cook your own meals etc. That way my buddy and I can do the Bullfights in Spain while the girls take in the Riviera. Ecuador is next up on the list. Incredibly cheap rentals there up in the mountains. We don't call it traveling. We call it living somewhere else temporarily..

MisterBuddwing said...


Sorry, Professor, but I think Michael makes an unassailable point.

To take an extreme opposite example, I recall seeing part of a low-budget movie on cable years ago called INSIDE OUT, in which Elliott Gould played a businessman who, for whatever reason, becomes extremely agoraphobic and never leaves his apartment for any reason.

In one scene, a friend of Gould's drops by to visit, and is shocked to discover Gould never goes out. Gould, trying to rationalize his lifestyle, cites a book. I can't quote it chapter and verse, but the book's point was along the lines of, "Reading about Venice, Italy, can be every bit as good as actually visiting Venice, Italy."

All I can say is: No, it can't.

Ann Althouse said...

""Postrel only shifts to self-help,…" Most white people think NewAge bullshit solves EVERYTHING. Even slavery,.."

You just gave me an idea for a very dark satire: A self-help book for slaves.

If you expect slavery to be a series of perfectly composed still photos, with no dirty clothes, sore feet, or fellow slaves, you won’t have a good time. But you can... adopt a viewpoint that downplays the difficulties of your journey and highlights its pleasures. Expect the hard labor and enjoy the view. Focus on the beauty and ignore the pain. Create happy memory snapshots as you go, preserving the glamour of slavery.

Michael said...

Professor:

I am not "treating" you in any way just repeating your own proclaimed fears of flying and tying that fear to your views on travel. If they are unrelated I would be surprised.

I am not in the least defensive but am generally aware of passive aggressiveness when I see it.

I enjoy, for instance, the Kabuki of "security." It is so completely and totally absurd that it has to be enjoyed. The people employed by the TSA are a splendid representation of our citizenry, of many of the very people they are carefully scrutinizing.

Here is an example of the fun. You can now get your ticket electronically on your iPhone and that ticket is scanned at security. But perhaps the guy in front of you has a paper ticket. That ticket is carefully observed by the "security" person who then takes a colored pen and makes marks here and there on the ticket. So what do those marks mean and why are there no marks on the electronic ticket? See? They mean nothing at all, absolutely nothing. Kabuki.

Another. I have gone through the trouble of getting Global Entry which means I do not huddle in the lines that most do on re-entering the country and generally am able to keep my shoes on, etc. in domestic lines. But more than once I have been selected for a "random screen." Which means they take a bit of cloth and swab my hand and then put the swab in a machine and then they tell me I can go. Kabuki. I am sure the machine does nothing at all.

The "ordeals" of travel are really not that great.

All very much worth it if you can later stand where Cicero stood or look on Dover Beach or walk down Middle Temple Lane or walk on a moor.

I can see where the anxiety of the run up to a trip for those with a fear of flying, coupled with the other bits you mention, would be off-putting and could lead to the abandonment of all but required travel. But that hardly qualifies as a foundation for a philosophy of anti-travel.

Jane the Actuary said...

What's the point of travel? To be in places where you enjoy being.

Not to be "culturally enriched." Not to learn new things or have your mind broadened.

My husband's preferred trip is to mountains or beaches. I like cities. Best recent vacation was Germany/Italy three summers ago: I got Siena and Munich, he got the alps in Sudtirol, and the kids, Legoland and Playmobil Fun Park.

Or does this not count as "travel"?

broomhandle said...

I'm curious if you experience panic attacks, Althouse. I appreciate the domestic glories of home as much as anyone, but your deprecation of travel reads suspiciously like a rationalization for avoidance due to agoraphobia.

Amateur psychiatry being one of my many hobbies.

Roughcoat said...

Meade:

Re-read the passages I provided from "Ulysses."

Michael K said...

"Professor, you are afraid to fly and building your thesis against travel around that prejudice."

If true, that explains a lot. I like to travel and have taken my children with me all over the world once they were old enough to appreciate it. My youngest daughter, when still in high school, came home one day and said that the things she was seeing in her AP Art History class at school were things she had already seen in real life.

I have one daughter who has been many places I have not even been. She speaks and reads four languages, has lived in Spain and visited Morocco living with a family for several weeks. She has friends in China.

My oldest son takes his vacations in Portugal and Spain, on one trip visiting his sister in Spain.

Some have traveled less as they had other priorities but they have all visited Europe with me and some on their own.

My youngest has walked among the graves of there US cemetery at Omaha Beach . She has seen the Chauvet Cave art .

I wouldn't have it any other way unless, of course, I could not afford it. Thankfully, I have been able to and my kids are better for it.

Some of my trips are with a medical history group. That adds to the pleasure. Cruises are not my thing. There I might agree with you.

Roughcoat said...

The ultimate journey, I think, will be death. The ultimate adventure. And the greatest destination: going home.

tim in vermont said...

What I have found about travel is it is better to spend the money on the top shelf stuff. Not first class international air fare, that is just wasteful, unless you are a lot richer than I will ever be, but on genuine first class accommodations and meals, and spend enough time to enjoy it, even if it means traveling less often. And never rush to see sights. See them, but don't make your trip a death march from magazine mention to magazine mention. (Voice of experience and I am thinking of you Venice.)

For years I traveled quite a bit for business internationally. I even almost used up one passport because all the pages had visas attached or entry or exit chops. That kind of travel was nice sometimes. For instance I spent a week at a training in Nice, and was taken out by a local every night in the countryside (wonderful) or in Nice (a little to "touristy"), or six months in Sydney, and six months in the English Midlands, which are very nice outside of Birmingham, and even Brum has its charms, but more often it was a drag and a hassle, especially as cost constraints began to be paramount to the corporation.

On the whole, I think travel is worth it, but I am a snob about it and can afford to be one.

One time in Turks and Caicos, we had dinner at a hotel that looked like it belonged on Mt Olympus or whatever that Mountain in Japan is, it was like travel porn come to life, I couldn't afford the twenty five hundred a night or more to stay there, but I heard a rumor that Woody Allen stayed there sometimes. I don't blame him if he did. They came to the airport to get their guests in Range Rovers, like Jurassic Park, and they made you sanitize your hands at the gate, due to some eccentricity of the owner, they said. Where we stayed was very nice, it was an apartment on the beach.

