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Grand Vacations or Burning Man on Mars. It could happen.


Precursors
No, it will happen. At least if the aliens don't get here first. But we'll talk about that in another blog post.

What I want to talk about today is the mistaken idea that progress will end. There's a neat book by John Brockman, actually a series of books that I call 'blog fodder.' The one that drove me to write about Grand Vacations is: "This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories that are Blocking Progress." John has put together several books of this type where he asks scientists, economists and others to write something provocative on his chosen topic. These books are great fun to scan. Many of the articles are great fun, many are just crazy, some are so bad they aren't even wrong (as Wolfgang Pauli would say.)

The article that started my train of thought that has led to this blog post was: "Economic Growth." Cesar Hidalgo, an Associate Professor at MIT claims the idea of economic growth must die. He makes two arguments: 1) the idea is recent (this century) and 2) the idea is absurd. Both arguments fall into the 'not even wrong' category. Here's why he thinks economic growth is absurd: If growth rates continued at 1% per year, in a thousand years the average American would make $1.1 billion in the year 3014. Yeah. So what. Some people in America make more than that today.

But really, it's not about the money it's about the capabilities. And in the year 3014 the average American will have more capabilities than the average billionaire has today. Can the average billionaire take a vacation on Mars? Not today (although several are trying.) But in 3014 the average American should be able to. Think about what the average person could do a thousand years ago: walk, shout and listen. Not a lot. A thousand years later we have cars, jets, spaceships, mobile phones, the internet, computers and electricity. Things change.


Grand Vacations
What Grand Vacations are available today and how do they compare to the past?

Circumnavigation of the Globe
One Grand Vacation available today is a trip around the world. Robert Heinlein did it and wrote about it in the early 1950's. Today you can take the Queen Mary II on an around the world trip (the Cunard line actually has three ships circumnavigating the globe continuously.) The first people to ever sail all the way around the world were some crew members on Ferdinand Magellan's ships in the years 1519-1521. Five hundred years ago. First time ever to routine in half a thousand years. Things change.

How else can you circumnavigate the world? There are several jet based vacations: one by the National Geographic Society, one by Four Seasons, one by Abercombie & Kent, one by the Smithsonian Society, and the list goes on. What was science fiction 150 years ago is now common. SkyTeam will even let you set up your own itinerary. The globe has even be circumnavigated via hot air balloon. And Google is managing a fleet of balloons to provide world-wide Internet coverage. So don't tell me that things don't change.
Retracing the Most Famous Circumnavigation: Darwin's Voyage
Darwin wrote about the voyage of the Beagle (where he got the idea and lots of evidence for evolution) in 1839. He ended up circumnavigating the globe in 5 years (it was supposed to only take 2! Oops). The book became a popular travelogue in England and around the world. The first version only had 1500 copies printed, but it hasn't been out of print since and you can find several web versions. You can find a tour that recreates parts of the voyage from Australis, several others are mentioned here. Or you can recreate parts of the trip on your own.
Space Trips
What other Grand Vacations are available? Space Tourism surely qualifies. NASA has commissioned a set of posters that would tickle any explorer's heart. Space Tourism has actually started, Mark Shuttleworth and six others have been on Grand Vacations via Space Adventures. Several companies are working on sub-orbital adventures: Virgin Galactic, XCOR Space Expeditions, Blue Origin, are building spaceships and SpaceX offers flights you could book now. Remember that the first person in space was Yuri Gagarin in 1961, less than 60 years ago. Most people don't know it, but humanity has had at least one space station orbiting the earth since 1974.  So you might try to get there.


For those just interested in weightlessness there's a company providing that service: zero g. And there's an awesome rock band (OK Go) that used the zero-g jet in a music video. See more of their stuff on YouTube.

Safaris
There are many ways to go glamping. But obviously the best is an African safari.  Safaris are a veritable industry.  They used to be about big game hunting, but now they are mostly about photo ops.  Still, what could be better than a trip to the wilds of Africa, back to the cradle of humanity? I would recommend a safari break in the middle of your circumnavigation. That's what I'm planning on doing.

Festivals
There are hundreds of music festivals in the US. Some of the local ones are Montery Jazz and Coachella. A popular one is SXSW which mixes music, film and interactive exhibits. Then there are Art Fairs around the world and in the US.  You could spend your entire life going from one fair to the next. Then there are food festivals: the most famous (at least if you like beer or are German, like me) is OctoberFest in Germany. Don't forget the county fairs, here's the ones in CA. But every state has them.

Burning Man
Arguably the most famous and eclectic anti-festival of them all is Burning Man. Burning Man takes some effort to get to, but nobody said these vacations have to be easy! I can't wait until we have a Burning Man on Mars. It would be a long vacation.  It takes about 3 months to get to Mars. When could it happen? How could you do it safely? That's another blog post.

Invitation Only
Then there are those invitation only vacations: DavosTED or the Bohemian Grove.

Theme Vacations
You can have a Grand Vacation by setting up a theme.  Some popular themes are baseball, unique museums, science museums, art museums, design museumsamazing buildings, tallest buildings, highest mountains, beautiful ports, longest train routes, Or you could drive one of the longest roads in the world or the steepest roads or the windiest roads or the craziest roads or the most fun roads to drive. Or you could go for beauty.  Or World Heritage sites, there are thousands of them, so there's always one nearby.  Or you could do an archeaological dig or visit ancient ruins. Or the best dive bars in every state.

Or visit all the Disney parks.  My family is in the process of doing this.  We've already been to Disneyland, DisneyWorld, and the parks in Tokyo and France.

One of my favorite dream vacations: visit all the major wine regions in the world.

And my second favorite dream vacation: Michelin starred restaurants.

Or you could follow a book, one that comes to mind is: Huckleberry Finn or pick an epic road trip from some other book (like Mark Twain's Roughing It, a tale of cross continental travel before it was easy.)

Or you could follow your favorite band, mine being either the Beatles or The Talking Heads.  If only they would tour again.

Or think up your own theme: best kite surfing beaches, movie scene locations or famous graves.

Thanks for reading.
 -Dr. Mike




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