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Around the World in 80 Days

Introduction

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysThe compulsive urge to travel is a recognised psychical condition. It has its own word, dromomania, and I'm glad to say I suffer from it. The ambition of every dromomaniac is a circumnavigation of the planet, but it's a less fashionable journey now than in Jules Verne's day. Part of the reason is that you can do it by air in 36 hours (a technological feat that Verne would have greatly appreciated). But air travel shrink-wraps the world leaving it small, odourless, tidy and usually out of sight.

There are container vessels which will take you round in 63 days, but you will see only water on 58 of those. The reason why Phileas Fogg's 80-day journey retains its appeal is that it is still the minimum time needed to go round the world and notice it. To see it, smell it and touch it at the same time.

Each time I look at the map and re-trace my progress I become painfully aware of the countries I didn't visit, and I'm sure there would be a case for a zig-zag circumnavigation which would take in Australia and Thailand and Russia and Africa and South America and Canada. Nevertheless my route, following Fogg's as closely as possible, still took me through an extraordinary sequence of countries: from the European empires of Britain and Venice and Greece, to Egypt, one of the oldest civilisations on earth, through the heart of the Moslem world, across India into China and the awesomely energetic economies of the Pacific Rim countries - Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan - and finally to America, still the most influential nation in the world.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Chapter: Introduction
  • Country/sea: England
  • Place: London
  • Book page no: 9

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