Another time in Barbados on a work trip, the client took us out to dinner at a restaurant where the tables were on little terraces carved into a cliff on the ocean, you could see the barracudas come in and chase after the little fish splashing in crystal clear waters from your table. There was a gentle mist and there were little rainbows. The mist stayed but you could still see the stars after dark. That was worth it.

Also in Barbados, I spent a month there working, you could get the best flying fish sandwiches, or flying fish and chips, or flying fish with eggs for breakfast. My hotel was next to this banyan tree that had about a dozen telephones nailed to it irregularly, and local cab drivers waited there for their particular phone to ring. Some mornings, at about 4 am, I would wake up, hear the waves lapping, and see the Southern Cross outside my window from my bed. I had the last room toward the beach and had an extra window looking south over the ocean.

Of course there were dozens of other trips, both for work and vacation, when my memories have to do with toughing out jet lag to get up for a 9 am meeting in Europe, or a seventeen hour flight were my seat didn't recline and the one in front of me did, or a flight from Sydney to LA to Miami while still suffering from food poisoning I picked up from some undercooked chicken at a sandwich shop near Botany Bay, that I am just as happy to have forgotten.

I bet the real problem is reading about something and then trying to experience the exact same thing. Every really good memory I have was something that came to me a surprise.

MayBee said...

You obviously get a lot out of the experiences you have when you travel.

So I don't believe what you profess to believe about travel.

tim in vermont said...

"Thank God that "Most black people" are not like Crack."

No kidding.

Roughcoat said...

Btw, why does Postrel spell it as "glamour"? Is she English?

Michael said...

Professor:

What is "perfectly silly" is to employ the word "embed" as you have.

By the way, I flew probably over a million miles with completely white knuckles. Terrified. And then it disappeared. Can't say why.

I agree that cultivating my garden with the love of my life is far more important than the benefits of travel. But then my love and I often travel together and those memories have as much value as those afternoons in the hammock in the yard under the Tulip Poplar.

surfed said...

@Althouse - It could never be any darker than the satire performed by Key & Peele.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zB7MichlL1k

Tibore said...

" In other words, the hope for pleasure and fulfillment that makes you want to spend and work on travel comes from an illusion, but if you do additional work, work on preserving the illusion, you can still get some pleasure and fulfillment."

Why "illusion"? That may be the self-deception fostered by some airheaded touristas, but it seems to me that there's overuse of a broad brush here, not to mention bare assertion. Is the "traveler" really that uniform of a stereotype? While my personal experience is somewhat narrow - expatriates returning to their country of birth - talking with them and others who aren't in that category i.e. true "travelers", I don't always get the sense that they're under any illusion about where they're going. On the contrary, I'm often given educations about harsh realities of beggars, crime, slums, and the like. My experience is my own, of course, and not necessarily representative of anyone elses. But at the same time - and forgive me for saying this - it seems like the Professor is objecting to some caricature of a traveler rather than the reality of the personalities who choose to indulge in such.

I don't doubt that there are indeed airheaded tourists who fit the profile the professor laid out. Not at all. I simply question the notion that it's truly so dominant it's representative.

Tank said...

Meadhouse: Yous guys talk about this like it's either/or. It's not. Most of us experience (to different extents) our home base, and also enjoy travelling. Certainly, I don't experience travelling "with a great deal of pain." If I did I wouldn't travel. I don't think most people have the same aversion to these inconveniences that you do. So the balance shifts toward travelling.

Incidentally, in the time I've followed this Blog, it seems like you've done quite a bit of travelling.

I'll be in Austin in Sept. You seem to have enjoyed going there multiple times. Why wouldn't I?

Captain Tripps said...

My wife and I love to travel; but you don’t have to go far to experience the thrill of a new and interesting place. Heck, just one hour in any direction from our little burg in Maryland are a whole host of historic towns, villages, resorts, battlefields (Civil War and Revolutionary War) and get-away places. If you follow your county’s tourism board calendar, there is always something fun to do just about every weekend. Now, of course, there is some work involved in travel; you have to plan and pack. There’s also the getting from here to there, and traveling around there when you get there. But, on balance, traveling is wonderful.

Ann Althouse said...

"Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d'appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer, that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time. If you stand right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were a cimeter, and feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business."

tim maguire said...

I'm definitely not a "getting there is half the fun" kind of guy. Getting there sucks, especially flying.

But I've had plenty of wonderful vacations. Not that often, especially since my daughter was born, but as often as time and budget allow.

Professor, for someone who hates traveling, you seem to spend on awful lot of time doing it.

Ann Althouse said...

"In his poem "Ulysses" Tennyson expresses the allure of travel…"

Ulysses didn't leave home to travel. He went to war, and then he tried to get home.

Seeing Red said...

..I question whether the consumers who hemorrhage money..."

I don't understand what you're trying to say here.

It's my money, so what?

The poor shouldn't travel?

If I didn't travel, I never would have known that I could sit and stare for hours at Rembrandt's Nightwatch and The Mona Lisa is mehhh, no biggie.

I've had firsthand experience that souls-sucking socialism kills, free markets feed while you still practice your "cruel neutrality."

and submit to the ordeals of travel even know their own minds as they profess to love travel.

"Ordeals" otherwise known as first-world problems. Otherwise known as "inconveniences" or "stories."

"Your ultimate adventure: brush up close to that which you are most afraid of: non travel. Think of the feeling you'll have after you (don't) walk away from that encounter. The thrill."

Ummm, most of us do that 300+ days a year.

Some enjoy getting out of their bubble, want to experience other sights, smells & cultures and engage their minds.

Others just get old.

But I do enjoy my first-world comforts, I still don't enjoy doing my business in a hole even if it's surrounded in marble.

But the travel conversations don't flag, comparing commodes, that's for sure.

Seeing Red said...

Mehhh, NYC is becoming 3rd world, so what difference, at this point, does it make?

Ann Althouse said...

"I like adventure. I like the challenge and the hardship of travel. I like to brush up close to death and I like the feeling I get after I walk away from that encounter. I like the thrill. All my life I've sought that thrill. Now I'm getting old(er) and my greatest fear is that I will not be able have these experiences any more."

