Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The Amazing Race 31, Episode 1

Hermosa Beach, CA (USA) - Los Angeles, CA (USA) - Narita (Japan) - Tokyo (Japan)

There were fears that the The Amazing Race might have come to an end when broadcasts of the latest season, filmed last summer, were postponed repeatedly. But then the new season was moved forward abruptly to replace another series that was doing badly, and the race around the world is on again.

What's new this season is the absence of new faces: the entire cast of season 31 of The Amazing Race is comprised of experienced reality TV show participants. But unlike The Amazing Race 18, which was billed as a second chance for contestants on previous seasons of The Amazing Race who didn't win but were popular or unpopular enough to attract TV viewers, this season's cast of racers has been assembled from previous contestants not just on The Amazing Race but also on "Survivor" and/or "Big Brother".

That led to many questions in this first episode -- questions which perhaps will continue throughout the season -- as to how a race around the world or a reality-TV travel show more generally compares with these other reality-TV competitions.

The consensus seems to be that travel, or at least "The Amazing Race", is physically and mentally harder work than "Big Brother" or "Survivor". Travellers can try to be prepared, but they can't always plan or know what to expect. They have to make decisions on the spot, in real time, under pressure of hunger, fatigue, sleep deprivation, uncertainty, culture shock, sensory overload, and ambiguous, incomplete, or incompletely understood information.

The English word "travel" is derived from travail, the French word for "work". Historically, travel was indubitably work, and something almost everyone avoided. For one long-term perspective on those mostly-bad old days, see the deadpan descriptions in Norbert Ohler's The Medieval Traveller (which I found through a citation to it in my friend Gillian Spraggs' definitive treatise on one of the particular perils of the Olde English road, Outlaws and Highwaymen).

One of the simplest ways to reduce the travails of travel is to travel more slowly. Much of the work in travel is in getting from place to place, and staying longer in each place you visit means spending less of your time working at getting around. Since much of the contribution of travel to global warming comes from the burning of fossil fuel for transportation, slower travel is also, almost by definition, greener travel.

Sometimes, and for some people, risk enhances rewards. I went to a wonderful and upbeat slide show and talk this week by my smiling friend Shirley Johnson about her solo bicycle trip from the Arctic Ocean in Canada south to the Pacific coast of Alaska. Awareness of the risks heightened her perceptions and her enjoyment of the trip, she said. But travel can be consciousness-expanding without having to be scary.

Overall, travel has gotten ever easier, and I would argue that in most respects it is still getting easier than it used to be. When the first season of "The Amazing Race" premiered, just days before 9/11, it was promoted as a celebration of exploration and cultural encounter, not about terror or primarily about physical difficulties. When CBS decided to go forward with broadcasts of "The Amazing Race" after 9/11, it seemed to be statement that the world is still a fundamentally welcoming place. I wonder, though, how many people are now retreating from travel, or seeing it primarily in terms of risk rather than reward.

Is travel more fun, more work, or both than staying home in the "Big Brother" house, or staying put on the "Survivor" island? Is travel getting easier, or getting to be more work? Please share your thoughts in the comments -- and stay tuned.

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 17 April 2019, 23:59 (11:59 PM) | TrackBack (0)
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