The Comment category offers opinion and comment on a range of mainly travel-related issues.
For the past week I’ve been driving around Girona province, Spain, researching for the forthcoming book. Several days ago I was passing through a small town high up in the Pyrenees mountains and stopped at a traffic light. On the pavement right by my car were four or five schoolgirls chatting animatedly as they walked together.
Suddenly one of the them stopped, stared into the stationary vehicle and, jumping up and down and shouting, grabbed one of her friends and pointed at the dashboard. The second girl also became very excited and called the others. Within seconds all the girls were milling around the car, laughing, waving at me and pointing at the steering wheel, shouting that it was on the other side. They obviously had never seen a right-hand drive before.
Their animated reaction over something so trivial was surprising and quaint, not least because they looked to be about 15 or 16 years of age. Back home I doubt any teenagers of that age would get such a kick out of something so innocuous. Clearly in such an isolated mountain settlement away from tourism and main roads life retains a certain insularity and lack of cynicism.
Yet I think it would be very safe to bet that every one of those girls had a smartphone and during the course of the day caught up on the latest showbiz news, connected with people miles away and encountered new ideas and trends originating far away from that mountain village.
We live in a strange world of connectivity and globalisation yet where there continue to be isolated communities with their own ways. But this is increasingly less so. With globalisation and connectivity accelerating such insularity is unlikely to last and as societies become increasingly homogenised I think we will be all the poorer for it.
Read about another example of an isolated community in this humorous recollection