I got a brochure in the mail from Trek Travel, a company that sells bike tours. And I understand why people hire other people to do their travel planning for them. One reason is safety. No one wants to go to France and get murdered. But all of the other reasons are subsumed in this one reason: People hate travel.
As soon as I hear someone say, “I love travel,” I know they hate it. And when I hear someone say, “I hate travel,” I know they’re being honest. Travel is the most disgusting, demeaning, stressful, awful activity known to man, aside from time trailing and core workouts in the gym. And the indoor trainer. And Zwift.
But in order to get from one far place to the next you have to travel. There’s no getting around it. People like to moan about how bad it’s gotten with tiny airplane seats and cardboard snacks on Southwest handed out from a trash bag, but BITD travel meant that your ship was probably going to sink or get boarded by pirates who would cut your throat, rape you, sell you off into slavery, or all three.
If your ship didn’t sink, your caravan would be attacked and the savages would cut your throat, rape you, sell you off into slavery, or all three. Or your hydrogen-filled airship would blow up and you’d be incinerated. So no, travel isn’t worse than it used to be, unless you’re trying to leave Syria or Ethiopia or North Korea or about 200 other countries, in which case you still stand a real good chance of getting your throat cut, raped, sold off into slavery, or all three. If you’re an American, you only think you have it rough, even though, as Louis CK will tell you, you’re sitting in a flying chair that goes 500 mph through the air, which is amazingly awesome no matter how many bad cups of coffee you swill.
Because people despise travel so much they hire Trek Travel to do the actual traveling. All the customers have to do is show up. They don’t even have to be particularly fit because Trek has tours for everyone, including for people who just want to “ride” an electric bike. The only thing you need to have is money and an overwhelming sense of insecurity and fear of failure.
Bike tours are an especial genre of crazy. Why would anyone join a group of complete idiots in Italy simply so they can ride together? Why not just drive to the neighboring big city and do their Saturday group ride? It will be the exact same assortment of insane people, only at the end of the ride you’ll be able to go home, whereas in Italy the guy who farts too much and bores you to tears about his power output will be your roomie for the next twelve days.
Most importantly, if you’re going to travel a long way to do something fun, you should be really stressed out and miserable getting there, because that makes the fun part more fun. Every time I hear that someone flew 15 hours in first class I feel sorry for them, waking up all refreshed and ready to hit the ground running and such.
They’ll never know the awesomeness of staggering off the plane with deep vein thrombosis only to learn that your bike has been shipped to Kalimantan and won’t be back until February. They’ll never know coach. And for sure they’ll never know coach toilets, those claustrophobic hell holes modeled after parking lot crit porta-potties with paper-thin doors so the flight attendants can hear you grunt and howl as your feet slosh around in the muck on floor and you try to keep your parts from touching the toilet rim.
What’s more world-changing than two days of hard flying, only to end up at a hotel that has lost your reservation and the whole town is booked for the month and the president declared a state of emergency and there’s no hot water? How can you possibly do better than getting the runs, pneumonia, or rickets en route to your destination?
Are you going to remember that seamless Trek Travel itinerary ten years from now, where you were pampered by a wonderful multilingual guide, quaffed perfect cappucino every day, and were encouraged every single pedalstroke of the way up the Mortirolo, or are you going to remember the mugging you got in downtown Palermo when you flatted, couldn’t understand directions to the bike shop, went down a dark alley, got beaten with a tire iron, and had your travel documents stolen along with all your money and your fingerprints?
I guess I’m making the case that, like riding yer fuggin’ bike, it counts to have to overcome stuff. If all you ever eat is dessert, it will sooner or later turn into a surfeit. A bit of nails and broken glass mixed in with your morning gruel never hurt anybody. Being spit on by locals, ripped off by grimy street urchins, solicited by diseased hookers, and harassed by paramilitary narcotraffickers is better than the finest gourmet meal in Tuscany, especially when squeezed in between horribly hard days on the bike that leave you whimpering in a bedbug-infested cabin abutting a freeway.
Travel, real travel, is always an adventure, you can’t pay someone to do it for you, and the only difference between an adventure and a complete fucking catastrophe is the ending.
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