I had a talk with my daughter AJ yesterday about travel as we walked on the streets of Paris.
I was telling her how much international travel had mattered to her mother and me. How we had found a purpose and a perspective through travel, and how it guided our life choices since we first left our home country. We've prioritised being abroad over other goals, and although we've missed some opportunities because of that, we did so with intent.
I told her that one point of taking trips while she and her brother are young is to offer this same experience to them. We want them to know what the world is like and that it's available to them to explore.
But I'm not sure that opportunity is as open to them as it was to us. We came of age after airline deregulation in the US drove prices down so that young middle class people could aspire to international travel. The end of the Cold War and confirmation of the US as a solo superpower made it easier to explore more of the world than ever before.
My grandfather kept a bag in his back pocket where he carefully stored all his coins. He used those savings for a trip to Europe in his seventies — his first ever. In contrast, I went to Europe in 1990 for the first time and I count my visits in the dozens in the subsequent years.
I'm not sure if my kids will have the same opportunity. Climate change has made air travel less acceptable to young people of my daughter's generation. Without some major technological advance, social and economic pressures are going to make air travel much less common in the coming decades.
A rise in nationalism and a decline in cosmopolitan globalism may increase the friction of crossing borders. Tariffs, visas, and restrictions are a cheap win for national demagogues, and there are few organizations advocating for travelers.
I hope that some of the economic surplus that comes in the next few decades from automation is devoted to comparatively longer and slower travel. My kids may take more train rides for regional travel, with airplanes reserved for going between or across continents.
They may also do more travel by sea. I've only done a few days by ferry or cruise ship here and there in the Baltic or Mediterranean. I think my kids are likely to take at least one Transatlantic trip on the water.
I want for my kids to enjoy the world's treasures first-hand the way I have. I hope that the next generation has the chance to weave together a global culture and economy the way my generation has.