By Ben Dunant
Travel is an exciting, formative and (although I use the word cautiously) enlightening experience. It is about meeting people and seeing places that exist fully outside yourself. I only regret that the culture of therapy, imported from America and quickly pervading Britain, has reduced travel to a masturbatory self-help exercise, akin to yoga or a carrot juice diet. This demeans travel, turns into another facet of our self-gratifying, me-centric worship of ‘potential’ (ghastly word), which reifies the self above its surroundings, when the hierarchy should be inverted: the conscientious traveler learns to exercise a religious sense of humility before foreign landscapes. Indulgence is all very well – and a staple of the ‘free’ society we prize in the West – but when dressed up as virtue it becomes obnoxious. The attempt to ‘escape’ Western consumerism and ‘embrace’ the East isn’t really an escape at all, but an extension of Western consumerism – that mode of life which upholds choice as the highest moral imperative. Benjamin Disraeli once said, referring to colonial endeavour, that ‘the East is a career’. Nowadays, in our nominally post-colonial age, the East has become a lifestyle choice, an option among many such as born-again Christianity and environmentalism.