No doubt you notice from my comments and interests posted here that my wife and I love to travel. It adds such fantastic memories for a lifetime, especially when some family members can share the experience. And we find that travel fills in the blank spaces on the globe. They are mysterious no longer, but instead places with which you associate real people, people usually very much like ourselves, with the same desires, hopes and dreams. We’ve found wonderful people all over the world, and that gives us faith in humanity.
In the midst of the coronavirus, I ask: will travel return again to the way it was before? Or will this pandemic fundamentally change travel, and will it alter the way we interact with one another?
In my forthcoming novel, set in the year 2161, two characters have this conversation:
Joe shrugged, saying, “I’ve been many places by net travel—”
Mike held up a hand. “And there’s the problem. Of course, there aren’t many other ways to travel these days, but net travel is a curated experience with a controlled message.”
“It’s the most eco-friendly way to see the world,” Joe protested. “And it’s allowed me to visit cities, like Venice, that have long-since been abandoned. I can see what countries looked like in the past . . .” He trailed off at seeing Mike’s frown.
“That is the socially correct response.”
“There’s no denying that physical travel increases the carbon footprint,” Joe said, feeling defensive.
. . .
Now, for my story, I posit one forecast of the future. Albeit, this view is set far enough from now that pandemics will be well behind us, because biotechnology seems very likely to allow development of treatments that eliminate every pathogen that might seriously harm us. I do not worry about pandemics much, and think we will solve that issue, perhaps before mid-century.
Instead, this future view considers several factors:
- Will concerns about climate change create misgivings about the ecological damage from travel? (Your thoughts, engineers: What kind of technologies might replace the airplane? What alternatives might replace fossil fuels for aircraft engines at economic prices, or will we still face that tradeoff for the next ~141 years? For example, do you think that well before 2161, all airplanes will be electric?)
- As technology creates more wealth, and people then have more free time, will we worry more about the damage to places from over-tourism?
- Will there be technologies that allow virtual-types of travel—I’m thinking of VR-type devices; perhaps even a future “holodeck”—that are “close enough” to supplant some fraction of physical tourism?
- Will social norms encourage or discourage travel tourism?
I suggest one view. But what are YOUR views about the future of travel?
I’ll close with a photo I took of Petra in Jordan. It’s the incredible intersection of ancient civilization meets architectural innovation. Let’s not stop dreaming of magical places.
Be well and stay calm.
We all have many journeys. Gary’s began in a small Midwest town, where he could play unfettered in the woods, finding an early love for nature and learning self-reliance. The space program and the night skies hooked him on astronomy. After finishing college, the wide world beckoned, and his fascination with science drew him to California to participate in the booming tech industry. Now he still stares upward, wondering what it all is about.