But if you are spending money like a middle class American to go on tourist trips, this is just un-self-knowing nonsense. Join the military or take up some work where your presence is needed and dangerous. Then speak of the thrill and the brush with death. Otherwise, you sound like a dorky kid talking about his last roller coaster ride.

Roughcoat said...

I'm not sure what Thoreau was getting at in that passage.

tim maguire said...

I'm coming to the conclusion that Crack isn't a real person. He is performance art, like Titus or America's Politico.

tim in vermont said...

It seems to me I read a travel book by Thoreau, The Maine Woods.

Captain Tripps said...

Ann, I think your viewpoint is perfectly valid. At its core, it’s just a risk-reward calculation we each employ with every other aspect of our life. For you, the credible risk threshold is higher than the intangible reward payoff; for me it’s lower. Each of us has to make our own calculation, and employ our own point-of-view/experience in evaluating the trade-off. There is no “right” answer, and your perspective on Postrel’s essay is an interesting one.

James said...

A couple of years ago my wife and I took a honeymoon on an Alaskan cruise. While the flight out and back was not pleasant (it never is), it was not particularly unpleasant. And every moment on the cruise was perfect. Yes, it was expensive, but riding a helicopter to the top of a glacier to be pulled on a dogsled by actual Iditarod dogs, even if it was only for half an hour or so, is virtually priceless in my book. No book or movie or anything can begin to simulate that.

Neither my wife nor I are cruise people, and we would never consider any sort of Caribbean cruise that was beaches and partying. But an Alaskan cruise was perfect for us, and I would do it again in a heartbeat (if some of the wealthy Althouse patrons want to fund us and set up some babysitting for the kids!).

And yes, I've read "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again". Several times, actually, including once on the flight out to the cruise and once on the way back. I enjoyed the essay AND the cruise.

Ann Althouse said...

"'I question whether the consumers who hemorrhage money and submit to the ordeals of travel even know their own minds as they profess to love travel.' Just as you question whether the faithful really believe what they profess to believe?"

Yes, and I said exactly that in the comments on the thread that you are referencing. ("I'd say [I'm skeptical] about things like taste in music and in the interest in traveling, going to the beach, and reading.")

"If your skepticism or 'questioning' is really a denial that people can know themselves and their motives in any meaningful way, then that's the end of the story."

I think they can, but they don't. I'm repeating the ancient call: Know thyself. This is the great journey in life, and all these other distractions show how hard it is to take. Now, I know some say that travel is a way to learn about oneself, but ask yourself if that's what you are doing and why you have chosen this method. Is travel an escape or a confrontation with reality? Postrel talked up illusion. I'm only asking that people think and be honest about what they are doing and what they really want. If you're saying: "I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic!" Maybe the real you is some kind of Blanche Dubois. The Streetcar Named Desire is a travel vehicle. Step on if your self-knowledge terminates at the truth that you prefer illusion.

"If your skepticism is itself open to revision and empirical challenge, what kind of evidence would convince you that (some, many, most) people do know their own minds when it comes to travel (or that believers really do believe what they claim to believe, etc.)?"

In any given case, I'd tend toward believing people who show insight into the question. I'm reading a lot of bullshit and propaganda. The usual tripe. Nonsense and posturing that seems to spurt up from the speaker's need to be thought bold and adventurous.

John said...

Your objections to travel sound like bullshit.

You frequently travel for pleasure. Just last week to NJ. Colorado several times, other places you have told us about.

You spent a year in NYC a few years back.

Someone said you are afraid of flying. I don't know whether that is a surmise or whether you have told us that you are. It would explain some of your statements about not liking to travel.

Perhaps it would be more honest to say that you do not like to travel by air rather than just saying you don't like to travel.

John Henry

Sebastian said...

"If you are spending money like a middle class American to go on tourist trips, this is just un-self-knowing nonsense."

Questions:

1. Is spending money that way inherently nonsensical or just bad because it inevitably involves a form of "un-self-knowing"?

2. How do you know that others don't know themselves?

2a. How do you know that you know others' real selves better than they know their own selves?

3. Are you questioning travelers' actual preferences for travel or their reasoning about/understanding of those preferences? I question whether you question others' lack of self-knowing.

4. Should we believe that you know yourself better than the rest of us (especially the un-self-knowing travelers among us) know ourselves? If so, why?

4a. Since you seem to travel quite a bit, should the inconsistency between your conduct and your professed aversion to travel count against the quality of your self-understanding? (Judging by the criteria you applied to religious believers, I question whether you really believe the anti-travel philosophy you profess to believe.)



Kirk Parker said...

Roughcoat,

"I'm not sure what Thoreau was getting at in that passage"

Providing content for the greeting-card and motivational-poster industries.

Duh.

Seeing Red said...

Speaker's need to be thought bold and adventurous?

Can you stop inserting foot in mouth?

Stop projecting because you're a homebody and prefer academic pursuits.

Travel is fun. Just because you prefer to live vicariously through an author and your imagination instead of experiencing the truth or lie....

You like your safe Madisonian bubble intellectually and physically.

It's a shame you being a teacher and all. You could be inspiring them. I was inspired to travel by a high school teacher. I was lucky for the opportunities I had.

traditionalguy said...

If you mean that travel inside the mind is better, cheaper and safer than trips out in the world, that is true.

But the best part of travel is experiencing other cultures in their context so you see what they value that is better and worse than our culture's boundaries. Real freedom of thought includes having such choices presented to us in reality context.

Your posts seem to say that car travel on roads is OK, but airplane travel is too much trouble and water travel is never worth it.

Seeing Red said...

Since you're not middle class, Professor....

So what percentage of your readership do you think is "middle class?"

And how do you define "middle class?"

In defense of said "middle class," parents want to be able to give their kids what they didn't have, and if that was travel, so be it.

At least you got out of New Jersey.

Ann Althouse said...

"Buy experiences, not things, they say."

Yeah, I read that a lot in newspapers that make a lot of money on travel ads. "They" are propagandists.

Michael said...

John:

The professor drove with her husband to NYC. They drive to Austin. They drive to Colorado.

I love a road trip as much as the next man, but I do not limit myself to road trips. Because I am not afraid to fly.

Madison to NYC is a 2.5 hour trip plus getting to airport plus waiting plus getting to nyc once there. Say 5 hours door to door. Drive time 13 hours.

