Travel is great. Everyone should do it. Thanks to the historically stunning rise of cheap transport more people than ever do it more often than ever before. For young people it is now one of the rites of passage. Good on them. Travel is fun and it is educational. It opens new horizons. It makes you see things from different perspectives. It shows you how the other half â€“ or 99% – lives. It can leave you pining for more adventures but it can also make you appreciate your home more. Our own societies and cultures can sometimes seem imperfect on the surface, and as all other human creations they are, but itâ€™s all relative.
Another good thing about travel is how it dispels all the stereotypes we lazily acquire as armchair travellers and news and culture consumers. Or not.
New Yorkers are not actually rude, brusque and inurbane (â€œExcuse me, could you tell me how to get to the Grand Central or should I just go and fuck myself now?â€) â€“ quite the opposite, though as many locals have suggested to me it is a relatively recent phenomenon, flowing from the post-9/11 soul searching. On the other hand, the Melanesia really is a hot tropical mess. Nepal is not a tiny, semi-feudal, hermit kingdom â€“ youâ€™re thinking of Bhutan. But Switzerland is indeed postcard perfect â€“ and clinically tidy, as if the whole country were on a spectrum.
I love Switzerland, except for extortionate Euro prices. The place feels like home. Literally â€“ itâ€™s like someone has taken my place with its neatly stacked books and alphabetically ordered CD and DVD collections and blew it up to the size of a middling country.
Driving through the countryside and all the little villages and towns is like doing a circuit as a judge of the Tidiest Town competition that never ends. Never mind the absence of any rubbish and detritus of life, the fields and byways and gardens and houses look like they have been measured with a hand-held ruler and scrubbed with a toothbrush. Like an English Regency garden, it takes a lot of money and effort to make the nature seem soâ€¦ natural.
(All photos copyright Arthur Chrenkoff)