As I was hard at work exam-invigilating this week, my mind began to wander to both travelling and to when I would get a ‘real job’ and what on earth that might be. A temporary role as an exam invigilator made me feel more like a philosopher as I used the long stretches of silence to consider the virtues of travel and faults in finding a career and settling down. I came to the conclusion that we are in a ‘Golden Age to travel’ and that this has changed the ball game: it is no longer the ‘proper’ thing to do to find a career and settle down. Travelling is not simply reserved for the whimsical hippies with no solid life plan, but can be enjoyed by everyone. We are the generation of lost boys- children who never want to grow up.
In the Scottish writer J.M Barrie’s play ‘Peter Pan, Or the Boy Who Would Never Grow Up’, Neverland is a place used as a metaphor for eternal childhood and escapism. The Lost Boys reside in Neverland and live for adventure. The novel explains that the Neverlands are ‘compact enough that adventures are never far between’ and that a map of Neverland would resemble a map of a child’s mind- ‘with no boundaries at all’. I would argue that today’s world has become Neverland and never has it been easier to travel than now.
There are various reasons I would cite for the 21st century world being a boundless Neverland. Firstly, advances in technology have caused travel to become more accessible to everyone. Cast your imagination back a few hundred years and travelling from the UK to America would require a long trip on a ship across the Atlantic, with mortality rates higher than I would care to indulge you with (and that’s not simply because I have not bothered to research such statistics…). Fast forward a few hundred years and travel was still restricted to either sailing or lengthy train/road journeys. Today, aviation means you would be hard-pressed to find a destination that you could not reach within 24 hours.
Furthermore, with the increase in low-cost airlines, flying has become far cheaper than ever before. Indeed, flights are now roughly 12% cheaper than they were in 2000. There has been ‘an almost 40 percent increase in city-to-city connectivity in the last decade and over 37,000 city pairs are connected by commercial passenger flights into almost 1,300 international airports’.  An increase in travellers within our generation may simply be because we have the option to do so.
Our Neverland is also at a ripe age for being travelled as it is undergoing the longest period of peace known to man. There are currently no nation states at war with each other and although there are still many pockets of civil disquiet and violence, overall the world is a far safer place at the moment. With the spread of democratisation, international laws and peace-keeping organisations like the UN, a traveller is less likely to face some of the perils daunting those voyaging souls from years gone by.
Perhaps the most influential factor in the shift of our generation from career driven professionals to travelling Lost Boys is the prevalence of travel related information online. It is now not only possible to book flights, hotels, hostels, buses, restaurant tables, adventure trips and everything between online, but it is also possible to research all those nitty-gritty details that made travelling difficult in the past (such as weather conditions, injections to get before going, currency exchange rates, the fastest routes between tourist attractions etc). The internet has somewhat dispensed with the need for guidebooks (although outrageous roaming charges ensure that Lonely Planet will not be going out of business any time soon). Furthermore, the internet is awash with amazing photography, videos and stories from all over the world which not only creates a more culturally-aware generation but also breeds curiosity and determination within people to see these wonders with their own eyes.
In this climate, who can blame the Lost Boys for never wanting to grow up? It’s at this moment that I began contemplating the question ‘and why should we?’. Why should we follow the steps of our elders, get what is publicly deemed to be a ‘respectable’ job, buy a house and car (not a Skoda), have two children (a boy and girl for the sake of balance when both you and your partner have a clear preference) named Ben and Laura, spend your life bitching about the neighbours taking your parking spot and grow old to the point where you actually find knitting interesting? In my opinion, the times have changed and with travel being so much easier now I do not think people should be ashamed to say that what they want to do with their life is travel. So many people, myself included, say they want to travel and figure out what it is they want to do with their lives. This seems to be a way of excusing your travelling, as if wanting to see the world is not what you should be doing but only an intermediary before deciding what it is you are going to do. If growing up means settling into a job and lifestyle simply because traditionally that is what you are expected to do then I say to Hell with it! You should not live your life by outdated opinions on what is the right thing to do.
The end of the exam I was invigilating also brought a halt to my internal philosophising and decided it could be summarised as follows:
Dear Lost Boys of Neverland,