I used to travel through the snow, uphill, both ways

People tend to romanticize those halcyon days in which they grew up. Every variation of the “uphill, both ways” speech that I’ve heard always seems to imply that it was better that way. As if there’s some virtue in suffering for its own sake. Okay, maybe if you’re a pilgrim.

I am of the unpopular opinion that things are, generally speaking, getting better in this world. That’s why it was so refreshing to read a new Chicago Tribune article that draws a contrast between the travel landscape 25 years ago and today, and seems to conclude that things have mostly improved.

Here are just a few examples from the article: Photos are easier to take and develop; plane tickets are cheaper and flights reach more destinations; music is more accessible; researching a city or country is much easier; accessing money is (in most places) a breeze; staying in touch with home is just a point-and-click away. Another point, which the article fails to mention, is that borders are more open and most nations actively encourage tourism– in short, nearly every part of the world is more accessible than at any point in history. That’s good news for the traveler, and (mostly) good news for the communities that benefit from the tourism dollars.

Of course, the march of technology is not without some drawbacks. E-mail has, to a large extent, replaced postcards. Meticulously researched guidebooks bring us fewer surprises on the road. Being in close contact with home is not always the best thing. All the gadgets we bring can keep us from interacting with our new environments. Other examples abound.

But in recognizing these criticisms– valid ones, all of them– it’s important not to throw out the baby with the bath water. In the travel world, as in the larger world, things really are getting better.

[Photo via Swapatorium]