I remember it so well, my first trip abroad. France, 1988 with my eldest sister, her husband and their four children. We went Eurocamping in an overloaded Ford Escort, back in the days when it was OK to carry more passengers than what your car was designed to carry. The boot was crammed with stuff and the roof rack was full to capacity, with a few more things tied on, just incase we needed them. We had to stop and pick our sleeping bags up off the Drumcondra Road in Dublin after the rope on the roof rack came loose and our belongings were propelled onto the car travelling behind us.
I recall some of the “essentials” I packed for that holiday: a personal stereo, a selection of cassette tapes, a tennis racquet, bottles of sun cream and all my horse-riding gear. All stuff that was compact and lightweight (tongue-in-cheek!) Tonight, almost 25 years later I’m trying to cram all my “essentials” for a trip to Poland into a piece of hand luggage that’s smaller than most modern handbags. Nail clippers and a handy wee penknife are no-nos: they’d be confiscated at the airport. I can’t bring my favourite moisturiser, nor can I bring my own shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste nor a bottle of water. I can bring a toothbrush, but my lip balm has to be in a sealed, clear plastic bag. I can’t bring my laptop because that would be counted as a second piece of hand luggage and I’m only allowed to bring one (the one that will contain my meagre supply of “essentials.”) I’ll have to wear my coat (it won’t fit into my hand luggage) and one pair of shoes is just going to have to do. I’ll be expected to strip in public at airport security, so there’d better not be any holes in my socks. When I’m being frisked I can watch some of the security guys rifling through my “essentials” – so there’d better not be any holes in the knickers I’ve packed either. And even though I’m travelling abroad, my passport won’t be stamped: we’re all “Europeans now, apparently.
Forgive me for being a misery guts but to me, getting from A to B across an international boundary has become one hell of a chore. With increasing globalisation and increased airport security, travel has lost a lot of its romance and charm. Also, you can’t always shop at the Duty Free, and Tesco’s or Boots are probably a lot cheaper for much of the stuff now anyway! In fact, there’s a fair chance that you’ll find a Tesco at your chosen destination…
Yes, it’s nice to see and experience other places but I don’t travel so much any more, even though travel is much cheaper and more accessible than it ever was before. One vital ingredient of any trip abroad – the getting there and back – has now become a nuisance aspect rather than something that can be celebrated, appreciated and enjoyed.