I wish I’d taken the train…
I recently wrote a piece for Gadling in which I said some unfashionable things about arriving somewhere new by plane.
Perhaps weirdest of all? This:
Then, the most confusing feeling of all – guilt. As if I’m here under false pretenses. In some pseudo-puritanical sense, I feel like I haven’t earned this. I’ve skipped straight to dessert without eating my greens. I’ve cheated. This is of course ludicrous. Should I have tried to cross the Atlantic in a canoe, perhaps, or maybe on a pedalo? Should I swim it with Ben Fogle? It’s absurd – but the feeling lingers, and I think I know the root of it. If I fly somewhere, I’ve missed all the fun of getting there. I’ve cheated myself out of that adventure. However impractical the alternatives, planes are just too fast for my sense of what constitutes “travel.” It seems I’m one of those Slow Movement people, which must explain why I’m so unfit these days.
What is that all about? Is it about indulging your Puritanical side, donning a hair-shirt every time fun threatens to make an appearance? Is it about wallowing in suffering by doing everything the long way round?
God, I hope not. That sounds miserable – and not the good, healthy kind of miserable either. If you have a chance to frolic, I say, GO FROLIC. But…I think back to the times I’ve felt that weird I-Haven’t-Earned-This guilt, and I think about what that experience ultimately came to mean to me.
And what it meant was usually less than what it should have meant.
So here’s what I mean (I think).
1) If you want to feel a defining sense of achievement at reaching a worthy goal, you can’t cheat. You can’t take short-cuts. Because you will know you’ve cheated, at some level, and that knowing will diminish the reward to the point of disillusionment. You’ll get to your destination and it will not feel right. Your dream will have been hijacked – by you.
2) This means everything worth doing has to be a struggle.
3) Well, bugger.
4) One problem is when you confuse “cheating” and “finding smarter ways to do things.” The latter is a good thing – you apply your brain, you find a better way, you do it, it takes half the time, and you have more time for frolicking. You should never consider not doing this if it presents itself as an option. Unfortunately, telling the two apart can be tricky.
5) For me, planes feel like cheating. So when I fly, I’m cheating on my (idealized, nonsensical, but still defining) sense of what travel should be like. I’m stupid like that. Because it’s an enormously impractical thing to feel, right? I’m an idiot. I’m pretty sure you feel differently about planes – but there will be other things that feel like cheating to you. Best you learn what they are before they ruin a dream experience for you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to finding new methods of feeling bad about having fun. It’s just my way.