Travel: Can too much travel be unhealthy? Not really, but there are some people who persist in taking things a bit too far
Sunday 11 July 1999
His wanderlust is so bad that he finds it impossible to form stable relationships or to hold down a steady job. He says that he can't help it. Every time he has ever tried to get an office job of any description he has always disappeared around Thursday lunchtime of the first week, only to materialise a couple of days later on the phone to his therapist from Bali.
His ex-wife tried hiding his travel documents for a while, but that just encouraged him to make multiple passport applications. To judge by the bundle of passports he still carries with him at all times, he seems to have at least five grandparents, including Swiss, Irish, Canadian, Burmese and Colombian.
He joined Travellers Anonymous for a while but that only made things worse. Meetings always degenerated into opportunities for swapping guide- books and exchanging favourite travel anecdotes. After one disastrous session he ended up copping off with a beautiful Israeli Arab girl with whom he ended up eloping to West Africa before they split up in acrimony on the question of whether to travel up or down the Niger River.
It is not as though he hasn't tried to sort out his problems. Last year he actually managed to get a job (cleaning planes at Gatwick Airport) and he stuck at it valiantly for a few months. Then the inevitable happened: he was found hiding in the toilet of a British Airways 747 bound for Buenos Aires shortly after takeoff. When the case came to trial he made legal history by being acquitted on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to travel addiction.
People suggested that he try to find a job in the travel industry, to put his obsession to good use. Travel writer perhaps? He tried that for a while but was soon to be heard complaining that he had not been born to travel at the beck and call of other people.
There is a $1,000-a-day clinic in Palm Springs, California, which he thought he wanted to attend last year. Their regime to cure travel addiction is designed to bore participants out of travel, by exposing them a series of 12-hour rote-learning sessions in a local dialect of Quechua. They are then required to recite by heart the names of every village in China with a population of more than 500.
My friend could never raise the cash, though. His latest obsession is that he was born with a gene defect which means that he sees all human beings as equally important, hence his desire to spend equal amounts of time proportionately in every part of the world. He claims to know a doctor who can perform a small operation on his brain that will rid him of this defect once and for all. I asked him where this doctor worked and he told me that he wasn't sure but that he thought it might be somewhere in the upper reaches of the Yangtse River. He'll be looking into it, I believe.
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