The possibilities for human travel changed drastically in the twentieth century. The internet may have brought about some massive changes, but it was with the airplane that we first went from being local to global.
I sometimes worry about the pressure we put on ourselves and our body in this speeded up time. Once upon a time if we wanted to go somewhere it was for one of three reasons;
- for riches – to find gold or slaves or other merchandise, such as silks and spices.
- to conquer – in search of power. By subjugating others empires grew.
- to communicate – ships and horses didn’t just transfer goods, they also transported messages from Kings and loved one.
These days, most people travel to
- spend riches – we save up all year for the one (of if we’re lucky two) holiday/s abroad where we can truly feel ourselves, and bring trinkets back home, full of memories and reminiscent of cultures old and new.
- relax – to get far away from power and the stresses it causes in our every day life. Whether this is a full on executive job, the worries of rising inflation or the responsibility or lack of home ownership.
- communicate less – most of our days are taken up with email, phone calls, newspapers, radio, tv…. what a relief it is to do without it for a while!
And to me, jet-lag is the reminder of all of this. Of how we have changed. The inability to sleep after a 17 hour journey, the waking up at the crack of dawn, falling asleep at 3pm and not remember your own name are all there to remind us that WE SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS. It’s not natural to be able to cross countries and continents in a matter of hours.
Years ago, a 6000 mile trip would have taken months and months by boat. In that time, your body would have slowly adapted. Day by day the temperature would have crept up. Hour by hour, daylight would have shifted, your sleeping patterns would have adapted accordingly, and your appetite would have changed in line. The air, the smells, the flora and fauna would all have given gradual signals to your body that things were changing. Eventually, you’d reach Siam.
Women, I think, are more intrinsically aware of this than men. When travelling our body cycles get out of sync. Someone whose cycle is usually regular will be throw off and caught by surprise. Personally I always find my immune system goes on strike and allergies I haven’t had for years spring up again. And as for digestion – who can say that travelling doesn’t affect their stomach? I don’t beleive that’s just down to eating different foods. This is all part of nature’s way of telling us that we are A Rebours.
And our reaction to these changes are some of the the things that split us into two camps. Those who like to travel and those who don’t.
Mind you, Jeremy Bentham once said that there are two types of people. Those who split people into two types of categories and those who don’t.