The reason Covid-19 became the pandemic it did had to do with a distinctly modern phenomenon: global mass travel. Until about a year ago, getting on a plane and travelling thousands of miles across the Earth for a business meeting, or a short holiday in a different country, was something millions of people didn’t think twice about.
These days, travel is one of the things the pandemic has deprived us of, reminding us what a privilege it was to be able to roam freely around the world, making us appreciate what we previously took for granted.
Travel is one of those topics that philosophers didn’t really think about until the age of discovery, around the 16th century. Francis Bacon, John Locke and René Descartes all thought travel could make one a better philosopher.
But what is the value of travel? Why do we enjoy visiting far-away places, and getting out of our comfort zone? Is there any value to waiting in airport lounges and train stations? And what are the ethical concerns around doom-tourism?
Emily Thomas is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Durham, and a member of the Institute of Mediaeval and Early Modern Studies. Emily’s research focuses on metaphysics, the study of the general and necessary features of existence, and more specifically the philosophy of space and time. She is the author of two books on the subject, Absolute Time: Rifts in Early Modern British Metaphysics (2018, Oxford University Press) and Early Modern Women on Metaphysics (2018, Cambridge University Press).
But apart from being a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, Emily is also a lover of travel. Marrying her two passions she wrote a book called The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad .
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Music by Pataphysical
Artwork by Nick Halliday