Travel and the false notion of “The good old days”

12 Jun

If I hear someone mourn the death of the “Good Old Days” one more time I think I’m going to go insane. Too often do travelers, and many other types of people, fixate on romanticized notions of the past.

“Back when kids could be kids, back when suburbs were fun places to live, back when we weren’t brainwashed zombies using smartphones, back when America was safer”.

And while there may have been certain aspects of life that were better in the past, the fact is, that in the vast majority of countries on this planet, an average citizen is better off today than in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Even the United States, which has been economically in decline since the 1980’s, has made progress in important areas. There is less violent crime than there has been at any point since the 1950’s, and there have been major social advances for homosexuals, women, and minorities.

I personally couldn’t imagine living in America in the 1950’s. It’s hard for me to believe the fact that one of the most glorified times in America’s recent history was before the Civil Rights Act was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson.

The other thing that bothers me is when people say that technology has taken the fun out of travel. The reality is that technology has given people far more travel options. An increasing number of people, myself included, are using Airbnb and Uber on their travels. These all have been great examples of free market competition that will make traveling cheaper. Airbnb is especially good, in my opinion, for US travel, as the US has always had fewer hostels than Europe.

People love to complain about how Google Maps has taken the joy out of exploration in somewhere new. But before Google Maps, there were paper maps. And I can’t figure out see why so many people love to romanticize the old fashioned compass and map. It’s no different than Google Maps, except that it can only show one area, is on paper, and it’s annoying to unfold every time you want to look at it.

Also, there are plenty of places people can still interact face-to-face while traveling. And there’s new online “meet locals” services which can facilitate this too. I really don’t mind being able to put in earphones while I’m not in the mood to talk, and I’ve still had plenty of interesting conversations on trains and in coffee shops. More than enough to satisfy me.

Really, in order to appreciate travel, we should stop fixating on the notions of what travel was like in the past.

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