In Essays/ Travel

The Worst Thing About Travel (and How To Avoid It)

Travel is a wildly privileged thing to do. But just because it’s a privilege to travel doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and unicorns.

We all have travel horror stories and things we hate about travel, even if our Instagram captions beg to differ. #blessed

But what I hate most about travel has very little to do with the one-off horror story, the mundanity of waiting at an airport, or praying to your deity of choice that you can find a bathroom before your body ejects the local specialty your body’s still adjusting to.

No, no. Because when I think of travel, I’m thinking even more broadly, like going across town to try out a new restaurant as well as landing in faraway places.

And no matter where I go, the disappointment is always the same.

I see it when I look out the train window or when I’m shuffling around town on my own two feet. 

The absurd amount of space and infrastructure devoted to these things, the pollution they cause, and the horrific amount of people they kill each and every year while still being celebrated by many as symbols of freedom instead of the wildly costly albatrosses they are.

If you know me, then you knew where I was going with this as soon as you saw the title. And if you saw my video on How I View Europe As An American, then you know that what I’m talking about was a major reason why I always wanted to try living in Europe.

So… What the Hell am I talking about? What is it that I hate the most about travel and, in my humble opinion, is a manifestation of the worst of human impulses?

And is it possible I can drag this reveal out any further!?

Cars. I’m talking about cars.

Cars are freaking everywhere. They’re parked on the street, in front of houses, and in giant, multi-story garages built just for them.

Seriously, go outside where you are in the world and look around. Think about your travels. The amount of space dedicated to cars alone across the world is objectively absurd.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. “I love my car! Road trip! Whoooo noises!”

Okay, fine. Whoo, indeed. But road trips do not account for the vast majority of car travel. And when they’re not buzzing down the open road in a kind of car commercial cliché, they’re killing people. A lot of ‘em.

In 2018, the World Health Organization wrote that annual road traffic deaths had reached 1.35 million and became the leading killer of people aged 5-29 years with the burden disproportionately felt by pedestrians and cyclists.

That’s not even taking into account the links between car pollution, poor air quality, respiratory diseases, and other injuries. Then you get into the tens of millions.

Put that in the next “Ford Tough!” commercial.

To put this all in perspective, think about terrorism. Some of you may have traveled to certain countries and had friends or relatives warn about terrorism. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “Careful traveling there! It’s heavily car-reliant.”

But maybe we should! Because according to the Global Terrorism Index, deaths from terrorism fell by nine percent in 2022 to 6,701 deaths and is now 38 percent lower than at its peak in 2015.

Meanwhile, billions are spent countering terrorism while billions are spent expanding vehicular capacity across the globe.

To be clear, I don’t blame people with cars themselves. I’ve met so many people who loathe cars with the same ferocity I do, but are trapped in a system that practically demands using one. 

Some societies, I’m looking at you ‘Murica, shame those without a car. I’ve been asked so many times, “How did you get there without a car!?” as if humans haven’t been moving around for thousands of years without them.

I closed my eyes, made a wish, and started flapping my arms. That’s how I got here.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have the freedom to move where it’s possible to be completely independent of cars. But if you are someone who wants to avoid cars as much as possible, I’ve got a couple of tips on how to avoid them when you travel.

First, I use to look up any and all public transit options to get from place-to-place when I travel. Not every public transit system is linked up with Google Maps. So if you’re only using Google Maps, then you might be missing out on some routes. Plus, when you search on Rome2Rio, it’ll pull up the best option regardless of the time whereas Google Maps will show you options based on the departure time you’ve selected.

That’s how you find those bizarre 36-hour transit journeys on Google Maps. It’s because you’re searching at one in the morning and it thinks you want to leave now. Just go to bed! Nothing good ever happens after midnight anyways.

Next, use the apps and websites of local transit authorities. I was just in Wales and found a direct bus from my little national park town to Cardiff on the local transit app that I couldn’t find on Google Maps or Rome2Rio.

That’s all I got for you this time! Thanks for watching, like, subscribe, and leave a comment telling me what you think is the worst thing about travel.

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