White-collar elites venerate travel, especially to exotic and far-away places. There is some justification for the fervor—traveling is pleasant. But veneration creates an umbra that hides some truths:
- Local travel is underappreciated. We likely underappreciate the novelty and beauty available locally.
- Virtual travel is underappreciated. We know all the ways virtual travel doesn’t measure up to the real experience. But we do not ponder enough about how the gap between virtual and physical travel has closed, e.g., high-resolution video, and how some aspects of virtual travel are better:
- Cost and convenience. The comfort of the sofa beats the heat and the cold, the crowds, and the fatigue.
- Knowledgeable guides. Access to knowledgeable guides online is much greater than offline.
- New vistas. Drones give pleasing viewing angles unavailable to lay tourists.
- Access to less visited places. Intrepid YouTubers stream from places far off the tourist map, e.g., here.
- The tragedy of the commons. The more people travel, the less appealing it is for everyone because a) travelers change the character of a place and b) the crowds come in the way of enjoyment.
- The well-traveled are mistaken as being intellectually sophisticated. “Immersion therapy” can expand horizons by challenging perspectives. But often travel needs to be paired with books, needs to be longer, the traveler needs to make an effort to learn the language, etc., for it to be ‘improving.’
- Traveling by air is extremely polluting. A round-trip between LA and NYC emits .62 tons of CO2 which is the same as CO2 generated from driving 1200 miles.