Voyage

Hypermobility – Sick & Sad darker side of a Traveler


When people meet me, they ask me this redundant question about travel and most of them express their jealousness on hearing my hypermobility. Elite forms of movement, such as for business, holidays or diplomatic journeys, are largely shown in a positive light in contemporary societies. Although there is unevenness in the portrayal of corporeal mobilities with growing fear over epidemiological threats facilitated through global mobility, negative representations of flight from poverty and persecution and the problematizing of irregular migration, mobility for business and pleasure is typically glamorized and encouraged in more privileged societies. The glamorization of elite mobility is part of broader processes of global capitalist consumption within conditions of neoliberalism, wherein circulation and accumulation within networks are unevenly experienced and materialized. Social capital is increasingly based on one’s power to be mobile and cultivate global networks which are usually referred to as network capital.

In deeply embedded mechanisms of the social glamorization of mobility are uncovered, and juxtaposed with what we call a ‘darker side’ of hypermobility, including the physiological, psychological, emotional and social costs of mobility for individuals and societies. Mobility is omnipresent in our lives, there exists an ominous silence with regard to its darker side. The high social status associated with frequent corporeal mobility in some more privileged societies, specifically by air and road, is at least partly attributable to its glamorization in the media and other forms of public discourse.

I am a flourishing hypermobile type. My frequent travel, with more than 200,000 kilometres covered for my work and for holidays in 2018 alone, is an integral part of my identity and a source of great satisfaction. The study left me with mixed feelings, perhaps because I am in that lucky minority. Usually, hypermobility is glamourized, while in fact, it has serious negative physiological, psychological, emotional and social consequences.

Even though frequent flyers like me wanted to reduce the quantum of the travel it is more difficult enough to achieve. It cannot be claimed that it is unachievable, instead, it is quite difficult. Individuals tend to either ‘flourish’ or ‘flounder’ in careers that include frequent business travel. The ‘flourishing hypermobile’ views frequent business travel as an integral part of their happiness and identity, whereas the ‘floundering hypermobile’ experiences frequent business travel as a source of unhappiness that endangers their health and psycho-social wellbeing.

Aspects of mobility signifying network capital
  • Physical distance covered
  • Frequency of movement
  • Transport mode
  • Cost and comfort of mobility
  • Frequent flyer miles collected
  • Speed and power of transportation
  • Geographical distribution of movement
  • Iconic places visited
  • Places lived
  • Barriers overcome & off-the-beaten-track mobility
  • Mobility brand association
  • Novelty
  • Role model enforcement

Exclusively for individuals like me, loneliness and isolation are also common symptoms of frequent travel. For those leaving behind a family, close friends, pets, isolation is felt more keenly, along with acute feelings of guilt at leaving loved ones at home. The costs of hypermobility can be substantial, with significant consequences for those travelling, their families and their communities. Travellers are also at risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis and subtle discomforts such as dry eyes and dehydrated skin. Business travellers have fewer opportunities for physical exercise and worse eating habits than when at home.

Hypermobility has important implications for defining social space and impacting social and environmental sustainability, with these extending from local to global scales. Hypermobility engenders a rescaling of social interaction: it affects kinship, friendship and local community relationships, contributing to stretching out of relations, which is often experienced as a negative consequence. As network capital becomes an increasingly important social resource, it is therefore not only a form of capital from which some are socially excluded, but also a powerful determinant of how space and sociality are reconfigured.

Jetlag – This is the next important question people ask me about. When I fly east to west, I prepare my mind that I am travelling to the destination will definitely cause me jetlag and be prepared in the flight for this difference. The brain struggles to adjust to a new time zone, and it affects mood, judgement and the ability to concentrate. It can also raise the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Finally, to conclude, it is not so easy to travel. And that too with Agenda running back to back, never ever imagine that the traveller is enjoying his life. We don’t even have time for a good lunch or dinner.


Kokula Krishna Hari K an Indian born in Pondicherry, South India in 1980's is a pure veteran with acquired knowledge in Business Administration, Computer Research and Entrepreneurship. More information about KK at www.kokulakrishnaharik.in