I like to think I do my bit in the fight against climate change. I don’t leave lights on – the dark hasn’t scared me since I saw Johnny Depp sucked into a bed aged about nine. It disturbs people to see me in anything other than fraying black hoodies so I don’t need to order a set of new outfits from Bangladesh every other week. I’ve been cutting back on meat because I heard cows have worse flatulence than my 80-year-old stepfather, though whichever scientist declared that has clearly never heard dear old Merv after he’s been bell-ringing.
I don’t have a car, that’s a big one. And biggest of all: I don’t have kids. Don’t, shouldn’t, probably can’t now anyway. No urgent young voices demanding India cut their emissions but also please put cling film around my vegetables because the supermarket’s full of poor people and God knows where they’ve been.
So I’m saving humanity, one locally grown leek at a time. But I do catch the odd flight. And if you people start trying to stop me getting in planes, I will burn your fucking world.
By which I mean leave the tap running when I clean my teeth, but you get the point. I’m fully aware, thanks, that taking international flights is a tremendous way to contribute to the submergence of the Maldives, though given that’s where people with money but no imagination go, maybe it’ll all balance out. I’ll be laughing on the other side of my face when the Isle of Wight’s under water, which will mean I’m laughing on both sides of my face.
I recently barged through the turnstiles of my 59th country. (I’m not one of those wankers who bangs on about my current score, but I will if asked by one of the various people in my life who’ve started to call me Judith Chalmers.) For many, the number’s far too high. Some can’t understand how adults can go places there’s not a kids’ club, and Jesus Christ are you telling me booze is banned?!
But for others, I’m contributing to the suffocation of the world’s final panda. I’m piling on the degrees because “if aviation were a country, it would be the world’s sixth-biggest emitter”. Greta would have me complete all my travelling by boat, much as I would have Greta complete all her moaning inside her head.
It’s not even accurate, 59. Country no.60, more accurately country no.1, is the UK. I don’t count it in the numbers, on a technicality: I’ve never been to it, only returned. I don’t count the inside of my mother as somewhere I’ve been and if you do there’ll be an officer around to take your details shortly. Whereabouts in Norfolk do you live again?
Why would I want to save the planet if the only part of it I’m allowed to see is this miserable little rock? The land of five Prime Ministers in seven years, all of them Tory and not one of them with the grace to die in office. A country that voted itself out of a collegiate group of nations because the Belgians would only export us straight bananas and yet now welcomes hideous chains of ‘Berlin Doner’ outlets like it’s the second coming of Anthony Bourdain. A place that mourned a dead hereditary monarch for 10 mandatory days but gave Leslie Phillips not so much as a ceremonial bonfire in Tottenham.
Travel is what keeps me sane. I see ancient temples, jungles that want me dead, crazy markets, beasts of all types, often in those markets, hectic cities, bewildering weather and mountains that make you feel minute. But even while I’m doing it I’m thinking “Where’s next?” I love travelling more than anything else I do. Nothing screams zen at me better than a passport control queue.
The trouble is I have that kind of brain that doesn’t rest easy when life is comfortable. I have so little to complain about it’s a joke. Great family and friends, fun plans, reasonable work prospects and money in the bank. I hate that I’m not able to be content with that. I can be having a great time, surrounded by people I love, and a little voice in my head will be telling me the only reason I’m not leaping onto the tracks is because it’ll ruin their journey home.
I have no purpose or goals and I understand people need that. To compensate I’ve made my goal to see the world, see new places, put myself in situations where even that little voice has to shut the fuck up. Travelling clears my mind because the world can show you what’s big, in geography and humanity, and what’s small – the humdrum, the stressful, the irrelevant. And the more I explore, the less I see that news story with my photo and the words “before turning the gun on himself”.
Starkly, that means getting my country numbers up and up, and that means aeroplanes. So to be told the one goal I have is contributing to the end of civilisation is quite the kick in the nuts. I’m not trying to make things worse. I’d never get a flight to Scotland, because there’s trains, or Wales, because it’s Wales. I always go cattle class despite anyone above five foot eight these days being forced into a space that’d have Boxing Helena stretching herself out like a cat.
And I’ll pay a proper fare. I know it needs to cost more than £29 to get to Poland. Charge me more, and the extra can go to fight climate change, after the fucking airlines take their cut and some charitable foundation scrapes off a few administration fees to make Bezos feel better about himself. Yes I’m saying I’ll pay more for every flight – aha! So, what, prices go up and poor people can’t have holidays? Aha! Oh fucking hell if you expect me to have all the answers let’s just call the Four Horsemen now and make me Prime Minister.
Anyway, as I keep saying, the planet is fine. Humanity might be fucked, but has anyone asked Fiji if it cares about sea levels rising? The island, not the people on it. Perhaps the Ring of Fire fancies a dip, and when humans are gone and the water retreats it’ll thrive like a fallow field. The creatures that survive might evolve into fully conscious beings themselves. They might even start using tools and creating machines and oh fucking hell here we go again, fire up the gas heater Brian they’re back.
I don’t hate Britain. There are lots of things I love, like the pubs. Yeah OK it’s the pubs.
But please, just like you ignore Saint Lula of Brasilia getting his private jet to a COP conference, ignore me getting the fuck out of here. I’ll carry on taking a bag to the supermarket, a ludicrous notion when you think about it, and you carry on driving your massive families around while I reset in some far-flung corner of the planet so I can deal with this bloody place for a few more months. We’ll all be the happier for it in the end.
Except maybe Greta, but Jesus, let’s pick the low hanging fruit first.