The New York Times had an op-ed piece a couple days ago titled “Escape From The Jet Age.” Reacting to the recent shut down of many flights to Europe due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland, Seth Stevenson extolled the benefits of not traveling by plane:
In the five decades or so since jets became the dominant means of long-haul travel, the world has benefited immeasurably from the speed and convenience of air travel. But as Orson Welles intoned in “The Magnificent Ambersons,” “The faster we’re carried, the less time we have to spare.” Indeed, airplanes’ accelerated pace has infected nearly every corner of our lives. Our truncated vacation days and our crammed work schedules are predicated on the assumption that everyone will fly wherever they’re going, that anyone can go great distances and back in a very short period of time.
In contrasting the experience of jet travel to that of slower forms of travel, Stevenson is actually engaging in a meditation on relativity. His argument in favor of slower travel is based on the observation that people traveling at different speeds will experience the world in different ways.
This is also true of other forms of transportation. The way I experience a road on a bicycle is totally different from the way I experience it in a car. I have a much fuller relationship with the road and the countryside around it when I’m on my bike.
Albert Einstein, the father of relativity and a bicyclist, would understand what we’re talking about: he thought up the theory of relativity while riding his bike.