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Let's Go See, Is the Post-War Cry
WALTER S. HIATT
INCE we crawled out of the ooze on to dry land, since that first jungle baby crept on all fours to see what lay in the next dell, the wander instinct has been strong in us. It has perhaps been the dream of every person ever born to travel to some distant place; in this century, to go around the world.
There is something very fresh, almost primitive, about our present travel psychology. It smacks of a fabled first sport, of the day when drama was born. Our eyes are full of seeking, draw our bodies in headlong plunges up and down the world. We count our crowds by the million because people won't stay still. Our South and our West are full of young people who see the country by working their way from job to job. I met one of these lately, a tramp librarian. "I adore travel," she volunteered, as she handed out some references on the amazing growth of the tourist industry. "Why?"
"Oh, it's such fun," she said with glowing eyes; "seeing life, different countries and things. My home is in the Northwest, but I've traveled a lot already, seen California, the Middle West, New York." Then a shadow crossed her face. "I haven't seen Europe or the East-yet."
In this prim bespectacled librarian spoke the age-old call of the wild, the voice of romance, the yearning for the new and the strange, the will and the daring to take the open road across wide rivers on to new frontiers, to answer freedom's challenge.
When the travel itch caught people, they used to have to invent sound reasons for wishing to follow the path that lured them. Not so long ago, in quieter days, travel for pleasure was often considered the sport of spendthrifts, of very bad runaway boys, something shady, one of the vices of the loafer, at best the recreation of harmless if not respectable old people, preferably men. Boys of the Middle West who wondered how it would look to see the ocean roll-if it really did roll-were solemnly warned that it was a most dangerous place. And as for ships, it had been known since Bible days that they invariably sank with all hands.
To-day people are ashamed to stay at home, and as for ships they can't be kept off them. Lately I was on the dock of a vessel sailing for Spain. One of the passengers was a Middle West teacher on her first trip abroad. As the steamer pulled out of the slip, her face radiated joy. She threw kisses helter-skelter at friends
on the dock. Every twist in her quivering body said, “At last, at last, I'm going!" One of those women friends on the dock exclaimed, tragedy in her eyes: "I feel like an exile, positively! I have to stay at home." Last year a steamship man organized a world university cruise for men students. He had more than a He had more than a thousand applications from young women who didn't know it was a cruise for men only.
Inland people respond readily to the newer plans of travel that make it cheap. A few years ago a Missouri physician, out of health and funds, felt he should go abroad for a rest. He had heard of the group travel plan. So he organized a tour for physicians and nurses, found a sufficient number, and came home restored to health, with money in his pocket.
On a recent trip the Leviathan carried thirty-two hundred passengers, nine hundred of whom were students of all ages. By tapping the desire of America to travel, and placing comforts at the disposal of travelers at a minimum rate, the Atlantic steamship trade has avoided some of the losses resulting from the United States immigration exclusion law.
Travel has become a top-liner, the chief of all outdoor sports. Go! That's the new crowd psychology of all the peoples of the earth. Go! It's grand fun. And everybody's doing it, especially the women. That poor old World War started it, of course. Like a Rip Van Winkle, every once in a while we rub our eyes and see some new change wrought by that war. The war buried many; but it has resurrected more. That
churning of souls brought out the wild sap of youth, revived the instinct of freedom, restored the roaming lust of the caveman, akin to that of the animals of the jungle, the birds of the air, the troop of horses jumping pasture fences.
We have lost the rocking-chair point of view of living; we have a newer, or perhaps an older, concept of leisure. The pre-war traveler who, loaded down with baggage and guide-books, took his travel seriously, to improve his mind, is all but gone. Certainly he is now submerged in the crowds of joy travelers, always on the go, new editions of the Flying Dutchman.
Proof or evidence of this new travel mind has lately been provided by the failures of two world expositions, one in London, one in Philadelphia. After the London failure, the matter was heatedly debated in Parliament, charges of mismanagement and corruption made, finally the losses settled with much grumbling. To the Philadelphia exposition last year came five, not fifty, million people as expected. There followed the same charges, the same grumbling, as after the London exposition.
Why would not people travel long distances, as they had in pre-war days to other expositions? The answer is, in the slang of the day, that expositions are "out." People have traveled so much that they have seen most of the things expositions provide, or else they wish to see their sights at the point of origin, not in glass cases or as side-shows. Above all, when they travel, it is frankly to enjoy themselves. They are more sophisticated. They know
a good deal, and they know what think, these are with the snows of they want.
Coney Island, the most widely advertised freak pleasure-resort in the Western Hemisphere, has for several seasons complained about the unfavorable weather that keeps away the great spender crowds. It is not the weather at all. People go farther, to other beaches where there are more crowds or fewer crowds, where the atmosphere is different. Resort managers about London and Paris have the same tales to tell. Staid London has always been a dead city on Sunday; and now Paris, and for another reason, is dead on Sunday. People begin on Saturday to leave for the country; they range for hundreds of miles over France, instead of going for a brief afternoon walk on the grands boulevards or to the Bois, or taking a ride on the Seine boats. On holidays, Sundays, in vacation time, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, empty themselves in the
So there is a new world picture, and it was not there in 1914. Nor does anybody want to go alone any more. The crowd is milling here at home, afoot, hiking, hopping into automobiles, riding horses, aëroplaning, motor-boating, swimming, racing hither and yon by railroad, by electric car, by motor-bus, fleeing east, south, southwest, to Canada and from Canada, to the West Indies, to Europe, around the world, in season and out-there are no more seasons for travel-going!
yester-year. I sometimes fancy I saw the death of Fear. It was on Monte Nero, the last mountain held by the Italians against the Austrians seeking to break forth upon the plains toward Venice and Padua. A motor-truck carrying shells to Italian guns was swinging up a road built along the mountain. The road was being shelled by the Austrian guns. On the seat of the truck was a baby, out for a ride, and at each shell explosion he clapped his hands in glee. A grand ride!