Seeing Red said...

Face palm or head slap, I'm not really sure which right now.

Other than you really need to get out of your bubble.

"Join the military or take up some work where your presence is needed and dangerous. Then speak of the thrill and the brush with death. Otherwise, you sound like a dorky kid talking about his last roller coaster ride."


OR......

You can just take a ride down "Heroin Highway" to Chicago's South or detour to the West Side on a summer Saturday night...

Clueless....That thrill can be yours in about 3 hours, Professor.

It meets your criteria.

Or you can just teach at U of C.

LOLOLOL

Ann Althouse said...

"I was in Paris this Spring, and we went to the d'Orsay and they had a huge Van Gogh exhibit, so I went in and looked, but it was so crowded that all I could think (almost) was that the extra heat/humidity from all the exhaling bodies was certain to promote mold growth on the paintings."

You can't see the paintings under those conditions. You have to figure out when and where other people won't be. When I went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, back when I was drawing my "Amsterdam Notebooks," most of what I observed was the people in the museum, which fit my art project.

"I've never seen La Gioconda in person because the lines at the Louvre are just too off-putting to me. (And I've only been in Paris once, too, so....)"

I think it is simply impossible to see the Mona Lisa. It's all highly securitized and the other people are always there ruining it. It's best to just find something else to look at, something that's not being destroyed by the other people. Anything famous at the Louvre is going to have people posing around it and/or announcing that it's famous. It's so disappointing.

One time I was in Florence and I went to the Uffizi Museum and no one was there. It was mid-January, just not a tourist time, I guess. It was really weird, like it was hard to believe that was the real "Birth of Venus" and not some reproduction, because if it's real, where is everyone? I had gone to Italy to visit a friend, not really as a tourist, and I was staying in a bad part of town in Genoa, so that was more real than the usual trip to Italy.

Ann Althouse said...

"Depends on how you travel. We rent apartments for a month at a time with another couple... We don't call it traveling. We call it living somewhere else temporarily."

That's a good approach, and it's gotten easy to do. We haven't done that yet, but are considering doing that... in the United States.

Roughcoat said...

"Otherwise, you sound like a dorky kid talking about his last roller coaster ride."

I knew you'd hammer me for that. Calling bullshit and all.

You dig me, don't you. Admit it.

Kevin Richards said...

I agree that most people seem to drastically overestimate how much they will enjoy a vacation, are deluded about cultural immersion, and probably spend way to much on vacation travel. That said, I think there is a type of travel that appeals to a certain type of person that is on the spectrum of a hike in the woods, or a road trip, or wandering around an unfamiliar neighborhood. There is a sense of adventure that comes with a certain amount of hardship and discomfort in those experiences. I don't think those are a utility miscalculation. But then that is not what most people think of when they talk about travel.

Tank said...

"Depends on how you travel. We rent apartments for a month at a time with another couple... We don't call it traveling. We call it living somewhere else temporarily."

This is exactly what I don't want to do on vacation. LOL.

Ann Althouse said...

"In one scene, a friend of Gould's drops by to visit, and is shocked to discover Gould never goes out. Gould, trying to rationalize his lifestyle, cites a book. I can't quote it chapter and verse, but the book's point was along the lines of, 'Reading about Venice, Italy, can be every bit as good as actually visiting Venice, Italy.' All I can say is: No, it can't."

You're clearly wrong. The expressed standard is "goodness." Reading, for example, "Death in Venice" is better than a trip to Venice where you get robbed, the hotel is bad, and your companion drags you to bogus restaurants and too many tourist sites, and everywhere you are crowded by annoying tourists.

The verb "can be" make the statement so easily true that it's silly to counter it with "No, it can't be." You can only seriously counter it by focusing on the particular character who has a terrible phobia problem. That makes the statement — true as it absolutely is — pathetic, because he is pathetic and not thinking widely enough about his predicament.

He may be a prisoner of his little apartment, but that doesn't mean that you are not also a prisoner of the smallness of your own thoughts. That he hasn't thought more deeply doesn't mean that you have thought deeply. You can say I sure don't want to be like that guy, but that doesn't mean that the dutiful, shambling tourist is a role model. Each of us should examine our own lives, including the way we see one thing that we know we want to steer clear of, but we may not be so insightful about where that steering takes us.

Meade said...

"You dig me, don't you. Admit it."

I admit — we ALL dig you, Roughy. Just like we dig dickweeds wherever they pop up in the yard.

Ann Althouse said...

"I am not "treating" you in any way just repeating your own proclaimed fears of flying and tying that fear to your views on travel. If they are unrelated I would be surprised."

Please quote and link to the place where you think I proclaimed a fear of flying.

If your point is that I dislike what you profess to enjoy (the "Kabuki" of security), that isn't fear. That is loathing.

Victor Ulmer said...


Ralph Waldo Emerson said, (from https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Essays:_First_Series/Self-Reliance):

It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly hours, we feel that duty is our place. The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet.

I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe, for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins.

Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm curious if you experience panic attacks, Althouse."

Nope. But I'm very jealous of my time.

Russell said...

I've always enjoyed your thoughtful posts and photos during your travels. Could it be that you're anti-travel EXCEPT for good old-fashioned road trips? And if so, is that because you enjoy the getting there and the things you see along the way as much as the destination; or is it that driving gives you full control over your schedule, route, stops, breaks, etc. (as opposed to the horrors of airplane travel); or both?

Heatshield said...

One of the very enjoyable aspects of travel is the interesting people you meet, often from the US! I was just on a trip to Machu Picchu (which was wonderful) and met an engineer who was in the back room supporting Apollo 11. He knew and helped train almost all the astronauts and had fascinating stories. On a trip to Nepal (incredible) we met many locals but also hiked with a couple of Florida defense attorneys who really opened my eyes.

Meade said...

"The ultimate journey, I think, will be death. The ultimate adventure. And the greatest destination: going home."

Death: The Final Frontier. Where no Roughcoat has gone before.

Paco Wové said...

It's okay, Althouse. I'm sure those grapes are sour, too.

MisterBuddwing said...

You're clearly wrong. The expressed standard is "goodness." Reading, for example, "Death in Venice" is better than a trip to Venice where you get robbed, the hotel is bad, and your companion drags you to bogus restaurants and too many tourist sites, and everywhere you are crowded by annoying tourists.

