Travel and Proven Technology

Travel and Proven Technology

Traveling is part of living in cross cultural spaces.  The more “locally” one travels the more one learns about a people and their customs, habits and worldviews.  Most travel in cross cultural spaces is not done “locally”, however. In one place where we lived,  expatriates who worked for foreign governments and some who worked for international companies or organizations typically avoided local travel options for a variety of reasons:

1. “Local” travel was too time consuming.  Riding the bus or train took much longer than riding in a private vehicle with a driver, or taking a plane or jet.

2. Walking was usually out of the question even for short jaunts because it was considered too dangerous or it just took a lot longer to get from point A to point B. Plus the weather might have extremes of cold and hot.  And, sometimes you just get tired of being the one person who looks different from everyone else on the street!

3. Traveling “locally” usually meant you needed to know the language(s) in order to negotiate fares and purchase tickets.  Or else travel with someone “local”.

4. Besides, just living cross culturally can be exhausting.  Traveling “locally” can mean unexpected destinations and detours; it might mean traveling with livestock on board, with auto parts like car doors, bumpers or tires sharing the seat next to you, and “local” climate control often leaves something to be desired.

4. Traveling “locally” sometimes meant using what one astute and eloquent expat from the Library of Congress once called “proven technology.”  I liked that description.  What he meant, of course, was that the propeller-driven aircraft which had ferried him from the capital city to the regional university library had seen decades of service from Siberia to Afghanistan and was sturdily built.  Its altimeter gauge responded well to the persistently applied finger tapping of an experienced pilot well practiced in landing planes with bald tires or only one working engine.  It’s hard to blame those who elect not to take the proven technology option.

That’s what makes this book by Carl Hoffman so very interesting: The Lunatic Express-Discovering the world-via its most dangerous buses, boats, trains and planes

Here’s one reviewer’s thoughts:

...for most of the world’s travelers, Hoffman tells us, travel is no luxury. The majority of today’s travelers are not tourists; they travel because they must—usually for work—and they are routinely forced to endure incredibly unpleasant circumstances. Hoffman, being an adventurous travel writer, thought it might be instructive to take a few months and travel the world the way most of its nontourist population does: on the least safe airlines, the most crowded buses, through some of the most inhospitable and dangerous places on the planet. The result is a thoroughly fascinating book, full of shocking stories and plenty of things to make your skin crawl (cockroaches, anyone?). This is one travel book whose audience is restricted to armchair travelers; let’s face it, would we really want to follow in the author’s footsteps? –David Pitt (BookList)

Sounds like a great book to read while traveling “locally” or… not so “locally!”

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