A Travellerspoint blog

The Case Against Flying

Because shooting through the air in a metal case is boring and only add cultural shock to your adventure.

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I think that I’ve mentioned it a few times already: I consider flying as cheating. So, since I’ve just returned to the African mainland – by plane – after a few weeks on Cape Verde, I should probably explain myself. It’s not that I don’t like the act of flying or is afraid of it; I rather like it. But when it comes to travelling I find it... aesthetically and essentially (for lack of better words) wrong.

Travelling is, to me, essentially a matter of experiences. Whether these are cultural, historical, natural or something entirely else. Flights are not. Flying is the complete opposite. It’s humanity’s most efficient mean of transportation. Planes are inherently time machines, moving people in time and space. The time travel is most evident when we’re flying across time zones.

Cultural Adjustment Curve

Cultural Adjustment Curve

That is, however, not why I dislike flying. (I really want a real time machine!). It’s the travel in space that I mind. Step into that metal cylinder we call a plane in one part of the world, a few hours later we step out somewhere completely different. The problem is that the world doesn’t work like that. The stark difference we feel when flying from, say, Europe or North America to Africa or Asia isn’t real. Sure, it’s real for those people taking the flight, and many of them will probably experience what we call ‘cultural shock’ once they arrive. Simply because the transformation in space is so sudden that it takes some time to get adapt to.

Flamingo in Andalusia

Flamingo in Andalusia

This experience of cultural shock is easily avoided by not flying. Things on the ground change gradually. Consider my trip. Had I just flow from Copenhagen to Dakar (where I am now) it would have been a significant change. Instead, I’ve passed through a number of ‘cultural belts’. The first being Andalusia in Southern Spain. It’s Spanish and European, but having historically also been part of Islamic empires it probably has more in common with Morocco than with (secular, Scandinavian) Denmark. Another transition happened as I moved from to the very conservative and Middle Eastern-ish Mauritania or more open-minded and Sub-Saharan Senegal. Both Islamic countries, the area around the Senegal River, which marks the border, is less conservative than most of the rest of Mauritania on the northern side, but more conservative than the rest of Senegal on the southern. Travelling over land has eased transformation from Scandinavia to Africa in a way that would be impossible by flying.

Overland Travel

Overland Travel

Cultural Shock is basically a lack of understanding about how a given culture works and how it is different from the one you're used to. People and cultures are different too. But travelling over land gives a distinct feeling for where people and cultures are different and where they aren’t. It provides a better understand of who you’re visiting. By experiencing the transformations from Northern to Southern Europe, from southern Europe to North Africa and from North Africa to Sub-Saharan West Africa I have gotten a much better understanding of how people across these regions are similar and different.

Walk if you have to

Walk if you have to

However you go about your non-flying (driving, biking, taking the train, hitch, sail or purchasing a donkey cart) it will give you many more experiences, make you infinitely richer on adventures and be a lot more fun than just flying. As flying is essentially a somewhat tedious affair (unless you’re afraid of it, and they you should avoid it anyway).

Fine, if you’re crossing oceans, are in a hurry (say, on an extended weekend) or if your purpose is not to experience anything, but just to lazy about on a beach, go ahead. Jump on that plane. But the next time you’re taking a two-week vacation somewhere, snub the aeroplane, extend your vacation to three weeks and use that extra week on getting to and from your destinations properly, visiting the fascinating towns, sights and people between your home and wherever you’re going! Especially, if you’re travelling within Europe where distances are incredibly short.

Fogo Island (Aldo Bien, Wiki Commons)

Fogo Island (Aldo Bien, Wiki Commons)

The biggest problem these days are that aeroplane tickets are so damn cheap. Ignore that. Travelling shouldn’t be about saving money. Go the adventures route instead! If you have any sense of adventurous or travelling spirit, it’ll thank you for it (and so will the environment).

So why did I fly to Cape Verde then? It simply was the only mean of transportation. There aren’t any ships from the African mainland. Container ships travel directly there directly from Europe and the private yachts set sail almost exclusively from the Canaries. If I wanted to visit the Verdes, flying was – unfortunately – my only option.

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Posted by askgudmundsen 06:45 Archived in Cape Verde Tagged flying culture no north africa transportation europe andalusia travelling experience non cape_verde cultural_shock

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