I am going out on a limb to make a provocative counter-intuitive statement: That now is the best time in the history of mankind to travel. We are in what many in the future, and certainly those who traveled before us no matter how nostalgic they may be, might refer to as the Golden Age of Travel. Consider these five facts:
First off, believe it or not, the world has never been safer to travel. Fact is, the world is actually a more peaceful, less violent and safe place to travel in than ever before, despite what you hear nightly on cable news shows about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Currently there are no two nation-states at war with each other. Frankly, as a student of international relations, that is unprecedented. Sure there are a few pockets of resistance out there, a handful of violence-prone areas still too hot to visit, like: Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Somalia, Darfur/Sudan, and Syria recently. That's just six localities out of almost 200 U.N.-member nation-states. You could say that we have a 97 percent conflict-free zone to travel within. I'll take those odds anytime. Sure, you could maybe add a few more conflicts it might be best to avoid too, like: Chicago, the Gaza Strip, and downtown Cairo. For good or bad -- and this traveling author see's the glass decidedly half-full -- the world is being pacified with the multiple effects of: expanding democracy, United Nations programs, increased literacy, globalization, social media, urbanization and secularization. They are all having a positive effect on reducing violence in the world. And this is really good news for travelers.
So forget the crap you hear nightly, those fear-mongering sensationalistic news reports only feed the insidious Mean World Syndrome. When I wear my other hat of Event Director for The Global Scavenger Hunt's annual around the world travel adventure competition, I have no problem finding safe places to visit -- and neither should you.
Second: sure getting there may no longer be half the fun, but getting there today has never, ever, been safer. Flying today has never been safer; in fact, last year was the safest ever in aviation history. Three little words will help you understand air travel in the 21st century: arrived without incident -- and it occurs almost 93,000 times a day! Think about that.
By the way, should you want to be almost 100 percent safe when flying, here are my three suggestions: 1) don't fly in Alaska; 2) don't fly on a Russian carrier; and, 3) when flying in Africa think twice about taking flights after midday. I am just saying...
Third: I know we Americans like to complain -- and we should about our domestic flight service (Shame on them!) because it truly is dreadful compared to international service -- but one thing we have forgotten among all the relative discomforts and hassles of air travel today, is that it's almost always better than the alternative. A century ago, ocean-crossing mortality rates could be as high as 50 percent(1); cross country train travel takes three days; and don't even ask about buses. But today, we can step onto a jetliner anywhere and in a matter of hours step off that same airplane across the country, across the oceans and halfway around the world. Getting here to there has simply never been easier. And you get there at a relatively reasonable cost, (flights are around 12 percent cheaper today than in 2000), without smokers polluting your lungs (remember smoking sections, WTF!?), with amazing seatback entertainment features (okay, on international flights not domestic ones), and last but not least, experiencing less air-turbulence than ever. Airports have never offered more consumer choices, and for the select few, airline travel lounges have never been nicer offering amazing creature comforts and amenities.
It is indeed the Golden Age of Travel.
Next we should fully understand, although we take it for granted, that connectivity and speed have rendered the world extremely small. The so-called "death of distance" has arrived making far-flung remote destinations more and more accessible than ever before. The fact is, you can be anywhere in the world you desire within 24 hours (my 24-Hour Rule). Of course the jet-age of the 1960's absolutely revolutionized travel as we know, and the continued growth of low-cost regional airlines around the world this last decade, has amplified it by pairing up more destinations than ever. There has been an almost 40 percent increase in city-to-city connectivity in the last decade and today over 37,000 city pairs are connected by commercial passenger flights into almost 1,300 international airports. That means that you can go anywhere and get anywhere within 24-hours. From here in Los Angeles, in 12-13 hours you can be in Moscow or Tierra del Fuego...in 14-16 hours you can be in Delhi, Sydney or Hong Kong... in16-18 hours you can be in Dubai, Singapore or Easter Island...and in18-20 hours in Johannesburg. The furthest away from Los Angeles I can travel to is Mauritius -- and you can get there on two flights via Paris and a croissant -- and be there in exactly 24 hours and 30 minutes.
Finally, our amazing technological and communication advances that have interconnected everyone and everything have radically and irrevocably altered our relationship with travel. Advances have allowed us to have instant access to relevant travel information anywhere, anytime, 24/7; from knowing the weather and currency exchange rates, to flight status and seating options, and hotel availability, transportation options and reserving a table. Think about it, we don't have to take guidebooks with us anymore, and with the numerous social media sites available, we can directly communicate with knowledgeable locals. Aren't we all more informed and confident travelers these days as a result of these remarkable advances? Don't we all have a lot more choices? We have online booking, ticketless travel, at-home electronic check-ins and seat assignments. seamless financing with ATM's and credit cards, instant free communications with Skype and Wi-Fi smart phone use; and of course the use of digital cameras to make us better at capturing and sharing our memories.
So, I submit to you that this is the Golden Age of Travel, depending on your personal needs, whims and aspirations, you can literally be doing anything your heart desires anywhere in the world you want to go in 24-hours. From urban exploration and nature adventures to scuba diving, skiing, fishing, trekking, safari, visit great art museums, indulging in great cuisines, or just visiting family and friends -- the world is truly your oyster. You really need just three things to travel anywhere these days: time, resources and desire.
Don't you think so?
(1)On the Origin of the Species Homo Touristicus: The Evolution of Travel from Greek Spas to Space Tourism, By William D. Chalmers, pp 119-125.