Les gens qui ne rient jamais ne sont pas des gens sérieux

Be who you are and say what you mean, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

Thursday, February 16, 2006

travel snob

I glanced up from my book as the eager crowd stood and gathered around the gate. The flight hadn't even been called yet but the appearance of a trim woman in skirt and hat, moving things around on the gate's desk had been enough to stir the throng. I returned to my book and waited until the flight had been called and the crowd had thinned to a dozen or so. Packing away my book I joined the small group, showed my ticket and pasport, walked to the plane and climbed the rear stairs. On the plane there were several spare seats and I picked one not far from the back, an aisle seat, so that nobody would block me in when it came time to leave the flight.

Such is the way of a regular solo traveller. Sniffy of eager queuers, blase about not fighting for the best seat, fluent in the actions required to stow overhead baggage, eyes closed to the memorised safety procedures, no anxious glances about as a result of turbulance and prepared for the overpriced refreshments, bottle of water and sandwich already in hand at take-off.

When I lived in London, we only ever went on holiday to France, in the car. The highlight of my holidaying memory until my mid-teens was a family trip to Majorca when I was 3, when we had 'been on a plane!' Now, after living in a couple of different countries, and having the increased possibility of air travel thanks to the ridiculously underpriced cheap flights I can't remember a time when getting a plane was less exotic.

As I sat on the plane last week heading to a weekend with family and friends, slightly bored with the repetetive procedures of passport control and baggage claim I couldn't help but reflect on a conversation I'd had the day before.

A young Chechen guy, self-taught English speaker and ambitious for his future had told me about the 'tolerated stay' permission he had received from the Polish authorities. He has no right to travel, no right to any support in finding a job or somewhere to live, no idea even what he's going to be doing a few months from now, or where. If he leaves Poland he is a criminal, but if he stays, the road to a legal satisfactory job is an impossibly tough one.

I know life isn't fair. I know people are born into different circumstances and that even nowadays you can be born into royalty or slavery. But I don't understand why we aren't doing more to redress this balance. When is the idea of nation going to seem irrelevant? When is everyone going to get the opportunity to be a bored traveller?

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