The August issue of National Geographic Traveler has hit news stands throughout China. It contains my first column on China-based stylish travelers. This four page pictorial and interview will feature monthly in the magazine for at least the next few issues. Profiled will be one male and one female traveler in travel garb and photos of the items most essential to them on that long trip. First up are TV host Cao Difei and designer Currie Lee.
This feature of mine seeks to inspire travelers to appear more elegant while moving toward their destinations. I am echoing the common complaint that travel has became too “commercial” and unglamorous.
Nostalgia for a “golden age of travel” now unrecoverable cannot have much resonance for mainland Chinese. Two decades ago, only a tiny minority would ever have boarded a plane. Even just ten years ago, China was only starting to get a sizable middle class. Travel can be said to be exploding at this very moment and it really is kind of glamorous. Compared to riding on trains and buses, the experience of going to the airport and boarding a train here in China does feel somewhat civilized.
Of course the real reason for the gilding on the golden age in the West derives from the fact that only elites traveled back when travel was glamorous. It is less stylish and elegant now precisely because everyone is doing it. In China, this is actually less the case. The majority of people still cannot contemplate boarding a plane.