The well-worn problem of travel envy

01:26, Jun 20 2011

On this day (June 18) in 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She was just a passenger (her solo flight was four years later) and described herself as "a sack of potatoes", but I'm sure there were plenty of jealous people back in Medford, Massachusetts.

If it happened today, there'd be a sarky comment from one of the sour-faced girls back in the office about her carbon footprint.

Travel envy pre-dates the aircraft, of course. For every foot companion marching with Alexander the Great, there were younger brothers and lame uncles back in Pella who got dyspeptic whenever news from the army filtered back to Macedonia.

"Have you heard, Cleitus, they're in India now."

"Mother, please."

"Elephants and everything!"


Of course, back then there was a steep price to pay for seeing the world. These days, every university drop-out worth their salt has seen the Taj Mahal. But that doesn't mean Global Teens, as Douglas Coupland called my generation back in the 90s, have travel envy beat.

I know I regularly break the 11th commandment - thou shalt not covert thy neighbour's OE.

I've even defriended people on Facebook because they post too many travel photos.

Recently, Marisa and I went along to watch our friend Laura represent New Zealand in handball. It was a two-match series against Australia, the winner qualifying for the world champs in Brazil.

As we drove to Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua, Marisa said, "I kinda hope Australia wins. I'd be too jealous if Laura gets to go to Brazil."

We've been to Brazil, but only for a week: long enough to fall in love with the self-serve icecream parlours and hear tales of carnival in Salvador ("better than Rio").

To think of Brazil conjures up a very real, very desirable picture, one in stark contrast to the routine of a working week in Wellington.

The worst thing about travel envy is that you can even succumb while on holiday. Conversations in hostels always seem to go like this: 1. Where are you from? 2. Where were you before? (They'll always LOVE the place you skipped because you were short on time.) 3. Where are you going? (They'll always be travelling for much longer than you are.)

But, as someone called Karl Hakkarainen once said: "No vacation goes unpunished."

It may not be as bad as Amelia Earhart's comeuppance, but there's the long winter ahead of you of pairing socks and emptying the vacuum-cleaner bag.

Post-trip depression, whatever you want to call it, some say the only way to beat it is to start planning your next trip. But I say spare a thought for the dude at the front of the phalanx, staring down a charging war elephant at the Battle of the Hydaspes River. Be grateful for the places you've seen, the ease with which you got there and the fact you got home again. Then plan your next trip.

Update: Aussie won the handball. We are still friends with Laura.

Craig Cliff is a writer and still gets travel envy. He writes a fortnightly column.

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