Cities Journal

The Dark Side Of Frequent Travel


Usually when people talk about traveling and especially doing so frequently, they present it as this entirely positive experience where the one who does all the traveling is experiencing new cultures, expanding their horizons and leading a lifestyle that many can only dream of.

However, according to a recent study done by Cohen, S.A and Gössling, S. from the Unviersity of Surrey, called A darker side of hypermobility, we are definitely overlooking the negative side effects of frequent traveling, especially when it comes to business travelers.

The study is a critical review of the literature which, according to them, glorifies frequent traveling, even in cases of corporeal mobility where such intense traveling schedules are usually referred to as ‘liquid modernity‘, giving it a patina of exclusiveness and, why not, hipness.

As the two authors point out themselves, this study is based on interpretative synthesis and is thus not a comprehensive study which should be considered absolutely objective. It is, however, a great starting point for those people who wish to debate the effects of frequent traveling, which is something we are definitely interested in here at Viral Travel.

In their analysis of this “glamorization of mobility”, they argue that it is closely connected to “old forms of admiration”, which they believe are often masculinized, such as race drivers or astronauts of old, and perhaps successful businessmen. They also introduce the concept of ‘superelites‘, those who spend a lot of time traveling, for any reason.

The study maintains that hypermobility leaves physiological, psychological and emotional and social consequences on individuals.

The most obvious physiological consequence is jet lag, which is a disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm and a much more severe condition than people think.  In addition to this, frequent flyers are also at an increased risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis, as well as contracting various infectious diseases due to ‘shared air’ on airplanes. They also remind the people of the increased exposure to cosmic radiation, which is much more prominent at heights airplanes fly on.

When we are talking psychological and emotional consequences, the authors talk about ‘travel disorientation‘, a psychological form of jet lag; as well as various kinds of anxieties that are associated with flying- anxieties about everything that can go wrong, anxieties about their safety and security while traveling, etc. The concept of hypermobility also often leaves individuals feel isolated from the people they love and who usually do not accompany them on their travels.

On the social level, hypermobility affects the individual’s presence at home and in the various non-family social occasions. The authors also observed a difference in how hypermobile dads and moms are seen and treated, with fathers who are often absent being expected to ignore much of the parenting and housework, while hypermobile mothers were not.

All in all, the study is a fascinating reading, especially for those who travel a lot or whose family members are hypermobile.

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