Ever wondered what the future of travel might look like? All first class and no cattle, shorter flight times and as much carry-on as you want? Sure! Or perhaps, think of the advances in technology and how they will shape the way we travel, or how climate change will affect those places you’ve already crossed off your bucket list and practically make them whole new destinations to discover all over again. My friend and author Jule Owen has a few ideas on these topics, and having read the first book in her young adult trilogy The House Next Door, I have to say The Boy Who Fell From The Sky is a captivating read for anyone interested in these subjects, and particularly for those in love with London! Let’s see what Jule has to say about the future of travel:
CH: So Jule, you write about the future and we’re going to talk about what you think travel might be like in the future. But why should we care?
Jule: Well first up, there’s the fun stuff. Let’s talk about a journey you might make in 2030.
In fifteen years time, people won’t think of London to Sydney travel as a huge trip. It will take you 90 minutes. You could go there for the weekend or even the day. Europe to US travel would reduce to an hour. You could reasonably commute.
When you arrive at the airport in Sydney or LA, you’ll be greeted not by a taxi driver, but by a sleek autonomous car. Inside, it will look a bit like a mini living room, with a coffee table and the latest multimedia devices, which could include holographics and virtual reality.
When you get to your hotel, it’s unlikely you’ll be checking in with a credit card via a traditional bank. This is still a developing area but money will definitely change in the next ten years or so. You’ll probably be using something much more like Bitcoin and perhaps even walking into the hotel will be all you will need to do to pay.
Food is another area of serious innovation. Eating out, in 15 years time, there’s a serious chance you’ll be eating meat that’s been grown in a lab. Aside from ethical considerations on all sides, cultured meat is becoming cheaper year-on-year and will soon likely become more cost effective to produce than traditionally reared meat and I would bet on it being a part of our everyday lives by 2030..
CH: It sounds like science fiction.
Jule: All of these technologies are serious contenders for reality. Driverless cars are almost an inevitability and are being trialled in the US, UK and Germany right now.
But if you think that sounds like science fiction, the British government has serious plans for a space port in the UK, to allow companies like Virgin Galactic to take tourists into space. They are looking at sites in Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. Further into the future, given the recent commercial expansion into space, with investment money going into things like asteroid mining, it is almost inevitable that space tourism will expand beyond 6 minutes in zero gravity, for those with the money to spend.
CH: If that’s the “fun stuff”, what’s the not-so-fun-stuff?
Jule: We’re about to enter one of the most rapid periods of change and disruption in human civilisation, both in terms of technological innovation, some of which will be good and some bad, and climate change, which will pretty much be all bad, unless things turn around pretty quickly. Climate change will inevitably have a massive impact on travel, everything from where we go to how we get there and how affordable travel will be.
Then there’s the issue of the choices we make about the means by which we travel. I love travelling and I’ve done a lot of long haul flights. I’ve just enthused about hypersonic travel. They’re not so good for the environment. In the long-run you have to look to amazing projects like Solar Impulse, the long-haul solar plane, for the direction we might eventually take to make travel sustainable.
CH: Will we be travelling to the same places in the future?
Jule: That’s an interesting question. On the one hand there’s this huge wave of innovation that will make it commercially feasible to make short trips around the world. On the other hand there’s the environmental cost. Into this mix, there’s the question of whether the places we want to travel to will be the same in the future.
As a Londoner, who is in-love with the history of this glorious, 2000-year-old city, it pains me to say this, but if you come here on holiday, by the end of the century, you’re going to need a boat to get around. And that’s not just up and down the Thames. Many of our great international cities are in the same position, including New York, Alexandria in Egypt, Ho Chi Minh City, Amsterdam, New Orleans, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mumbai, Shanghai and Miami. It actually makes me feel ill to reel off this list and it’s almost beyond belief, but there’s a 97% scientific consensus telling us this is what will happen. By the way, if you’re not into science, that’s an unprecedented consensus. It’s not “if” any more it’s “when”, and every day, the when gets closer to us.
Travellers have an important role to play in all of this. They get to see the impact of climate change on people and the environment close up and have the ability to bear witness to it and record it.
CH: So our holiday snaps may be more important than we think?
Jule: Absolutely. At the very least, they may end up being very poignant historic records of places that change beyond all recognition. It’s already happening now. Think of the Sierra Nevada, the Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, or Siberia right now. These places are changing before our eyes.
CH: You write dystopian science fiction. Do you write about these issues in your novels?
Jule: Yes I do. It’s an exciting and terrifying time to be alive, all of this extraordinary technological innovation in the era of climate change. I write because I need a creative way to explore what that might actually be like. My novel The Boy Who Fell from the Sky and its sequel Silverwood, in particular explore what happens to London when climate change hits. I don’t have answers, but I want to engage in discussion. Writing fiction is my way of doing that.
CH: But your books are fun too, right? There’s cool stuff, like time travel. Is that ultimately where you see us travellers heading?
Jule: [Laughs] For sure. If we survive long enough as a species, time travel has got to be the ultimate travel experience. One of my main characters is a time travel tourist, who writes stories about what he experiences. Who wouldn’t want to go back in history and see the world, as it was hundreds or even thousands of years ago?
Jule Owen’s The Boy Who Fell from the Sky is available now on Amazon and to order from all good bookshops from 30th October. Jule blogs about the future, climate change and science fiction at www.juleowen.com.