I may be clearly wrong, but I've also been to Venice, and all I can say is: It's wonderful.

But to take your other point, one which I've actually considered in the past - if a thing's worth doing, isn't it worth doing, even badly? Given the choice between a terrible time in Venice and never visiting Venice at all, aren't you better off for having made the trip? (Well, if you end up getting murdered over there, I suppose not, but Venice is considered a very safe city.)

One scenario I wouldn't want to find myself in: Being 90 years old, totally infirm, never having been to Venice, clutching a copy of "Death in Venice" while "Summertime" is playing on the HDTV and wistfully thinking, "I should have gone... "

KLDAVIS said...

When I'm not traveling for work, I travel for food...if I'd never spent 24 hours stuck in metal tubes to get to Bangkok I'd never have tasted a real mangosteen (U.S. customs requires imported ones to be irradiated, which kills the flavor), the most delicious of all fruits. The beef in Vietnam has such a particular flavor, there's no chef in the U.S. who could recreate the bowl of pho I had in Hanoi. The fish sauce of Phu Quoc is so pungent that it's confiscated if you try to remove it from the island, lest the bottle break and contaminate the cargo hold, but it's a concentration of flavor found no where else in the world, as a particular tiny fish swims only in those seas.

I'm headed to Basque Country on Thursday, probably the greatest concentration of high-end restaurants outside of Paris or Tokyo. Thankfully, as a frequent business traveler, I was able to upgrade myself to first class on the transatlantic red eye.

I understand that losing your sense of smell may have impacted your gustatory pleasure, so perhaps you can't relate.

Roughcoat said...

"I admit — we ALL dig you, Roughy. Just like we dig dickweeds wherever they pop up in the yard."

I liked you, Meade. Honestly. I didn't realize you think I'm a dick. I can be obtuse like that. I actually thought that ... well, never mind. I'm guessing you'll be glad to know that I won't post here anymore.

surfed said...

I fly Air Xanex.

Meade said...

@surfed: that was hilarious. And Crack, I predict, will approve.

Ann Althouse said...

"Incidentally, in the time I've followed this Blog, it seems like you've done quite a bit of travelling. I'll be in Austin in Sept. You seem to have enjoyed going there multiple times. Why wouldn't I?"

Yeah, we do some traveling. The Austin trip combines getting out of the Wisconsin winter and seeing family. Speaking of hemorrhaging money, one time we dropped $10,000 traveling to Austin... mostly by staying at The Four Seasons and picking up the check in the lobby lounge there.

We have a long break in the winter and another long break in the summer, so we could be moving about a lot more than we do. We love home, but we do throw ourselves out of here from time to time. And every time we do, we question why we are doing this. We do try to get the most of it when we travel, and like most people who take trips, the part we choose to tell others is positive. Sometimes bad things happen and if you're good at comic writing, it's worth telling.

Coming back from NY a week ago, I was driving into Madison and suddenly there was a mattress in the middle of the road, so I ran right over it and woke up Meade, who was asleep and thought I'd run into a toll booth. Is that interesting?

wildswan said...

The article by Postrel specifically discusses travel-as-glamour and "glamour" as an idea that somewhere else you will be someone else, someone else better. But even if you don't think that way you could still want to travel. Or, in my opinion, if you don't think that way you can travel at last. You'll finally notice what's out there when you stop waiting for the glamour to sweep over you and change you.

Stay in one place like Thoreau who worked in a pencil factory for most of his life? But who escaped into glamour or something much like it intermittently - who went to Harvard, went camping and canoeing, went to jail, set a forest fire, and lived on almost nothing for a few years. I think Althouse is teasing the commentariat a bit with this Thoreau talk - I mean she did just get back from some travel and she's always posting pictures from travel. NYC is not my idea of a place to go but it has glamour; the Western parks are always filling tourist magazines with glamorous shots. She mentions that she went to Paris, Amsterdam and Florence. She's probably sitting at home making reservations for Bali and when she asks herself why she's doing that, she just throws it out as question to us. Why not? It's a blog.

PS
The most glamorous travel program ever was the search for the Holy Grail. It's been downhill ever since that quest wrecked the Round Table

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann and Meade,

"Your ultimate adventure: brush up close to that which you are most afraid of: non travel. Think of the feeling you'll have after you (don't) walk away from that encounter. The thrill."

"You just gave me an idea for a very dark satire: A self-help book for slaves."

ROTFLMAO!!!!

Seeing Red said...

I went to Florence and shopped for shoes & leather, I figured David wasn't going anywhere, so if I ever got back, I'd see him.

LOLOLOLOL

Damn, $8 US for those leather slingbacks and left them in a Chicago hotel.

Whatever floats your boat!

The Crack Emcee said...

Meade,

"@surfed: that was hilarious. And Crack, I predict, will approve."

I approve - of everything. Under the circumstances, do I have a choice?

tim in vermont,

""Thank God that "Most black people" are not like Crack."

No kidding."

You guys are fighting a phantom - and losing,...

Seeing Red said...

We love home, but we do throw ourselves out of here from time to time. And every time we do, we question why we are doing this.


Because Americans are interesting and so is America.

Michael said...

Professor:

Oh, my. The quote/link gambit.

I cannot say you have confessed to a fear of flying.

As a well educated reader with an excellent memory and a lifelong habit of putting two and two together (induction) I have noted that, as in this very post, you have alluded to the possibility of a crash. I am probably wrong, you probably adore flying but just can't stand those nasty tourists in smelly places like Venice and, most notably, can't stand to go through the absolute agony of the TSA theatre. Fair enough. The crash references are merely only to point out to the reader one of the many reasons why flying is a bad thing.

So. I confess. I fucked up. You are not afraid of flying. At all. In the least.

Michael said...

surfed:

Excellent!! In my early fear-of-flying days I flew Air Vodka. I no longer drink and I am no longer afraid of flying. Go figure.

Ambien on the long ones!

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse,

"I'm curious if you experience panic attacks, Althouse."

Nope. But I'm very jealous of my time.

When I was growing up in the foster homes, I suffered panic attacks, hair falling out, nail biting - all kinds of anxiety-related shit - and conquered them all through willpower.

Of course, that was all in response to dead bodies and killings and whatever.

