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Imagine a machine that could transport you from one side of the world to the other at the press of a button. One minute, you’re wandering amid the stupas of Borobudur, Java; the next, you’re exploring a grotto in Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine; later still, you’re following giant tortoises along a volcanic ridge in the Galapagos Islands. I haven’t been to any of these places. But thanks to that magical machine – not one, come to think of it, but several: on my desk at work, in the study at home, in the pocket of my jeans even – I know they’re all just a moment away.
For that, I salute the ever-increasing richness of Street View, the offshoot of Google Maps that allows you to parachute Pegman – the little yellow icon in the corner of the map – into panoramic photos of the real world.
For many people, Street View, virtual reality, and whatever technology builds on or supplants them, will provide the impetus for adventure. No question about it. But is it too fanciful to suggest that it might also signal the start of a different trend: the ‘traveller’ who, for reasons ranging from lack of opportunity to outright apathy, explores the world through technology alone.