“You kids don’t know how good you’ve got it,” says Grandpa from the backseat. He may be right — especially when it comes to travel. What Grandpa had to endure for our modern quality of travel is astounding: fickle, unreliable airlines, non-stationary national borders, disease, the rampaging Godzillas – it almost makes your head spin around.
It’s hard to quantify just how much the traveling experience has improved from your grandpa’s, or even your dad’s era to ours, but there’s little doubt that as travelers we’ve got it pretty good. From the smooth transcontinental flights, that our bags typically arrive with us, our web check-ins, etickets, electronic itineraries, planning, booking and moving around the globe, there’s no doubt it’s better now than it ever has been. And it’s in no small part due to the pitfalls the previous generation was exposed to.
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To demonstrate the point, here’s how modern traveling is better than it’s ever been:
80 days? Pfft. Jules Verne had no idea. These days you can get around the world either as quickly or as leisurely as you want, depending on how much time you have at your disposal. Up until the 1970s only one airline in the world, El Al, had a flight longer than 9 hours. And it wasn’t until 1976 that a commercial airline even made it all the way across the pacific without stopping.
You don’t even want to think about the boredom.
With the rise of modern ultra-long-haul aviation you can step off the plane on the other side of the planet as dainty as you please after a nap, two meals and a movie.
There are now nonstop options between most major cities in the world, on any day you choose to go. New York to Hong Kong, San Francisco to Dubai, Singapore to Los Angeles, each are more than 8000 miles apart but are connected with daily nonstop plane flights. There are currently 30 flights operating every day that are more than 7500 miles and 15 hours long, making it insanely quick to traverse the planet at your discretion.
Although some will argue otherwise, travel itself has gotten safer, with new technology allowing us to arrive better prepared than ever to handle the unknown. Websites like the State Department Travel Information, or for the not so political, travel message boards, you can get a feel for how the world will treat you when you arrive. Many are also convinced that the Obama era has engendered a more positive attitude toward Americans traveling abroad. At least the Nobel panel thought so.
Even in the era of TSA screenings, baggage weight limits and crowded planes it’s still more comfortable to fly than ever. Most modern airlines either have, or will soon have, seatback entertainment, letting you catapult across continents while being digitally serenaded. Many are offering Wi-Fi on the trip as well, letting you work or entertain yourself as you would in your own home.
Modern engineering has increased the overall safety of plane travel. New designs along with evolved computer navigation has made for incredibly reliable and comfortable flights. I recently got off a plane after a 10-hour flight and felt no turbulence the entire way!
Overland travel has gotten quick and comfortable as well. Countries operating high-speed rail lines have increased from only a couple in 2000 to nearly a dozen today, with many more in the works, USA included, letting you speed across landscapes Godzilla-proof and comfortable.
You can book flights, hotels, ground transportation, event tickets, get reviews about everything from restaurants to kid-friendly attractions to handicap-accessible bathrooms without having to make a single phone call. It’s more common than ever to bring Internet with you on the road without having to lug around a brick-like piece of hardware. Unless you consider this thing a brick.
Not to mention how the tourist infrastructure has made our lives infinitely easier.
Availability of Resources:
Not even 20 years ago Traveler’s Checks were a veritable necessity for people traveling the world. Bank networks are now perma-linked so you can receive, transfer and manage your money from nearly anywhere in the world, with most banks having ATM machines in just about every country in the world. Gone are the days of scrambling to prepare finances before you leave your home country. Access to cash worldwide is as simple as swiping a card.
Wi-Fi hot-spots are popping up everywhere. From airports to hotels to cafés to libraries, which is a godsend for web-savvy travelers. Hello email, hotel reservations, online phone conversations and even video chatting with loved ones at home. Take that 1992!
If Wi-Fi’s unavailable, just bring your own internet. As long as there’s cell phone service you can have the world. And the longer these services remain in place, the cheaper they’ll be to access.
With the ubiquity of the Internet comes speed and ease to get the information you need. This absolutely takes the fear and reluctance from visiting unknown places. Just read up from the plethora of web sources even minutes before you go to enjoy that spontaneous side trip to Godzilla Alley.
Need to find out whether a hotel is close to the city center or if they have attractive desk help? Not a problem. This wasn’t even possible even 15 years ago.
Yes, it’s cheap!
A lot has been made of the price of plane tickets and overall expense of travel. Comparatively speaking, it’s cheaper to travel now than it’s ever been. No joke. The airline industry is possibly the only major commercial industry whose prices haven’t adjusted for inflation. In some cases ticket prices are actually cheaper than they were 20 years ago. While once a luxury of the rich, plane travel in the modern age is accessible to nearly any income level, and if you’re flexible with your accommodations there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to travel over a long period of time for as much money (or even less) than you’d spend in your home town on a daily basis.
An AirTreks ticket can allow you to circle the entire planet for less money than a single semester at a state university. You might even argue that the education is worth more.
So next time you see your Grandpa, make sure you thank him for paving the way to a sweet time in history to be a traveler. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the thanks, and the conversation too.
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