By David Worboys •
Updated: 03 Aug 2023 • 10:49
copyright : David Worboys
I don’t know him but I know of him through an acquaintance of some years ago. Gustav suffers from a mental disorder connected with motion – a form of kinesiophobia. This prevents him from travelling. He cannot go anywhere by bus, train, boat or aeroplane. If a friend drives him anywhere by car, he has to be blindfolded, in order to minimise the sense of motion.
Gustav, however, is alert, ambitious and eager to learn. But ironically, the greatest of his many interests is travel.
Through books, travel articles, videos, TV documentaries and conversation in the comfort of his own home, Gustav has accumulated an exceptional knowledge of the world around him. He can discuss topics ranging from the history and features of Istanbul, the exhibits in the Prado museum and the natural beauty of the Tirol. Although he will never experience them, he even has observations on the gastronomy of Japan and gamelan concerts in Bali.
In pursuit of his passion, Gustav has overcome a huge obstacle. But there are others who have the facility and the resources to travel but are not prepared to make the effort to explore our planet. These are the conventional armchair travellers.
Some may be obsessed with displaying their knowledge but many others are interesting to listen to. From reading, they describe the history of Rome, Jerusalem and Cordoba in colourful detail. From travel documentaries they share the delights of the Andes, the Great Barrier Reef and the beaches of south-east Asia and the Caribbean.
When I read about places, I want to get up and go there. I have been to too many places about which I learned very little. I have the experiences and the memories but could and should have explored in more depth.
There is no substitute for being there. We can look at a photo of a seafood platter in a Parisian restaurant but it´s not the same as confronting it with knife and fork at the ready. So it is with viewing the actual masterpiece by Velazquez or Vermeer, rather than a photograph. And attending a concert compared with listening to a compact disc.
The atmosphere in Seville cathedral or a small rococo church on the Bodensee, the collections in the museums of Cairo, Mexico and Washington have to be appreciated first-hand. But, perhaps even more so, natures contribution to the planet. A clear stream rushing through a sunny meadow towards the woods on an early spring morning in Ticino surely has to be seen, heard, smelt and felt.
Having said that, Gustav has refused to accept that he cannot travel. Who knows whether his sense of perception is not more developed than ours? His infectious enthusiasm when he talks about Corsica or Sydney gives the impression that he “knows” them just as well as the traveller fortunate enough to have been there.
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