Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Kids Need Real Adventure; Travel: Virtual Reality May Be OK for Games, but with Travel You Can't Beat the Genuine Article

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Kids Need Real Adventure; Travel: Virtual Reality May Be OK for Games, but with Travel You Can't Beat the Genuine Article

Article excerpt

Byline: ISABELLA TREE

LAST spring my husband and I took my twentysomething brother-in-law Drew and his girlfriend to Venice. It was time, my husband thought, that his American-college-educated younger brother got to know his bellinis from his carpaccios. As we purred through the backstreets in our water-taxi, ducking our heads beneath the bridges, the familiar smell of fecal coliform invading the nostrils, our voices echoing against 15th century stone, Drew looked amazed. "It's just like Tomb Raider," he said.

He was winding me up - but only partly. For the post-modern IT generation itis almost impossible not to see new places in the world as virtual reality.

The world's great destinations - its cities, harbours, pyramids, deserts, mountains, jungles - have become the stuff of Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound, digitally manipulated, visually enhanced, supersaturated, Technicolor imaging.

How can the humble parent compete when it comes to family holidays? The answer, prodded by Disney, is more of the same - theme parks where you can visit Mexico, Japan and Morocco in the same day; where you can be strapped in your seat and be given the ride of your life, all with minimal planning, effort or discomfort (or so they say).

Or, if you're worried about the little couch potatoes whose physical proclivity is limited to the pulsations of a trigger-finger, then you're exhorted to try the " wilderness" experience of Center Parcs, with organised activities in the Jungle Dome or Foam Factory, or wall-to-wall watersports at a Mark Warner.

But what these child-friendly, vacuum-packed, fast holidays overlook, what they can never, ever hope to synthesise, is the romance, the mystery, the atmosphere, the subterranean tempo, the absolute uniqueness of the real thing. A self-serve cafeteria can't supply the prickle to the nostrils of a South American chilli stall or the sea-smell of freshly caught Cornish mackerel.

Stand on a sand dune in the Namib or knee-deep in heather on a Scottish ben, and you are assaulted by a concoction of sensations so complex and evocative that it will linger on somewhere in your cortex forever, haunting you, provoking you, subtly changing you, though you may not know how or why. …

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