hidden europe 47

Pleasure or pain

by hidden europe

Summary

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?