Asked by a reader what I miss about the UK, I said that I don’t mind – and therefore with frankness – the proximity to other countries. After some self-humiliation (“You have no root when the naturalization forms come”), I knew I would say that too if I was from France or Germany. The country is not the point. The regional glories.
At this time more than ever, Europe’s geographical concentration in noble and distinct places tormented those who were no longer entrusted to it. Copenhagen for a test, San Sebastián for a feed: I only know of southeast Asia to compare the magnitude of the wonders. For reference, a one -way flight from Washington to LA takes longer than a trip from London to Rome.
This part of European life is as special as ever. There are reasons to think that this can be perfectly specific.
For most people, the future promises little and less air travel. Public health codes today have nothing to do with it. If most or even a lot of business trips send Zoom, that’s a valuable subsidy of economy class seats missing.
At the same time, Eureka’s occasional ban on electric aviation, the green case for higher taxes on flights (or even straight curbs) will build. It’s no work to speculate on the price of a cross-Atlantic ticket a decade from now. But if we don’t think of 2019 as the most democratic time in air travel history, it will owe some imaginary change in the coming years.
That’s the most plausible situation. Here’s the worst: the place they can travel without flying will tie holiday options to everyone but the benefit, almost all the time. How diverse and interesting an immediate region is is due in a way that it hasn’t been since the dawn of jet time.
It is at this point that Europe will stand up to the world. Yes, Brazil, America and India can claim as much of the interior – ethnic, topography – as continents. The Indochinese penchum consists of some 250m people and, on Samuel Huntington’s inspiring map, three civilizations.
However, in 40 ish countries, nearly as many official languages and half a billion people in nearly an area the size of the U.S., it’s hard to match Europe for more pressure on stimuli. And that’s before we settle for these non-aerial modes of transport: meteoric trains, spirit-level roads, North Sea shipping lines, the Baltic and the Mediterranean. If the continent had a river as large as the Nile to flow through it it would be most suitable for a world that lacks air travel.
Unfortunately, this travel region is not ordained. New demand from Asia’s still-growing middle class could change the economy of airlines like the loss of old business flyers. As for the green tax and flying, voters have a responsibility to talk a good game until the fate of the area’s eternal perpetuations begs.
But if this is the way of the future, however, then a small, continent full of wealth, ridden by rail and asphalt, will come to itself as a habitat. And – I say this as an “Ode to Joy” -warbling Remainer – it’s true with or without EU membership.
What a turmoil the post-Brexit jaunts on the mainland have with no opposition to raw proximity. Two and a half hours in Paris is still two and a half hours in Paris. “A continent we will never leave,” how Boris Johnson described Europe in the strangely painful end of his letter of departure as a foreign secretary. What it lacks in its point of originality it changes into reality.
In the end, unless air fares can be brutal, the most skilled flyers will economize on other things. I’m just a green belt of wanderlust and even if I stop a case or six Pommard will feel the wet heat of Bangkok. Especially the broad middle class to be based on the more expensive sky. Life in one region more than others will give them a kind of respite. Against an all -US winner, modern Europe has always sold itself as the best place to be average. What a strict economic boast can be a geography.
Email Janan at [email protected]
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