The Future of Travel is Virtual? I Hope Not

S ome machine called a Transporter was unveiled by Marriott where you can virtually experience sensations and sights from places around the world as though you were there, speculating that it could possibly be the future of travel, according to this article by Shawn Coomer of the Miles To Memories weblog.

I hope not. As someone who enjoys travel to the point where it is a passion, I really hope not.

To me, travel is an experience which needs to be real. No book, photograph or movie can do reality justice. No matter how many times you skim through reviews on Milepoint, FlyerTalk, Trip Advisor or weblogs; no matter how many travel guides or books you read; no matter how much footage of a video you watch; no matter how close the food you taste compares to that in that far-off land where it originated, there is nothing like experiencing travel in real life — despite all of the disadvantages of travel we endure today.

Now, I can see virtual reality being implemented to give the user a taste of what to experience before traveling: what is it like to stay in a traditional ryokan in Japan? What does a durian smell like? Is it worth experiencing the view from the top of the Empire State Building?

When you think about it, a flight simulator is a form of virtual reality. I have piloted actual flight simulators a number of times — and I will admit that it is an experience like no other. Sure, you can get a good idea of what it is like to be in the cockpit flying a jumbo jet from takeoff to landing without the ennui of the entire duration of the flight itself. Flip a switch and you are on the runway in Honolulu, about to take off in a heavy rainstorm. Once in the “air”, flip a switch — and you are suddenly on approach to a runway in New York on a clear evening where you can see the lights of the city as you prepare to land.

Some pilots have told me that landing an actual airplane is easier than using a flight simulator when I relate my experience of “greasing” a landing in a Boeing 777-200. I do not know about that — and unless I can suddenly earn a commercial pilot’s license and have access to an airplane, it is highly likely that I ever will — but regardless of how real the experience inside of a flight simulator can be, I still maintain that it still is not like being in an actual airplane during a flight. There is just something about actually being in the air on a real airplane; looking down at the real planet on which we all live; and arriving at a real destination where you can interact with real people and eat real food.

As I mentioned in this article, I do not want to be in a windowless airplane. I want to be in an airplane with real windows. I want to feel the real rays of the sun burning on my real arm; to see the celestial show in store after dusk outside of the airplane starring the moon and the stars; to look down and wonder what the residents of the city below are doing right now as I fly over them; to watch a lightning storm at night which imitates a thousand photographers within the clouds all flashing their cameras; to pass the few cars and trucks no larger than pinholes slowly meandering below along a lonely highway where there is nothing for miles.

In my opinion, this Transporter is perfect for those people who have no plans to ever leave the country which they consider home but want a taste of what it is like to be in China or Chile or Chad. I personally have known people who have no desire to see other countries around the world: “There is so much to see in the United States.”

When they step out of that Transporter, they can say “Whew! I am glad I did not spend the money, time and effort to travel to that place. Those 90 seconds were enough for me.”

Fine. To those people who think that way — not that there is anything wrong with that — I say you go ahead and enjoy your Transporter experience.

Meanwhile, I am currently preparing for my flight to Las Vegas, which is scheduled to depart early tomorrow morning…

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