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  • Lying in bed late at night or waiting at the platform for the commuter train home, we often

  • daydream about where it would be so much nicer to be: perhaps the beaches of Goa on India’s

  • west coast, a little restaurant by a quiet canal in Venice, the highway near Big Sur

  • in California or maybe the Faroe islands, far to the north of Scotland. The desire to

  • travel is, almost always, sparked by a picture or two: a couple of mental snapshots that

  • encapsulate all that seems most alluring about a destination. A trip lasting many hours and

  • costing what could be a small fortune may be initiated by nothing grander or more examined

  • than one or two mental postcards. We travel because of a background belief that, of course,

  • the reality of a scene must be nicer than the fleeting mental images that take us

  • there. But there is something about the way our minds work that we would do well to study

  • before we ever pack a suitcase: mental images are momentary. That is, they last, at best,

  • three seconds. When we imagine a scene, we imagine not a film but, that far briefer and

  • in many ways far more forgiving medium, a picture. And yet, we are never in a destination

  • just for a moment and that brute fact alone may be enough to cause grievous damage to

  • the hopes that transport us far from home. We know the phenomenon well enough at the

  • cinema. Imagine if in the course of a story, the screen were filled with a sublime view

  • of ocean waves crashing against a craggy headland. We might sigh with desire at such splendour.

  • But if the camera started to linger on the scene, we might rapidly grow twitchy. What

  • is fabulous in increments of seconds can become properly maddening after half a minute. Two

  • minutes in, we may be so irritated as to be ready to leave our seats. It’s not that

  • were ungrateful or shallow, rather that we absorb beauty quickly and then want to

  • move on. Beauty is like a brilliant joke: we laugh, but don’t need the comic element

  • to be continuously replayed. The lovely mental pictures that get us to travel arein

  • essencehugely edited versions of what we actually encounter in any destination.

  • We will, eventually, probably see these pictures, but we will also see so much else, so much

  • that is painful or boring, dispiriting or mundane: hours of footage of the stained airline

  • seat ahead of us, the back of the taxi driver’s head, the wall of the cheap hotel, a framed

  • photograph of Marilyn Monroe on the wall of a little local restaurantFurthermore,

  • there will always be something else on the lens between us and the destination we’d

  • come for, something so tricky and oppressive as to undermine the whole purpose of having

  • left home in the first place, namely: ourselves. We will, by an unavoidable error, bring ourselves

  • along to every destination we’d ever wanted to enjoy. And that will mean bringing along

  • so much of the mental baggage that makes being us so intolerably problematic day to day:

  • all the anxiety, regret, confusion, guilt, irritability and despair. None of this smear

  • of the self is there when we picture a trip from home. In the imagination, we can enjoy

  • unsullied views. But there, at the foot of the golden temple or high up on the pine-covered

  • mountain, we stand to find that there is so much ofusintruding on our vistas.

  • We ruin our trips by a fateful habit of taking ourselves along on them. There’s a tragi-comic

  • irony at work: the vast labour of getting ourselves physically to a place won’t necessarily

  • get us any closer to the essence of what we’d been seeking. As airlines, hotel chains and

  • travel magazines conspire never to tell us, in daydreaming of the ideal location, we may

  • have already enjoyed the very best that any place has to offer us.

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Lying in bed late at night or waiting at the platform for the commuter train home, we often

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B1 UK destination mental travel scene bringing nicer

The Problem With Travel

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    韓澐 posted on 2017/09/20
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