Last Christmas, I played Santa to my friends and readers. I asked them to ask me for anything within my limits. As they say, you get more when you try to give. I received far more than I gave. Sh. Satya Govindarajan asked us to visit them for tea at their home in Aldona, Goa.
We promptly visited them and spent a lovely time at their home surrounded by fields on all sides. Satya ji gave me an essay by George Mikes to read called – How to Avoid Travelling. In a hand-written note, he said, his father used this essay a lot to avoid taking them on a vacation.
I was touched by this gesture.
We came home and I read the essay – I was laughing out loud. I knew I had to share it with you – my readers, my co-travellers. Not much has changed since the time George Mikes wrote this piece of humor in the late 1970s. However, I took some time to read a bit about George Mikes.
George Mikes was a Hungarian-born man who lived in England. He made fun of England in a lot of his work and his best-known work is ‘How to be an alien’ and here ‘Alien’ refers to anyone who is not English. Read a sample here. He wrote books on many countries. Not bad for someone who wrote in favor of not traveling.
George Mikes’s biography was titled ‘How to be Seventy’ – I would wait to be in my late 60s to read that book. But I am sure I am going to read some of his books soon enough.
Some of the George Mikes’s famous quotes include:
- An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one.
- Many Continentals think life is a game; the English think cricket is a game.
- On the Continent people have good food; in England, people have good table manners.
How to Avoid Travelling – George Mikes
I was wondering what would George Mikes say about Travel in the age of photo sharing, live videos, and crazy bragging. So, I thought I will write an update letter to him to tell how Travel has changed since he left the planet. Here is this letter for George Mikes who may have come back as one of us and may be busy clicking some selfies.
My context is far more Indian, though the underlying trend remains the same.
Read the original essay here.
How to Avoid Travelling – An update for George Mikes
This is summer of 2017 and I am tempted to share with you an update to your essay ‘How to Avoid Travelling’.
The disease called ‘Travel’ whose first symptoms you saw in the 1970s has now become an epidemic fuelled in general by a phenomenon called the internet and in particular, by social networks called Facebook and Instagram. Ubiquitous camera phones make it absolutely infectious – instantly.
In your days, people used to run around to travel in summer months. Now, people have this urgent need to travel on every holiday and that means every weekend. Long weekends have become utterly stressful for the popular tourist places. During school summer vacations – well the mass of humanity shifts from big cities to big tourist locations – be it Goa or Thailand or Disneyworld.
The funny part is the whole of Delhi moves to Leh where they socially engage with people whom they would not see eye to eye in Delhi. They will all drive to Mussoorie and then complain about long traffic Jams there – or are they secretly enjoying the known comfort of being in a traffic jam. It is anybody’s guess.
Travel has become such an obsession that certain parts of popular tourist destinations have been taken over by the tourists. Do not believe me? Come to certain parts of Goa in winters and you read and hear more Russian than Konkani.
You tell us why do Americans, German and British travel. Let me tell you why do we Indians travel.
Gujaratis are traveling for a deep-rooted research – how do Thepla and Khakra taste on different lands and in different weather conditions?
South Indians are checking the spread of Rasam & Sambhar in every nook and corner of the world. They create a demand for it wherever they go.
Punjabis just want to spread their music everywhere even if it means playing pirated music on their mobile phones. Looks like their own voice also sounds like music to them.
Bengalis travel so that they spread Bengali in the world – you can find a Bengali hotel on the India-Tibet border in Himachal.
Dilliwallas travel because they need to get out of Delhi to meet other Dilliwallahs. The same goes for Mumbaikars and Bangaloreans.
Goans travel to take revenge from the tourist. They want to go to their lands and do the same things that they do in Goa. They get beaten by their small numbers but they do attempt.
Anyway George, irrespective of where we come from, all of us travel to click pictures to show the world we are living a dream. Some of us go to the extent of posing with a book next to a frozen river or attempt to take a selfie with a tiger in a national park to make others envy.
When we see the friends and family posting these pictures, we have a mini world war at home for planning the next more exclusive holiday – the hunt is for a place no one has been or may be ticking off where everyone else has been to.
George, you would have been amused to know that this disease is now a 24 X 7 disease that is not only being lived by travelers but being live telecast to infect others. You would have probably said this is an ultimate American takeover of the world – at least the world of travel.
One thing that has not changed since you wrote your essay is – ‘Off-Beat Travel’ – we love to brag about places that are not touristy. Can you imagine people go to Agra and not see Taj Mahal? Well, if it helps you stand out in the crowd – why not. In effect it only means, you do see the Taj Mahal but not post the pictures in front of it – like everyone else does.
You advised on how to choose your next destination. If a lot of people are headed there, avoid that – your lies would be caught ???? It remains true to a large extent, but we have learned to work around our lies. The fact that so much information (that includes images) is available on the internet that making a story sitting at home is not a problem. A young girl actually made her family, friends, and followers believe that she is holidaying in Thailand while she was just at home in front of her computer creating those make-believe stories.
I loved the part of your where you tell us about travel snobbery by using sophisticated names for the simplest of dishes on the menu. This phenomenon has gone through the roofs – thanks to instant photo sharing. People now click and share before they eat – saves them from conscience taking over after the dish is tasted. Do you know there is food meant for food photography and food meant for eating – they are two different species? Names of these dishes are ‘use and throw’ – a new name each time the dish is made.
You would be surprised to see the barrage of food bloggers on social media. I can challenge you to find anyone who has ever tasted the food they cook. Finding a needle in the hay would sound like a cakewalk. Social media feeds sometimes look like a chronicle of who ate what, when, where and with whom.
In the end, you made me smile when through a small story you tell us – Stay at home and let the world come home to you. Living in Goa, I have kind of lived this prophecy of yours – you stay at home and world comes to you & shares its stories with you. Is that not an easier and cheaper way to broaden your mind?
Read my story here – How to Let the World Come Home?
George Mikes, I wish I had the wit and humor you had. I wish I could make some points with so much sarcasm and with as much ease.
Thank you for showing us the mirror, many truths will keep reflecting through it for many more years to come.
Wondering if you are resting in peace somewhere or are you wandering around looking for ideas to feed your satire.
Travel Blogger or Someone who peddles travel dreams to readers ????