“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”
– Coco Chanel
A recent article in the Boston Globe proclaimed “Old planes refurbished to offer taste of luxury.” A more apt headline would have referred to a taste of “What Used to Pass for Luxury.” Decades ago it truly was “Living the High Life” to sit in soft, spacious chairs and have people serve you a three course meal while you gazed down on the landscape passing below. The refurbished planes in the article will not actually be used for transportation, but will be used for short demonstration flights, in the way that steam trains operate now as a scenic attraction.
Since air travel has become commonplace, getting there has won out over feeling special. We have said goodbye to “soft,” “spacious,” “meal” and everything else that made the trip special. Flying is a commodity now, not a luxury. How can the airline please the most people and alienate the fewest? Just today I typed the name of a well-known carrier incorrectly and it came out “JetBlur.” Now there’s a modern airline!
But luxury has not disappeared from travel. Far from it! Cruise ships and resorts compete hand over fist to be the most luxurious new thing on sea or land. Each cruise line or resort representative who visits our office has an impressive list of new benefits her company offers, more and different amenities to provide the “Wow factor” for guests. I try hard not to roll my eyes at some new features, but I think others are quite nice.
When a resort offers a generously sized bathroom with a really nice tub or shower and heated floors, I really pay attention. And a wonderful bed is appreciated any place. But seriously, who needs a two level suite on a ship? And how many people know what to do with (much less need) a croquet lawn on the top deck of the ship? I gather the favorite pastime is just walking or sitting on the grass – something one doesn’t usually seek to do on a ship. That is what makes it a luxury: it is something you do not or cannot usually have. We don’t travel to find the things we have at home. We look for something different. Or more exotic. Or more luxurious. We can buy luxury in small doses — taking a ride on a yacht without having to buy the whole yacht.
One person’s delightful indulgence leaves another person shaking her head, wondering “Who would pay money to have that?” It can be easy to forget that one person’s “Give me a break!” is another person’s “Oh wow! Just what I’ve always dreamed of.”
Practically speaking, it is good that we like different things. Otherwise the world would be filled with endless replicas of the same thing. As long as some people order the Szechuan and others order the Barbecue, we will have variety in menus, in opportunities, and in travel.
Call me if you are looking for a little or a lot of luxury. I promise I will not roll my eyes!
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
12 February 2015