Matthew Parris Matthew Parris

The case for travelling abroad


I’m off. In the week when you may read this, my partner and I will be winging our way to the European mainland, exploring, visiting friends, and immersing ourselves in new places, among new people who speak languages other than our own.

Even as I write this, I can anticipate a sour response from some who read it. Over the past year I’ve learned that any mention of travelling abroad draws from certain quarters three types of disgruntlement. Three, in fact, of the Seven Deadly Sins.

The first is Envy. ‘Oh, bully for you!’, ‘It’s all right for some’, etc.

This I disregard. Between youth and old age I’ve made the journey from sleeping in the kitchen in order to accommodate an extra lodger to keep up my mortgage payments, to (now) being able to treat cash dispensers as what as a child I thought banks were for: a place to get money when you want some. Never in my journey from little to plenty have I ever been troubled by jealousy towards people who could afford things I couldn’t. To those who cannot afford the things I can, I recommend the same attitude.

‘Did you manage to find anything you were looking for today?’

The second is Anger. ‘How dare you create CO2/risk bringing back the virus from abroad!’ Given that in common with most who travel abroad I observe all the precautions laid down by foreign governments and our own, I’m no more troubled by this than anyone who lives in Stockton should be troubled by criticism that (when permitted) they have visited Stockport. As for the climate change people — fair enough. I’ll go by train when I can. Or bicycle. Or walk. But I’ll go.

Finally Pride. ‘Isn’t England good enough for you? Doesn’t our own country boast all we could want in life? What landscapes and experiences can the rest of the world offer that surpass our own?’ It is to that response — ‘What’s the point or purpose of going abroad?’ — that this column turns.

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