My holiday? I'm off to Greece, to put Socrates right

In my cybersuit I could ski in the Congo or smoke a joint in Singapore
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The Independent Travel
This week I have seen the future. One day soon, I will step into a cybersuit and be taken on a virtual holiday.

Electronic tentacles and suction pads inside my suit will replicate the sensation of sea, sand and sun on my skin, and an infinite variation of interactive holiday activities will become available in perfect technicolour and CD quality sound.

If I so wish, within seconds of stepping into my suit I can be transported to a beach paradise in the Indian Ocean, with the temperature at 28 degrees, the warm, crumbly sensation of sand under my toes and the sea breeze in my hair.

Into view will hover beach cyberbabes or cyberhunks (depending on my sexual orientation), with whom I may, or may not, engage in unintelligent conversation in any language. The only body outshining these beauties will be my own, which will develop the appearance of miraculous muscles at the flick of a switch.

Afterwards I will be able to choose between stepping into a virtual museum with my cyberpartner, riding a virtual cable car, dining off virtual lobster, virtual bungee-jumping, taking a virtual shower or renting a gite in the virtual south of France.

All of this will take place without my ever having to step into planes or get ripped off by taxi drivers. I will never find a cockroach in my bath, never be stung by jellyfish, never catch too much sun, never have an upset stomach, never even have an emotionally disturbing encounter with a local - unless I choose to do so, for the sake of greater authenticity.

And do not assume that this will be a brain-numbing experience either. In fact, my knowledge receptors will be busy absorbing all relevant tour information from cyber guide-books, educating me and providing me with holiday anecdotes to tell my friends afterwards.

While visiting the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, for example, the entire text of the 1919 treaty will be downloaded into my brain, with scholarly comment and appraisal. Potted biographies of Lloyd George and President Wilson will waft explicitly into my consciousness, alongside AJP Taylor's account of the origins of German revanchism.

Nor will I be restricted to taking holidays in places that exist in the real world. I might for example, visit an Indian restaurant on the North Pole. I might ski in the Congo, become a nun in France, discuss human rights in China, get drunk in Riyadh, commit adultery in Iran, drop litter in Zurich or smoke a joint in Singapore. I might be alone in Venice or at Madame Tussaud's; I might even sunbathe in the nude at the top of Mount Everest.

Why leave it at that? At some imaginary time in the future when Oxford professors of history receive their salaries from Microsoft, I will even be able to visit the ancient world.

In Greece, I will sit with philosophers in the cloisters, astounding them by my outlandish appearance and views. Interrupting, in fluent Greek, I will refute Socrates' views on democracy, supplanting him as the father of Western civilisation. Bearded bards will sing my praises on Ithaca and Chios, while Aristotle's Metaphysics are being rewritten to accommodate my colossal wisdom.

In Rome too I will cause seismic historical shifts by bringing mechanical clocks and children's toys to the court of Augustus Caesar, whereupon I will marry his daughter and establish a dynasty of my own that will vie for world hegemony with Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. Later I will walk in the streets of the eternal city, rubbing sweaty shoulders with the masses as they trudge in the mud between their tenement blocks. Across the chasm of two thousand years, I will inhale the foul stench of the typical Roman peasant's breath.

IF you were wondering, by the way, what all this is about, the travel section of the Independent on Sunday now has its very own E-mail address, to which letters and questions may be sent. The address is: sundaytravel@independent.co.uk. We look forward to hearing from you.

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