My View: Travel was a passport to a new start in life | Opinion

I started thinking about how travel has changed over my long life when I read Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos’ Space Adventure last December.

Pauline Dyson of Williamsville heard tales of adventure from her immigrant parents.

While multi-billionaires could afford to leave our Covid-ravaged land, we ordinary people have canceled travel plans and crossed off long-dreamed-of trips from our to-do lists during the pandemic.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that for most of recorded history, people traveled out of necessity, not pleasure. Take my parents’ generation. Mom and dad have only been on one trip in their lifetime, as immigrants to America at the turn of the 20th century.

They had a compelling reason to leave their family in a poor mountain village in central Italy for the chance to work in America. My parents described their travel experience as one not to repeat.

At 16, mum recalls a month-long trip to the Atlantic Ocean, feeling seasick and vomiting in the tight bowels of a ship that sailed from Naples to Boston in 1914. Dad tried to jump ship as a 12-year-old orphan, only to be sent back to Italy when he arrived at the Boston docks. He tried again seven years later, this time with a boarding ticket and entry papers.

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At 19, with a strong back and bulging biceps, my father was welcomed to America, where pickaxe-and-shovel railroad work awaited him.

Given their difficult travel experiences in the early 20th century, it’s no wonder my mom and dad were afraid to return to Italy, not even to visit family back home. This attitude lasted until the middle of the century, when we had a family car and air travel became accessible to even those of modest means.

At this time, mid-century travel for tourism and experience replaced travel in search of opportunity for my parents’ generation of immigrants. In the twenties, jet travel to Europe became widely available at a reasonable cost. After college, I worked for a year to save enough money for my first trip to Europe. While a six-hour plane trip over the Atlantic wasn’t quite as comfortable as my return trip – a seven-day trip on the Queen Mary I – it was more humane than my parents’ 50 crossing. years earlier.

Air travel was enjoyable enough that I half believed the air carrier advertisements that said “getting there is half the fun”. America’s prosperity in the last half of the 20th century made it possible to focus less on finding opportunities or simply sightseeing. New travel opportunities to previously unvisited continents have enabled the well-heeled to seek adventure.

Safaris in Africa, shearing sheep on a New Zealand farm (agritourism) and hot air balloon rides were types of interactive travel experiences somewhat akin to the outer space voyages of American billionaires of today in that a slight discomfort is endured for the thrill of adventure at destination. .

Neither well-heeled nor particularly adventurous, we missed such indulgent travel experiences. The classic drive across America in the family car and the popular flight to Disney World were also absent from our family bonding experiences.

Do our young adult children and grandchildren today feel deprived of these childhood travel memories? I think they would prefer to hear about their ancestors’ experiences, the risks, bravery and hardships endured while traveling in the New World. After all, this travel adventure has made their own future escapades possible, though I doubt space travel is on their to-do list.

About Juana Jackson

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