hidden europe 47

Pleasure or pain

by hidden europe


The notion of privation as conductive to more virtuous travel seems alien to the modern mind. Today's travellers search for five-star luxury and often look for a higher level of food, lodging and service that they experience at home. Travel has become a way of exerting economic power and negotiating privilege. But it was not always thus.

The tale of Britain’s bothies recalls a wider debate about pain versus pleasure in travel. The idea that eschewing comfort makes for a better experience is deeply ingrained in the literature of travel. The mediaeval xenodochium, a wayside hostel for pilgrims, was hardly a comfy place. Many writers saw journeys as metaphors for spiritual progress. If the Desert Fathers could survive with few creature comforts why should devout pilgrims expect more?