Towards the end, Thomas discusses ‘the ethics of doom tourism’, prompted by the thought that many of the places we like to visit may cease to exist as climate change marches on; even ‘the act of visiting “at-risk” places’ like Venice or the Maldives ‘may hasten their demise’. The kinds of ethical problems Thomas discusses may, she concludes, ‘come to overshadow all other issues in the philosophy of travel’. On the whole, though, and sensibly, the author does not conclusively answer the questions she poses about the ethics of travel. This is not a proscriptive book but it is an exceptionally thoughtful one.
Emily Thomas has used her command of the philosophical canon to extend our understanding of an impulse that many of us share but few examine in such depth. The Meaning of Travel is a manifesto for the virtues that travel can bestow on the traveller — not just an increase in knowledge, but a deep humility at the scale and diversity of the world, and an enduring wonder that we live on such a planet.