Up, Up and Away!

It is very funny how setting out to do one thing can lead you in a completely different direction. For example I sat down recently to write a Christmas newsletter to let friends and family around the world know what the Hong Kong tribe has been up to during the past year.

Now for the third year in a row I never did finish that newsletter, but while drafting it I had pencilled in the statement “I didn’t do much travelling this year” but then I put my metaphorical pen down (actually, stopped typing) and thought back. Well there was the two-day trip to Zhuhai to lecture at one of the universities there, plus the annual long weekend in Macao. There were the two visits to Singapore, one on business and one for pleasure. Also two visits to Shanghai, one for business and one to see the art exhibition being sponsored by a client. Then of course there was the week in UK when I attended the wedding of my best friend’s son, visited my few remaining relatives, and found the bench in Kew Gardens dedicated to the memory of my mum and sister. And finally at the end of December the week in Hokkaido so the children could try skiing for the first time and I could slip on an icy Sapporo street and be forced to buy some proper boots for walking on snow and ice.

When you set it all out systematically like that it looks like quite a lot. Yet it isn’t really, is it? I bet a good many of the readers of this newspaper who also considered that they had not done much travelling in 2014 would come up with an equal or even longer list. And really that shows just how much life has changed for millions of ordinary people over the last quarter century or so. We now take international travel for granted, a routine part of our daily lives. I could travel many thousands of miles by air, sea and land and actually sit down and write the words “I didn’t do much travelling this year”.

The contrast with my youth could hardly have been more stark. My first trip outside the UK was at age 16 on a student exchange visit to France to improve my spoken French. I went by train and ship and it was a huge adventure, something to tell tales about for months and years to come. Similarly when my stepfather drove us all to Spain one summer. “You went to Spain? Wow!” My first commercial flight was from Calcutta to Bangkok when I was already in my 20s.

My children think nothing of a holiday in North America or Europe. Hell, I have grandchildren who had flown further before their first birthday than I had before my 25th! So my generation has seen a veritable revolution in lifestyle and expectation. I wonder what changes the present generation will see in their time.

Mike Rowse
email: mike@rowse.com.hk