Needless to say, not much scares me now,...

BarrySanders20 said...

Two days until travel to Brazil. All 6 of us, to experience the World Cup. Dropping several tens of thousands, but futbol is life, and if you can't spend money on life, what good is it? We'll see USA-Ghana in person on Monday, staying in Natal all week. Beach, culture, music, food, drink, foreigners from all over (including us!), beach soccer, street soccer, international intrigue, national pride, love of the game and country, and competition on sport's greatest stage.

Watch a few games. Get curious. Explore what the rest of the world is into for the next 30 days, even if that's just from your couch. Or find a bar showing the games -- it's usually a great crowd.

Ann Althouse said...

"I love a road trip as much as the next man, but I do not limit myself to road trips. Because I am not afraid to fly."

We're not "afraid," we just don't like committing to a schedule, being at the mercy of the airline's delays and mistreatment, submitting to security, getting herded, being cooped up inside the plane, breathing the horrible recycled air on the plane, and many other unpleasant things. These things are obviously bad, and the car — which has its own set of problems — overcomes all of them. We prefer the car: We're on our own schedule, we're alone together, and if the cops don't catch us, we're free from authorities.

William said...

Skiing is a different sport when you're seventy than when you're twenty. Thus so with travel. When I was younger I used to feel energized by the sights and sounds of foreign places. Now I feel disoriented and vaguely irritated by new things. I find the familiar not boring but comforting......I don't think my current disinterest in travel a manifestation of a higher morality but rather as just another debility of age.

Alex said...

Keep fighting the good fight Professor. I hate flying. I hate the kabuki theater of TSA. I hate the whole thing. I travel inside my mind.

Ann Althouse said...

"I may be clearly wrong, but I've also been to Venice, and all I can say is: It's wonderful."

Yes, but I was only saying that it clearly true true that a particular reading about Venice can be better than a particular trip to Venice. That's such an easy proposition, because all you need is a great book about Venice to compare to a really lousy trip to Venice. Venice may be "wonderful," but that doesn't insure that your trip to Venice will be wonderful. I think that at any given moment there are many bad trips going on in Venice.

"But to take your other point, one which I've actually considered in the past - if a thing's worth doing, isn't it worth doing, even badly? Given the choice between a terrible time in Venice and never visiting Venice at all, aren't you better off for having made the trip? (Well, if you end up getting murdered over there, I suppose not, but Venice is considered a very safe city.)"

Anytime you do one thing, you're not doing the other thing that you would have done. I'd rather have my time and money than a bad trip to Venice, even if that would be the only trip to Venice I'd ever have. I think Venice is an unusually likely place for a trip to be bad, by the way.

"One scenario I wouldn't want to find myself in: Being 90 years old, totally infirm, never having been to Venice, clutching a copy of "Death in Venice" while "Summertime" is playing on the HDTV and wistfully thinking, "I should have gone... ""

That's a funny image, but what if that 90 year old is thinking, why did I spend that week dragging myself and my husband/wife around Venice when we could have had one more week laughing and playing in and around our beautiful home?

Anonymous said...

Explaining other people's repeated traveling in terms of false consciousness and puppetry theories is a bit like assuming that any instance of a conservative behaving badly must be the work of a moby: it could conceivably be true, but it's still a desperate sort of explanation, one you shouldn't resort to unless every attempt at a more straightforward explanation (a lot of people really do enjoy travel; a few conservatives really do behave badly) has failed.

Michael K said...

" Nonsense and posturing that seems to spurt up from the speaker's need to be thought bold and adventurous."

I think the lady doth protest too much. To think that the lumpen proletariat are traveling and comparing themselves to a famous law professor !

Shame !

Michael K said...

By the way, the photo with my comments is in Venice with my then 14 year old daughter.

Shanna said...

We're not "afraid," we just don't like committing to a schedule, being at the mercy of the airline's delays and mistreatment, submitting to security, etc..etc..etc...

There are places and buildings and art of incredible beauty you will never see if you don't do those things. They are minor inconveniences, imo. A picture compares not at all to the original, even if the picture is gorgeous it is sterile.

I have never taken a vacation that I regretted or did not look back on with fondness. I really do not understand the people who do. 'Aching feet', honestly?

Seeing Red said...

"...we just don't like committing to a schedule..."

So says the teacher. LOLOLOL


Not everyone has the summers off, so spending 12 hours RT to Disneyworld is better than driving thru and spending 40 hours or a work week in a car.

Same with visiting NYC.

You're not speaking for the middle class, they may have 3 weeks off a year, plus holidays when they have to fit childrens' appointments in.

You live/lead an academic's life, that's not the life of most of America.

No book can really capture the hotness of young Italian men.

Anonymous said...

"Buy experiences, not things, they say."

Yeah, I read that a lot in newspapers that make a lot of money on travel ads. "They" are propagandists.


I see it a lot from econbloggers as well. They seem to be sincere, at least-- but, yeah, they're overstating the case. A typical example here; a couple of us stage a bit of a commenter revolt.

ALP said...

Ann The Travel Curmudgeon is my favorite flavor of Ann.

Signed:

ALP Fellow Travel Curmudgeon

ALP said...

BTW: how does all this flying around square with the imminent destruction of the planet due to carbon emissions? IIRC I had come across a British study that showed a correlation between "concern for the environment" and frequent fliers. That is consistent with my own unscientific findings: if your coworker rags on you for not recycling a napkin or declining to ride your bike to work, you can be sure you are dealing with a person with frequent flier miles to burn.

Seeing Red said...

If I didn't go to Venice, I never would have known they had stop lights for the boats! You see/hear about the gondolas, but they never show u that!

I think allowing cruise ships in is beyond stupid.

Michael said...

Professor:

$10,000 at the Four Seasons Austin!! Impressive. Now we are getting on the same page. I believe if you ever once enjoyed the quiet comfort of a first class seat on British Air or Cathay Pacific you might be in for a change of heart. Not business class, mind you, but first class. You might not want to get off the Cathay Pacific.

I highly approve of Four Seasons. Not that I haven't spent my fair share of nights in quite challenging hotels, hotels where I wanted to keep my shoes on in the shower.

Alex said...

Ann should make a new tag "travel bullshit".

Ann Althouse said...

