According to the National Travel Survey: 2020, we spent 270 hours per year travelling. That’s 1.6 weeks on the move.
For some people, if they are passengers and not drivers, they can put this time to some good effect by doing some work on their phone or laptop or using the time to do some thinking or even do some sightseeing. However, for most of us, travelling is unproductive.
Travel can be split into three broad categories: 1. commuting (either to work or regular personal trips); 2. leisure travel; 3. work travel (where travelling is part of your job).
As well as eating up your time and making most of us less productive, travelling eats up valuable resources and damages the environment.
Some people love to travel. Some people even like to commute, especially if they are lucky enough to do so in a pleasant way. Standing at a bus stop on a cold, wet day is a long way from being served drinks in the first class section of an aeroplane. Sitting in a traffic jam is a long way from driving a luxury car through beautiful countryside.
Some say that travelling to far flung parts of the world “broadens our horizons”. The problem is that there is no way of knowing (or at least no way that I know) if “broadening one’s horizons” is a good thing at all. It may be fun to holiday or work around the world, but that doesn’t make it right. Gaining some insight into other cultures may be fascinating, but where is the common good?
Another aspect is the atomisation of families and communities. Some people will set up home a long distance from the rest of their family. If they wish to still see each other in person, this locks in a great deal of travel. Some family members or family units can become isolated and lonely if regular travel is too expensive or time consuming for them or, in the case of inform or elderly people, is too physically demanding. The support that family members can give where they are nearby is lost, for example, babysitting or support for the elderly family. Being isolated can lead to mental disorders and general unhappiness.
Some companies will outsource some operations to other parts of the world if the work can be done less expensively or where there is a skill gap to fill (or sometimes to take advantage of different legal frameworks).
This often involves employees making regular trips over long distances or being stationed abroad for long periods.
While there is an obvious benefit to companies that do this, smart companies do recognise that the travelling element is not sustainable in the long run and, once an overseas operation has been set up, it will need to be self-supervising and self-sufficient.
The need to have work spread around the world may also point to a weakness in the region that has lost the chance to host the work (and the economic benefits that arise). If it is too expensive or cannot supply the right skills or have restrictive laws, perhaps a trend toward outsourcing should be a sign that they need to sharpen up their act at home.
Some of us are nomadic. For some, this is our nature. For others, their job may require a nomadic lifestyle (for example, a military person or diplomat who is stationed in different parts of the world).
If being a nomad is in one’s genes there is no more to be said. Making someone go against their instinct is not a good idea. However, jobs that turn you into a nomad (perhaps against your inherent instincts) may not be good for you or your family, especially children who will not receive a settled education.
Travel is certainly not good for the environment and, as stated above, makes us less productive. There are some arguments in favour but perhaps the arguments against are more numerous and weightier.