Bon voyage to Michael Palin

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Reports that Michael Palin's televised globe-trotting is about to draw to a close will draw a chorus of distress from millions of admirers. Crossing deserts and mountains, riding railroads and boarding ships, Palin became enormously successful by striking a quintessentially British pose. A master of the light, but not too lightweight, touch, he is understated, wry and self-deprecating. He is also completely unflappable. No temper tantrums or hissy fits in the casbah with this man.

Reports that Michael Palin's televised globe-trotting is about to draw to a close will draw a chorus of distress from millions of admirers. Crossing deserts and mountains, riding railroads and boarding ships, Palin became enormously successful by striking a quintessentially British pose. A master of the light, but not too lightweight, touch, he is understated, wry and self-deprecating. He is also completely unflappable. No temper tantrums or hissy fits in the casbah with this man.

Many people love to follow his adventures not so much because of where he has been - most of us have already seen those places on other channels - but because we like to imagine a bit of ourselves writ large in this perfect British gent. But despite our admiration for Palin, we do have some niggling worries about the worth of television travel programmes. Travel may broaden the mind but it is less certain that travel purveyed via the small screen performs the same service. Has putting our feet up in front of the telly, come to replace the effort of making our own explorations? By serving it all up so effortlessly, Palin may have diminished the resolve of many people to explore foreign lands for themselves.

On the other hand, many environmentalists say our appetite for travel is literally destroying the world. Every time we get on a plane, we are heating up the planet; and think of all those coral reefs that are destroyed in order to build beach-front hotels.

By keeping so many of us firmly at home and in front of our television screens, Palin may have done the environment, and us all, a big favour.

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