Whoever first said that ‘travelling is better than arriving’ was probably being dragged to Tyburn to meet a masked man with a disembowelling knife and a mean streak. Or on the final approach to Heathrow in the middle of the long-haul early morning rush hour.
In the great scheme of things, getting there is the price you have to pay for being anywhere. My own experience is that being there is mostly okay, but getting there is probably going to be pants.
Travel was a big part of much of my working life, and for a few years in the late eighties I lived in Scotland but worked in London for an American firm covering companies in Europe and Australia. In one of those calendar years I clocked up no fewer than 168 separate flights and went round the world twice. So many opportunities for things to go wrong.
Here are a few work-related experiences that may help to explain my somewhat jaundiced view of the travel process in general:
Sitting in a middle seat in economy (‘coach’) on a US internal flight late at night, picking at my microwaved lasagne, secure in the knowledge that I was still three hours from the next hotel bed and less than nine hours from the next breakfast meeting.
Flying overnight from London to New York – for an utterly pointless meeting, naturally – before catching the next overnight flight back to London, then going straight into the office, then getting up at four the next morning to catch the first flight – to Frankfurt, for God’s sake.
Flying from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle (in other words, from one corner of the continental USA to its diagonal opposite) to sit next morning at a breakfast presentation, where I was not invited to offer any opinions on my own area of responsibility – so might just as well not have been there – before taking a flight to Portland to repeat the experience at lunchtime, then flying to Los Angeles for another meeting, and finally going on to San Francisco for the night.
At least in these cases everything went according to schedule, even if the schedule itself was insane.
My real problem with travelling, though, arises when it does not go entirely to plan. Not only is this quite obviously a calculated affront, but it simply opens up a whole Pandora’s Box of opportunities to be inconvenienced.
Bearing in mind my firm conviction that the world is out to get me in any case, you will understand not only my antipathy to the slightest deviation from plan but also my default position that, if something can go wrong, it surely will. Thus:
Car journies of any meaningful distance will be blighted by major traffic jams or incomprehensible diversions. This is particularly the case when these journies are to an airport where I have a plane to catch.
Flights will be extensively delayed, diverted, or more likely both, either as a result of adverse weather, wildcat industrial action or ‘going technical‘.
Train journies will likewise, and for the same reasons, run incredibly late and/or terminate at an unscheduled station where the demand for taxis – which will be the only option for onward travel – exceeds supply by a factor of at least one hundred.
Boat trips will encounter seas so rough as to induce projectile vomiting into the nearest available handbasin (all other suitable receptacles having already been commandeered by fellow sufferers – sorry, travellers), if not the foundering of the vessel with the loss of all hands.
Don’t look at me like that. All these things have, at various points in my life, been sent to try me – I am not making them up (well, apart from the last bit).
The very fact that these things have happened before is, in itself, proof that they can happen again. Indeed, I fully expect them to, without the slightest provocation, every time I step out of the door with any greater ambition than getting to the shops.
Of course it’s personal.