Glamor and the Golden Age of Travel Banner

Glamour and the Golden Age of Travel

The past is always glamorous.

Cunard Line Poster_Public Domain_Wikicommons

Mention the Golden Age of Travel, and images of grand Cunard ocean liners, Pan Am Clippers, and the Orient Express likely come to mind. It’s easy – and enjoyable – to picture yourself dressed as Laurence of Arabia with the Sphinx as your backdrop. Perhaps you’re dressed to the nines in the dining car as the Taj Mahal rolls past the window. It all seems so enchanting, so luxurious, so…glamorous.

For the affluent, of course, it was. With no internet or smartphones to share Instagrams taken from steerage, we have precious few images of life for the masses. We can be forgiven for assuming that all mid-century travel was done with panache and elegance, and wondering why that isn’t the case today.

While it doesn’t seem nearly so glamorous, travel today is far easier and far more available than ever before. If defined by accessibility, it could be argued that this is the Golden Age. The industry is flourishing and tourism is a major economic force. Travel is no longer exclusively for the privileged. Almost by definition, that means travel is also no longer glamorous. Through democratization, it has become routine; the very antithesis of glamor. In so many ways, today’s routine experience is vastly superior to the romanticized travel of the past, yet every one of us in coach is likely longing for a little old school glamor.

Orient Express Poster_Public Domain_WikicommonsThe reality of travel past, however, includes long lines and few conveniences, even for the affluent. During the first year of Pan Am service to Europe, 40% of the flights were cancelled and many more were delayed, sometimes for several days. For the most part, the art of travel itself was anything but glamorous and destinations were not “tourist friendly.” While there was the thrill of really discovering a native society, the traveler could not always depend on transportation and accommodations, luxurious or otherwise.

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All things considered, I am just not sure I’d be willing to trade in Starbucks at the gate, wi-fi in the air and a 12 hour flight to paradise (at about the same price I would have paid for it 20 years ago). Personally, I would absolutely love to board a Pan Am Clipper, sail on the Queen Mary or ride the rails on the Orient Express of old, but I’d want to do it with the luxuries of today. Now that would be glamorous.

Pan Am Honolulu Clipper Ad c1940

Luxury service to a tropical paradise – travel at its most glamorous.


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Images in the Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

14 comments on “Glamour and the Golden Age of Travel

    • Hi Malinda – Thanks for your comment! I would like to enjoy the transit part more, that’s for sure. But I am one of those who actually enjoys the act of travelling.

  1. While I agree with you on the matter of accessibility, I have to say that travel today is way less comfortable that it was before. Just look at today’s coach class of the airplanes. The Golden Age of Travel is long gone and will most likely never return.

    • Hi Anda – I think there must have been some middle point where travel was fairly accessible and much more comfortable than now or at the very beginning of commercial travel. Technology has certainly made it more convenient, but rarely is technology “glamorous,” eh?

    • Hi Tanja, and thanks for your comment. It reminded me that travel is also accessible now to almost everywhere. Being able to buy a ticket to You-Name-It-Ville is pretty golden! But I’m with you on the romance. 🙂

  2. Well, I was travelling 20 years ago, and although we didn’t have Starbucks at every corner or at the gates, it was not much different than today. Back then, though, I have to admit I wasn’t as interested in being as comfortable as I am today…old age? I do love the posters, the idea of the glamorous trains, planes, but I do think it’s similar today. Love it!

    • That’s funny, Corinne. On my last trip, I was complaining about how things have become more uncomfortable as I’ve gotten older. That’s when I was reminded that I’ve also gotten larger. We may soon have an opening for Travel Companion! 😉 While it may not always be glamorous, I think being able to travel in any age – and at any age – is golden! Thanks for the comment!

  3. I love visiting new places, but I do hate getting there. In days of past, the journey was just as important as the destination. Sometimes the journey was the whole point. I am more about the destination, as much of our instant gratification society has become. http://www.dlshackleford.com

    • One nice thing about getting there instantly – you have more time for the destination! I enjoy having more time to learn about and enjoy the places I’m visiting. Now, if the journey was comfy and interesting, I can see that being fun as well.

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