Travel is not for the meek of heart. I love to travel to new places, encounter new experiences … but I don’t especially care for the actual “travel” part. You know, the hassle of the airport (passports, security, squashy-tin-flying-thing, customs), or driving (stuck in a car forever). I usually have to decide I really want to be wherever I’m going to put up with all of it. And yes, I can be a bit whiny.
This last trip I was convinced certainly I’d be happier as a Regency traveler. So let’s compare, shall we?
In the Regency period, since I have some money (that is, I can afford more than just my own two feet), but not a lot (I’m not rich enough to own and maintain my own carriage, horses, and livery staff), I’d probably go the stage coach or post chaise route. Both of these are more economical, though you will be traveling with strangers and on someone else’s schedule – the post chaise’s first focus is delivering the mail; passengers are a secondary concern.
Many of the roads are in dreadful shape, bumpy, and you may encounter the occasional highway man who hopefully will only rob you of all your valuables, and not your life. Problem is, he suffers essentially the same prison sentence (often death) for robbery as he does murder, so leaving witnesses isn’t preferable. Still, you will see a lot of the countryside … up close if the carriage wheels become mired in mud and stuck, or worse, break. Or the carriage could completely overturn.
There are the usual irritations, like filthy inns, stinking or snoring fellow passengers, and poor weather, and don’t think you have access to most of your things. Your trunks and boxes will be loaded and tied onto the vehicle outside, and you have nothing but a few tiny belongings, what might fit in your lap. Oh, and beware some conveyances that may stop near major intersections of major roads, where you’ll have to disembark with your luggage and wait for the coach that runs along the intersecting road.
In a post chaise or similar vehicle, a journey of about 100 miles will take two days of travel – if the road is good.
Only 100 miles. That would be around the commute my husband does twice daily to work and home. Travel, so often undertaken for pleasure and excitement, is not the faint of heart.
“It is assuredly delightful to have travelled, but not to travel : –Oh, no! Fatigue, and the sense of restlessness, are not all that is to be endured; — the feeling that you are a stranger and alone comes upon you in a gloomy day, when the spirits fall with the barometer, or when they are exhausted at evening or at night. We paint angels with wings, and fancy that it will be part of our privileges in heaven to move from place to place with accelerated speed. It would be more reasonable to suppose that Satan keeps stage-coaches, and has packets upon the Styx; that locomotion ceases when we become perfect, and beautified man either strikes root like a zoophyte, or is identified with his house like a tortoise.” – Robert Southey, Letters from England, 1808
How intriguing that Mr. Southey in 1808 bemoans his travel woes as I do, wishing for wings … like the airplane I flew in. I, in turn, dream of being “zapped” instantly from place to place, like Star Trek and their teleports.
What about you? What do you wish were different about traveling? How do you think travel will have changed in another hundred and some years? Love to hear from you!
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Thanks for reading, and have a great week – full of travel, or back at home.