"$10,000 at the Four Seasons Austin!! Impressive. Now we are getting on the same page…."

I've also spent $8,000 at the Savoy in London and I forget what at the Hassler in Rome. I've stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. I like the luxury hotels. Meade doesn't see the point so much, but he seems willing to humor me and when there are 2 people in the room, it's like half price, right?

Alex said...

I've never stayed at the Ritz.

Tits.

Christy said...

Ah, the illusions of travel. I avoided Aspen, not wanting to be disappointed because no place could be that great, right? When I was offered a deal I couldn't refuse, I went and fell in love. Aspen exceeded my expectations, as did the Caribbean and Alaskan cruises on which I escorted my aging mom.

This engineer would have never discovered many artists had I not visited museums in my travels. BTW, I better liked the Da Vinci portrait of a young woman hanging opposite the Mona Lisa. Forget the title.

No way would I experience the richness of the Savannah of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil should I visit. But then the book itself grew out of Berendt and his friends taking advantage of cheap airfares for weekends away.

surfed said...

@All - I'm not afraid of flying. I dislike flying in airliners that I have no control over. Put me in the right hand seat where I can grab the stick and rudder and I'm good to go.

jr565 said...

" But plane travel has the certainty that you will have to arrive and depart on someone else's schedule, go through the humiliation of security searching (submitting to searches and even physical touchings), and you will be confined and crammed into an aluminum tube."
As do trains and boats and buses.And cabs even. (you might be spared the security searches on some of these).
that's simply how we get around the world though.

jr565 said...

I didn't fly for more than ten years and developed a fear of flying. When a family member died we had to fly overseas and did a stop over in Dusseldorf for about 8 hours. I was exhausted, sick and just wanted to sleep but my mom dragged me out to walk the streets and check out a museum. ANd, even though I was complaining the whole way, I liked the fact that I was getting to see how Germans lived. It was a really beautiful place. And i realized that I actually wanted to travel more. Me always staying home and not leaving the neighborhood was a form of complacency.
But to each their own. Travel shouddn't be mandatory.

John Constantius said...

Yikes, $10,000 at the Four Seasons Austin? How do you spend that much money at what is effectively a standard business hotel? Must have been the Hells Angels drinking in the lounge when you picked up the tab.

I've spent $14,000 at the Four Seasons Sharm el Sheikh. Worth every penny. I dropped six grand last week on luxury hotels in Brittany but we were away from the "British Riviera" part of the region so you'd have a hard time spending more on lodgings if you tried (and yes, it was suites overlooking the ocean all the way -- good times).

Shanna said...

I avoided Aspen, not wanting to be disappointed because no place could be that great, right? When I was offered a deal I couldn't refuse, I went and fell in love

Have never been to Aspen, Christy, but Colorado is one of my favorite places in the US. I have been 5 times, I think? Would be happy to go another 5.

Anonymous said...

I am not a big traveler, but recognize that other people may enjoy it quite a bit. My point is not that all people who travel secretly don't enjoy it, or are deluding themselves -- I have no doubt lots of people sincerely enjoy it.

Where I am skeptical though is that conventional wisdom dictates that an intelligent, sophisticated person by definition likes to travel, and that, conversely, a person who doesn't like to travel is stupid, disengaged, xenophobic, etc.

The result I think is that people preen about how much they enjoy traveling as a short-hand way of communicating to the world that they are in fact sophisticated and intelligent. In other words, a lot of traveling is animated less by sincere enjoyment than by a desire to ostentatiously display how well-traveled, cultured, etc. you are.

A related point is that some of the least intellectually engaged people I've ever met travel a lot. Instead of doing the hard work of reading and learning about a culture or history, they go on vacation there.

Seeing Red said...

It's like the European snobbery that most US citizens don't have a passport. We didn't need them to travel to Canada and Mexico back in the dark ages, but I have a lot of stamps crossing their borders before they combined. Mexicans don't need them now to come here.

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse,

"Meade doesn't see the point so much, but he seems willing to humor me and when there are 2 people in the room, it's like half price, right?"

LOL

John said...

Most of the time when I travel the expenses are paid by someone else so hotel costs are usually not an object. My first choice is Candlewood Suites, but because they are not ubiquitous yet, I frequently stay at Hamptons.

$10m sounds like an awful lot even for a Four Seasons. Must have been a long stay or you really worked at spending the money. I hope you got a good experience.

Places like the Four Seasons are so overpriced for what you get and you get so little, really. Yes, a fancy jumped up restaurant, with fancy jumped up prices. But no coffee unless you are willing to pay $4-5 per cup.

Internet costs $10-12 per day and always seems slow.

In other words, they charge an arm and a leg for the stuff you get free at other chains.

The best deal going, if all you want is a place to sleep for a couple hours, is Motel 6. Not fancy but functional. Always clean and comfortable and generally around $40-50 per night, sometimes less.

John Henry

John said...

Re passport's:

In most European countries, when you go out your back door you are in another country. France is the biggest country in Europe by far and we have 2-3 states that are each larger.

You can see more cultures in the US without a passport than you can in Europe with one.

Also, in the US, passports are optional. In Europe they, or at least identity papers, are required even within one's own country.

So perhaps some European will tell me again why I, as an American, should have a passport?

FWIW: I do have a well stamped passport. Pretty much all my travel on it has been business, not pleasure. Plenty of pleasures to be found in the US.

John Henry

Michael said...

Professor:

It is like half price with two in the room!! This is both excellent reasoning and precision arithmetic.

Like your choices of London and Rome hotels as well.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever had came from a rich friend.

You never regret your extravagances.

tim in vermont said...

If I hadn't traveled to Venice, I wouldn't know that they had "Honey Boats," you know, like "Honey Wagons," to pump the sewage from the hotels, since they don't have a regular sewage system, and that they could park right outside your hotel and stink it up pretty good for a little while, and that they could show the move Titanic non stop on the only channel that came in in English when you were too jet lagged to climb out of bed the first day. It was also worth the trip.

I will say that $2,000 a night is enough to get a decent room in a nice area of whatever town, or on the ocean, with decent service, in my experience. Maybe it is my trailer trash origins, but too much service just makes me uncomfortable, unless it is the invisible kind, like straightening up your room and leaving a piece of nice chocolate on your pillow when they notice that you are out to dinner.

