Monday, February 05, 2007

A Pacific School Trip

Roundhay High School for Girls was not very hot on school trips when I was a pupil there. We had a day trip to Liverpool, to look at both cathedrals – not something that would thrill most teenagers nowadays, it has to be said.

We had a few trips to the theatre in London, but they were organised by one particular teacher and weren’t “official” school trips.

And, in my “O”- level year and again in my “A” – level year there was a ten-day cruise round the Mediterranean, but I didn’t go because I was too busy with work for my exams. Typical of that school – it indoctrinated you with the idea that top exam grades were the only possible route to a decent life - - and then offered you temptation, just to see how well the indoctrination had worked.

And that was it for my school trips.

By the time Emily was at secondary school, there were some developments – she went to France with the school in Year Eight, and managed to stay in the only place in France that did crap food. However, I think she enjoyed it, mostly, and I still use the Bayeux Tapestry bag that she brought me back.

There was a trip to Canada organised at some point – but it was a skiing trip full of sporty teenagers who’d been skiing in Europe many times, and Emily wasn’t keen. And it was very expensive, bearing in mind that they could have spent a week skiing in Europe far more cheaply.

But today I learned something that has shaken my whole School Trips view of the world.

My cousin’s daughter Olivia, age nearly sixteen, is setting off on Friday for her school trip. Ten days. In Galapagos.

Yes, the Galapagos Archipelago. Six hundred miles to the left of Ecuador. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Thirteen islands, three of them inhabited. Giant tortoises. Fantastic wildlife. Five thousand square miles in the middle of nowhere, as seen on Life on Earth and several hundred documentaries since.

Would I like to go there? Well, to me, that’s like saying “Would you like to go to Mars?” For my impact on global warming through air travel is, well, small – I haven’t been on a plane since 1999 and that was only to Amsterdam. In fact I think I have made fewer than ten trips by plane in my entire life. So, Galapagos – I can’t think how exciting that would be. I’m pretty excited by the idea of a day trip to the Dales.

Of course, Olivia is at school in Harrogate in wealthy North Yorkshire, and although it’s a comprehensive school, clearly they feel able to say to the parents, “We’re off to Galapagos on a school trip, that’ll be two and a half grand please.”

So – do I approve (the trip of a lifetime, at age sixteen)? or disapprove (the encouragement of plane travel in teenagers with rich parents who’ve had it all handed to them on a plate and might well take it all for granted anyway)?

Oh, look, if Emily had been offered a similar trip, and had wanted to go, she’d have gone. We’d have found the money somehow. But – and in my mind, it’s a big but – I think it’s a shame that some of today’s teenagers are going halfway across the world to see spectacular countryside and wildlife without ever getting to know the countryside and wildlife that’s nearby.

Emily very much appreciates all holidays, no matter where. For some of these rich kids, every holiday they’ve ever had has been abroad. And any parents who think that their one-year-old is going to enjoy Tahiti more than Tenby are deluding themselves.


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