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[Opinion] Low-Cost Travel

Posted June. 28, 2007 03:14,   


“There are three things that people hesitate to recommend. The first is marriage, second is war, and the third is pilgrimage.” So people used to say in the old days, indicating how dangerous traveling was then. When transportation technology was incipient, religious tours between England and Jerusalem took a full year. Even when one left from Italy, a geographically closer region, at least six months had to be spent. Because it was not rare for travelers to die during the tour, they designated heirs before their departure. Many of them did die from disease.

People in the Joseon Era could only spend their whole lives as “frogs in a well.” Traveling abroad meant traveling to China, and such luck was only allowed for an extremely small number of intelligent persons. The 18th century scholar Yi Deok-mu, in a letter describing his joy from his first trip to China, wrote: “I’ll be in China if I cross the Aprok River tomorrow. Just thinking of it makes me happy.” It took a month for him to get to the Aprok River from Seoul, and another six months to return from his visit to Yanjing. On the day of the departure, his friends and relatives gathered around to hold a farewell party.

Goethe, on arriving at the Rome that he had dreamed of, noted that it was the day his real life began. Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer, has said, ‘I’m reborn though traveling.” Visits to strange places bring dangers big and small. Recently, Koreans have begun to catch the adventure traveling bug. These include travels to remote places made popular by backpack traveler Han Bi-ya, and low cost tours that require small budget.

Thirteen Koreans traveling to Cambodia lost their lives in an airplane crash. Stories involving each of them sadden us. Low cost tourism is now controversial. Accidents can’t be predicted and averted, but can be reduced. Tourists should thoroughly scrutinize whether or not their schedules contain any irrationality or recklessness. Travelers themselves should be more careful and active in reducing the risky elements in their travels.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com