That baby is the new generation, symbol of other crowds roving the wide world. Those other crowds are not so prosperous as the American crowd, not so well fed and clothed, not provided with so many aids to travel, but they go. I've seen Russia topsyturvy with such crowds, piling on trains already overcrowded, pushing into coaches that were jammed, then climbing for more room on the car roofs. I've seen the same spectacle in Rumania, other crowds in Turkey, Persia, going afoot, on horseback, in wagons, carts, going.
And it was these people, particularly the Orientals, who before the war regarded the American or European traveler as some sort of a lunatic. To them the objects and pleasures of travel were unintelligible. That European and Asiatic peasant used to be a stay-at-home body who rarely left his fields. Recently I saw some hundreds of peasants rushing a train in Central Europe.
"Where are they going?" I asked the distracted conductor.
"I don't know, and they don't either," he replied sourly.
When the war was ending I was
caught in the remnants of the Austrian army that had formally surrendered to the Italians and then been told to go home. In a railway station at Laibach a strapping young Austrian soldier came up and shook hands. "We are all brothers now," he said. "Free to live. I'm going to make off to South America right away."
Four years later I passed a few days at the old home of Tolstoy, near Tula. There was a piano in the room assigned to me, and a young Russian used to come in to practise his music. One morning he said, "I'll tell you good-by. I'm off on a tramp to India." So he went, afoot, with a stick, a haversack, light pocket and light heart.
The World War killed in battle about nine million men, but it deeply stirred the remaining fifty-six million of the sixty-five that were mobilized. It opened new horizons to their hundreds of millions of fathers, mothers, wives, sisters, children, started them going, physically and mentally. How could it have been otherwise? Millions always on the march, minds working, filled with hope, fear, wonder, hearts beating faster, love and hate, all the passions in play. Stimulating instruments to set them going have been the free railway ride furnished by governments to soldiers and their families, the wider use of the automobile and the motor-truck, the steamship, the larger manufacture of these and their intensive use as carriers, the new inventions, the radio, the newspaper, more money, more books, broader geographical information, more international trade. These are the handmaidens to the spirit of motion born of the war.
The love of jazz, the recklessness, the laziness, the irresponsibility of post-war people and of the new generation are manifestations of the same motion spirit. Behind this desire to go, to keep on going, stand too a multitude of minor sports. Never has the world seen such a development of sport. When one goes somewhere, one must do something, play golf, run, walk, play tennis, dance, see a horse-race, a motion-picture. Some observers declare the world is motion mad, afflicted with a St. Vitus's dance, as it has been on a smaller scale, in times of less population, in other periods of upheaval.
In Central and South America, in Malaysia, everywhere, in spots untouched by the war, the motion spirit is working. I have just seen it in action in the West Indies. During the war and for a period of eight years there was an occupation by United States marines of the republic of Santo Domingo. It brought new contacts to a land that had been living in the eighteenth century. The Americans built a few hundred miles of road, brought in automobiles. Now the go spirit has entranced this fairy-land. With their last dollars the people buy or hire automobiles, drive them over impassable roads, or make long journeys on mule-back or afoot, move about as restlessly as in Persia. The native women bob their hair, wear silk stockings and one-piece dresses, and show themselves as alert and independent as American women. And both men and women are dreaming of leaving that paradise of white light, soft air, cheap living, the quiet of the sea-shore, the marvel of the
Without emphasis on these migrations within the United States, or on shiftings of population in other parts of the world, the go spirit has certainly many interesting phases that do not belong to 1914. The northern peoples, the Germans, the Italians, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French, the Dutch, the English, have at some impulse in their history become great travelers, but never as to-day. At certain holiday periods it looks as if all England, traditional home of the traveler, was moving across the Channel on the way to France, Belgium, Italy, there to fight tides of Germans, Hollanders, Spaniards.
The American tourist swarm has become almost a nuisance at home, and last year it was a matter of political comment in France. The French felt overwhelmed by the numbers. There are about fifty thousand Americans resident in England, and a larger number in France. The number of Americans who go abroad, largely to Europe, is now annually about four hundred thousand, and they spend more than half a billion dollars to go. The American Legion will go forty thousand strong this September, and the fact hardly raises comment. What would have been said in 1914?
Not people but crowds on the move, and always more people, and always bigger crowds. Crowd-sick people crowd to get away from crowds. Where do they come from, where are they going? Some of it is for business, but much of it is for pleasure, the pleasure of going, seeing. Automobile venders estimate that sixty per cent of the motor traffic is for business, and they estimate the nation's annual motor transport bill at eleven billion dollars.
Consider the huge city of New York, never still night or day. It was far quieter in 1914. Then its population was 5,136,706. In 1926 the population was 5,924,139, hardly 800,000 more people. Its surface traffic by street-car was a billion people in 1926, just over 100,000 more than in 1914.
But its subway, elevated railway, and bus traffic, taken in a lump, has doubled, jumped from 914 millions in 1914 to 1938 millions in 1926. It has a million more people living in its suburbs, and there are more people who visit it from greater distances. So there are upward of 338 millions of people a year who come and go by railway or ferry. Roads lead to rivers to cross, and over four of its great East River bridges pass each twenty-four hours on foot and on wheels 2,500,000 people as compared to 1,500,000 in 1914. It has more than half a million city-registered motor-cars and trucks, and hundreds of thousands of others come and go each day from distant places.
On Manhattan Island, one of the five boroughs of New York, the single bus line that in 1914 carried 11,276,000 passengers in 1926 carried