Sunday, 22 August 2010

Childhood horizons

I've been mulling this over recently and have come to no firm conclusion either way: when I was growing up, in fact let's broaden this and say, to people of my generation (ie early forties now) growing up in the sixties and seventies,  the world beyond our families, school and places we might visit on our holidays seemed like a vast unexplored place of wonder - at least it did to me.  Sure, I read about other countries and learned about them for the purpose of passing examinations but apart from some descriptive prose and a few textbook photographs, foreign travel was largely unknown.

Then in the 1980s, with the freedom which came with living away from home and earning a living came the possibility of travel to these mysterious places (via an Inter-rail card to begin with).  Before the advent of no-frills airline travel, believe me exploring Europe felt like an adventure in itself!  Continents beyond Europe seemed to me at least, to be tantalisingly unexplored places but the time involved and the cost of travel was at that time prohibitive.  Those considerations aside however, the world was still full of possibilities and challenges. 

What I'm getting at I suppose is, I wonder how today's children and young people view the world, when those opportunities for exploration are so different.  For a start, they could virtually (in the truest sense) visit their destination without ever leaving home.   In addition, with the idea of gap years so prevalent that adults my age now want in on it, what is there left to do that is novel and because of that, is it possible that they are therefore driven to take more risks to achieve novelty than our generation might have done?

I don't know myself but it must be a challenge to any younger person to think of new ways to define themselves other than 'travelling' to South America or Asia or Africa, when those trips are so well prescribed and described by the countless others who have been there before them and broadcast their experiences online.  Has the internet, in other words made it harder for people to experience travel to foreign lands as a true novelty and something capable of wonder ?  

Or maybe I'm looking at this from the wrong angle.  Is it possible that the lack of novelty in that sort of travel might prompt a new interest in space exploration?  The final frontier, as a famous Vulcan put it.

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