Why Flight Is Still the Best Form of Travel
I hate flying. I hate everything about it, from the terror of dying in a fiery wreck, to the dead-eyed TSA drones who want nothing more than to discover my empty butane lighter so they have an excuse to finger my asshole. Throw on top of that long waits, major national airports named after my least favorite things in US history (Reagan, Dulles, Bush, and Los Angeles), and the seating spaces designed for double amputees, and you can be pretty sure the worst part of your trip is going to be getting there.
But in spite of this horribleness, other modes of transportation leave plenty of reasons to stay off the no-fly list. Here’s why flying is still the best transportation option.
If you’re in America, Amtrak is an underfunded nightmare that most developing countries would snicker at.
And then there are the passengers. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people who take trains are awesome — from the Amish, to the young parents trying to show their kids “a different side of the country,” to the amiable 2006 Winner of the Des Moines Wilford Brimley Lookalike Contest. But there are also the people who are taking the train for “ideological reasons,” and/or couldn’t make it past the most neglectful TSA agent in the world.
I was taking a train from Seattle to San Francisco when a kindly middle-aged woman sat down next to me and calmly told me that, every night, the NSA beams porn into her head and attacks her cats with satellite lasers. She said, “At first I was like, ‘Am I going insane?’”
Yes, I thought.
“I mean, I don’t even know what porn would look like.”
Seriously? It looks like people fucking.
“And for a while, I thought I was losing my mind, but then one night they MESSED UP! They forgot to turn off the porn before the credits started to roll.”
Hang on, porn has credits? I thought. I’ve never made it that far.
This went on for four hours. Because train rides are never-ending, and if someone wants to follow you to the dining car to tell you about the evils of wifi, they can. This isn’t remotely reason enough to avoid trains altogether, but if you want a quiet, peaceful journey, it’s better to sit on a plane, where your seatmate is at worst going to be silently hating you for an hour and a half before never seeing you again.
Look, don’t get me wrong: Boats have their merits. I can’t wait for the apocalypse, because I know all of us with boats are just gonna hang out a few miles offshore and go fishing all day while the rest of you die of zombie bites and gaping neck wounds.
But travel-wise, boats aren’t the best. First off, you’re probably not sailing yourself around the world (and if you are, oh my God, fuck planes — do that always, and invite me). What you’re probably doing is taking a cruise ship, which is not the ideal form of travel.
It’s not even technically ‘travel.’ It’s more ‘catered movement.’ Cruise ships don’t afford much opportunity to experience the local culture, and the attitude of the cruise line industry tends to be “the Caribbean would be great if it wasn’t so full of locals.” So most of the ‘local element’ of cruise travel is filtered out by the cruise runners, with really only limbo sticks, grass skirts, and piña coladas making it through.
I felt like a particularly huge asshole when my cruise ship stopped at the fenced-off, Royal Caribbean-owned Labadee Beach in Haiti. I was informed that the few local “artisans” allowed into the “authentic Haitian flea market” had been “screened ahead of time” so I wouldn’t have to feel “unsafe.” I ponied up $30 for a conch shell out of shame.
Cruise ships are not particularly hygienic places. Everyone remembers the Carnival Triumph, when an engine room fire left the ship stranded at sea. Actual reputable news sources like Time referred to it as the “poop cruise,” in reference to the ship’s dysfunctional sewage system and the fact that everybody poops. Add the possibility of the occasional norovirus outbreaks, the potent mixture of excessive alcohol intake, and rough seas…
Say what you want about airplanes — you won’t be getting cholera on them.
Road trips are a staple of American travel, a great opportunity to see the country, eat shitty gas station food, and find out which of your siblings your friends would fuck, marry, or murder. But they also have a number of major flaws, the least of which are a) uncomfortable seating, b) running out of things to talk about 45 minutes into the trip, and c) driving across Nebraska.
Cars also have the tragic misfortune of being operated by you, and you, my friend, are an idiot. Everyone who’s been on a road trip has the story about how their own ineptitude caused a major trip disaster. Sometimes, it’s a car crash. Sometimes, it’s that they drove through Death Valley with no spare tire. And other times, it’s that they drove 200 miles in the wrong direction before realizing their mistake.
My personal display of automobiling idiocy came when I went on a road trip to Montreal with a good friend of mine. We, in the span of a day, managed to lock our keys in the car twice at rest stops, once during a blizzard. Have you ever tried to get AAA to respond to that call during a blizzard?
“Yes sir, as soon as we’ve pulled this charred corpse out of this snow bank, we’ll come deal with you and your asshole friend. We’ll be there in no time at all.”
No, cars won’t do either.