I don't talk about travel to brag or make me appear "adventurous." Travel is what my life became through my job, quite unexpectedly, and I have learned not to tell the stories that pop to mind in conversation because many people react just like Althouse.

tim in vermont said...

No Crack, you are not going to entice me to click on your bitter little blog again.

I sincerely tried to engage you, you called a racist. You didn't say I had racist tendencies then try to enlighten me, you called me a racist.

So whatever, sneak up on me if you will. BTW, foster care sucks for white kids too.

Alex said...

Crack calls everyone a racist, including Dr. Ben Carson.

John said...

Re my comment about passports:

I had in mind a James Lileks classic screed. Basically, an English reporter visits an Olive Garden in Alabama and writes about it.

James dissects him mercilessly. In about 2002, I think.

the quote I had in mind:

(article) Of course, Birmingham has an elite who travel all over Europe. But only one-sixth of all Americans possess a passport,

(Lileks' response)That’s because our nation is HUGE, pal; of course Belgians all have passports;their country is the size of an average American rumpus room. They've burned out every available domestic vacation option by the time the kids are six - whereas this joint is so big our senior citizens retire, buy moving houses, and devote themselves to visiting each of the fifty states. Plus, we don’t need passports to go to Mexico, which one could spend another lifetime exploring. Europe’s wonderful, but sometimes when you think “vacation” you’re not in the mood for rain and indifference, no matter how much aristocratically-commissioned beauty you have.

read the whole thing, as they say.

http://blogrecord.blogspot.com/2002_02_24_archive.html

Best part is the end after the reporter has complained about us "coming late" to the 2 European wars (in which fight we had no dog):

And if we seem arrogant when it comes to beating fascism, forgive us once more, for we have something you don’t.

Practice.
" [seems to me that this cries out for a rimshot-JRH]


John Henry

tim in vermont said...

Althouse,

There is a bitterness and smallness of mind on display in this post and thread, as if you believed that each of us was born into this life to experience the journey you have chosen. Maybe we are just no smart enough?

I studied literature for a long time. Long enough that I no longer enjoy much of it. It is best not to know how the tricks are done when you watch a magic show. Great writers are just better at hiding them, or they get the benefit of having invented them, so they are more tolerable.

I would not rate reading "Death in Venice" with visiting the place. I don't think I am lying to myself. I agree that seeing the Mona Lisa surrounded by tourists with cameras and protected by special glass was a disappointment, but seeing The David was not. Maybe it is because it is impossible to appreciate the scale of it from pictures. Oh there I go again... Posturing myself as some kind middle class aesthete, like Molly Brown touring Europe, when really I am suffering a false consciousness.

I like traveling. I have lost a day of vacation stuck in DC when we missed a connecting flight to Paris. So what? It was not a personal insult to me. It beats tooling down the interstate dodging big rigs and counting wild hogs in the swale. I also am able to enjoy a round of golf even when the foursome in front of me takes too many practice swings and makes me wait. I know people for whom that would ruin their afternoon playing a game they profess to love.

I just think there is something here that you are not acknowledging.

Anglelyne said...

tim in vermont: I will say that $2,000 a night is enough to get a decent room in a nice area of whatever town, or on the ocean, with decent service, in my experience. Maybe it is my trailer trash origins, but too much service just makes me uncomfortable...

2 large a night to get something nice enough for ya? That must've been some kind of swank trailer park.

(I know, I know. Couldn't resist.)

Just Mike said...

I am less skeptical regarding Big Travel and it's romance spewing promoters. I succumb to nothing. A man needn't be seduced by that which he desires. I find Postrel's self help advice applies well beyond mere travel in that there will often be sand in the crotch of life's swimsuit to overlook if one is to preserve the illusion. For example, all those pretty dogs (which I love, BTW)are great fun - but they still occasionally soil the carpet.
And isn't everything promoted by industries or individuals who profit from it?

Joe said...

A week ago, we took a road trip east, and we stopped in Wayne, New Jersey...

I don't understand this post.

Anglelyne said...

The result I think is that people preen about how much they enjoy traveling as a short-hand way of communicating to the world that they are in fact sophisticated and intelligent. In other words, a lot of traveling is animated less by sincere enjoyment than by a desire to ostentatiously display how well-traveled, cultured, etc. you are

Sure, but that's true of a jillion other human activities, too. People love status-posturing, but I doubt most of them aren't also enjoying the activity they're bragging about. The pleasures aren't mutually exclusive.

Original Mike said...

"In other words, the hope for pleasure and fulfillment that makes you want to spend and work on travel comes from an illusion, but if you do additional work, work on preserving the illusion, you can still get some pleasure and fulfillment."

At my age, I do not have unrealistic expectations that travel (or much else, for that matter) will be 100% pleasure, and thus I do not have to "work" at maintaining an illusion in order to enjoy the trip. Recently spent a month in Australia and New Zealand. The trip was interesting, educational, and down right fun, notwithstanding the warts (like 15 hr plane flights).

Seeing Red said...

Unless you go, you will never know if it's a bad trip or not. And no, I don't go round making people aware I not only have a passport but I've used it, as well.

26 countries. I want to go to South America.

Original Mike said...

That's not to say that air travel does not suck. It truly does.

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nichevo said...

If your point is that I dislike what you profess to enjoy (the "Kabuki" of security), that isn't fear. That is loathing.
6/10/14, 12:28 PM


So in other words, you do understand why the expression "homophobia" is fallacious.

The Crack Emcee said...

Alex,

"Crack calls everyone a racist, including Dr. Ben Carson."

Mr. ObamaCare Is Worse Than 9/11, Slavery, and the Holocaust?

He's, both, a whackjob AND a Tom.

Figures y'all would like him,...

Kirk Parker said...

Forget Venice, the Mona Lisa, or David.

How about the real honest-to-gosh Rosetta Stone???

Nichevo said...

Isn't he the pediatric neurosurgeon the kids on The Wire wanted to be when they grew up? Crack, maybe we like him better than you because he is a more valuable member of society than you by any objective measure?

Rhythm and Balls said...

It's good to travel because it allows you to learn how other people think and understand how to live with each other in their respective settings. So unless you think that not understanding others and not experiencing life in the various ways that humanity's developed it is a good thing, you might like to travel.