Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The long tail of travel

DSC07845I was riding the airport escalator, lost in thought, the aspirational airport ads gliding by.  Island resorts that I’ll never visit; books I’ll never read; restaurants I’ll never frequent; shows I’ll never attend.  It’s like an airline magazine brought to life.

Then an HSBC poster caught my eye – one of the many “ways of seeing” ads that they post on jetways worldwide.  This one made me smile, though.

It captured the contradictions of expat psychology so well.  It’s a Jason Bourne / Jeremiah Johnson archetype, of being more comfortable with environments than with people.  Of being lone hunters rather than communal gatherers.

It reminded me of an October 2011 graphic in Wired Magazine, reproduced below.   They surveyed everyone’s passports in the office an counted up the countries visited.  The results produced an long-tail distribution, with some countries being visited by almost everyone and others by only a few.

Long Tail

As with the HSBC poster, I can recognize myself within this picture, placed about a third of the way from the left.  That places me in the top 7% or so among the most travelled Wired staffers. 

I’m torn as to whether this tells me that I travel too much or that others should travel more.

And there’s an aspirational aspect to the statistics.  I’m instinctively looking right to find my next destination: prescriptively I should be visiting Brazil, Egypt, Norway, and perhaps delaying Albania and Sudan.

And no sign of when the time is right to start exploring the ‘Stan countries – I may leave that to my son, reporting in from Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.


Tay said...

Jeremiah Johnson was based on the book "Moutain Man" by Vardis Fisher, inspired by factual events. Its one of my favorite books, you might enjoy reading it.

David Hampton said...

Thanks, Tay, I'll pick up a copy. I always enjoyed the movie, but didn't think that it was based on a book.