Erasing Borders

In late September, I got back from a 40-day trip around the world. I saw quite the range: from the Arctic Circle to the Sahara, from the world’s northernmost capital to the world’s southernmost capital, from glaciers to jungles, from icebergs to beaches.

The concept of easy travel is a brand new thing.

You might enjoy this video, the first of a series of travel videos produced during the trip.

I’m convinced of one thing: provincialism is dead.

A hundred and fifty years ago, the only way someone traveled internationally was by ship. I did a little research; the average cost of a one-way transatlantic voyage was 30 guineas, which is around 7.5 ounces of gold. At today’s current spot price, that’s $9,000. The only way that sort of fare is affordable is if you’re on a comfortably middle class year spent abroad, or if you’re a poor Irish farmer scraping together all of your possessions in order to escape the potato famine.

For most of history, humans have lived within a few miles of their birthplace out of necessity, only displaced by cataclysmic events like natural disasters or warfare. A few hundred years ago, it began to break down as major technological breakthroughs began: ships could move under their own power, tracks were laid for trains, and the first cars were developed. And then airplanes happened: for the first time, you could be anywhere in the world within a few hours.

You can now buy a flight across the Atlantic for as low as $400 if you hit the WowAir specials at the right moment, although the going fares are double or triple that.

That’s nothing. That’s half of a minimum wage paycheck; if you canceled your cable television subscription for a few months you’d have enough to leave the country. No longer is money the limiting factor for travel; today, the limiting factor is mindset and culture.

It might take decades, or generations, for our world to realize it. But no longer are we tied to quaint notions like boundaries, borders, and governments with all their arbitrary inventions. For if you can move wherever you like, whenever you like, what abstract rule ties you to a specific place, leader, law, or system? If you can change currency at any time, what limits you to the dollar, the pound, the euro, or the ruble?

At this point, the only practical limitation is individual fear of the unknown. Location is primarily your decision, limited by factors like your comfort level and other priorities. If you’re unhappy with your current situation, I see two very black and white options: 1) you can move, or 2) it’s not quite bad enough to move.

I’ve floated this idea in various discussions and gotten a little pushback. Some of the common arguments (valid in their own way) are that not everyone has the resources to move, whether financial, educational, or emotional. And that’s true. It’s a little harder for me to move than for someone with their own private jet. But I think my argument still stands: if an illiterate, broke, and wounded war zone refugee can find a way to move, you can too. If not, it’s not that bad.

It boils down to the relative need to travel. And this is specific to the individual. It so happens that most people don’t need to move at the moment; so they won’t, until they have to, and then everybody will.