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Richard Ord: Does travel really broaden the mind?

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They say ‘travel broadens the mind’ but that’s because the ‘they’ are English and we don’t do succinct.

The Germans keep things simpler. They say ‘travel educates.’

But then the Germans are the masters of prosaic practicality. They don’t really do fluffy, particularly with language.

The classic example is the butterfly. The English word conveys the fragility and beauty of this insect. The French word, papillon, is arguably even more poetic.

The Germans call this delicate creature the highly unromantic ‘das Schmetterling.’

Rather than a fluttering rainbow coloured insect, it sounds like a World War Two warplane. German Schmetterlings conjure up images of squadrons of heavy duty aircraft strafing Allied shipping lanes with gunfire.

“Schmetterlings at nine o’clock! Dive,dive, dive.”

The Germans, as history has taught us so well, like to travel. Particularly across Europe. And usually in tanks.

Now that I’ve hooked up with a German, I suspect travel is going to feature prominently. And, hopefully, via commercial airways rather than Panzers.

I’m rather hoping it will educate more than my usual travels have done.

Holidaying only highlights my insecurities.

And those insecurities are exposed before we even set foot on foreign soil.

Backpackers say they take on exotic adventures to ‘find themselves.’ I usually ‘find myself’ on the way to the airport. Usually looking rather forlorn and confused at a Metro station. Which rather defeats the object.

The German and I travelled to Majorca recently. It got me thinking. When did Majorca change its name to Mallorca? Was it an attempt to hide from British tourists? I must look that up.

On the plane, I was confronted with my usual first fear: the lifejacket demonstration. My opinion of the lifejacket demonstration has never changed. Rather than a comforting safety device, the lifejacket is nothing but a shark attractor.

It’s brightly coloured for a start. And if the sharks don’t spot that, then there’s a flashing light on the shoulder. It even, in many cases, comes with a whistle.

Short of a neon sign on the crashed plane with the words ‘Shark Food’ above a flashing arrow pointing at the floating survivors, what more could they do to attract the maneaters?

There is also, in my opinion, an unseemly haste to get passengers into shark-infested waters in the event of a crash landing. They’ve even got inflatable slides!

Haven’t they seen Jaws?

Surely in this day and age they can attach locator chips to the lifejackets rather than flashing lights and whistles.

And what about flotation devices to keep the plane afloat, rather than slides?

Travel broadens the mind? Hmm, maybe.

But in disaster situations there’s an argument that it mainly broadens the diet options for sharks.