the blandness of it all

Returning to the Yukon from Scotland on a flight obtained through frequent-flier points is not the happiest experience.

Returning to the Yukon from Scotland on a flight obtained through frequent-flier points is not the happiest experience.

It involved either sitting on planes, or sitting in airport terminal buildings waiting for planes, over a 24-hour period.

While travelling in and of itself can be considered a vacation this form of travel is definitely not it.

The depressing thing about airports is the sameness of them all.

No matter whether in Britain or in Canada, the airports are all identical.

One could pass out at Heathrow Airport, be secretly transported to Vancouver Airport, and when one recovered it would take a while to realize a person was on a different continent.

The accents would probably give it away.

This is because not only has airport design become standardized but also because the shops and cafeterias within airports are the same.

The coffee shops are essentially clones.

The cafeterias consist of the same type of fast food restaurants found literally all over the planet.

The bookstores stock the same international fiction bestsellers that can be found anywhere where English is spoken.

The duty-free stores offer the usual bland selection of cigarettes, alcohol and cosmetics.

The nearest one finds to a reflection of local culture is in the duty-free tourist traps.

Within Canada, teddy-bears wearing Mountie uniforms seem to cram the shelves.

This holds true whether one is in Edmonton’s or Vancouver’s airport.

The airports in Britain seem to think model double-decker buses are what the harried air tourist will be tempted into purchasing.

It is depressing this complete disconnect from not only what truly local items are being produced but also the natural world.

Great emphasis is placed on keeping travellers inside and away from fresh air.

Finding a stretch of grass to walk on outside an airport terminal building while waiting for a flight is impossible.

The traveller is kept inside, be it in the plane or the building, and away from the natural world that has been conquered by the marvels of the jet age.

Given that jet travel is one of the more ‘unnatural’ things that a human can do, it might be fitting that all the land-based amenities associated with it are also disconnected.

But the weary jet traveller knows that each destination has its own natural environment.

It also has its own culture, and its own localized industries and thus perhaps unique tourist souvenirs.

The joy of travelling can be in finding these unique aspects, and getting away from the corporate blandness that dominates much of the airplane culture.

While jet travel can move people vast distances to unique places it is the height of ironies that every effort has been made to standardize the sameness of the airplanes and airports that facilitate all this travel.

To add final insult to injury, the mere act of flying a plane through the skies results in large amounts of greenhouse gases being emitted.

While this can partially be offset through various payment schemes, it is not the answer.

Far better to not travel by jet.

That way both the boring airports and the environmental angst can be avoided.

But then the vast majority of people would never be able to travel to distant destinations and see the amazing diversity the earth has.

It is not easy wanting to sample the joys of what the planet has to offer without contributing towards climate change and other environmental ills.

And the sad thing is that there is no solution, yet, to this dilemma.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.

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