A few years ago, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend decided to take a month or two out to take a trip to another continent and hike around it. I grumbled a bit, but found it hard to entirely begrudge them the thumping, weather-worsening carbon emissions to get there and back.
It did sound magical, the sort of thing I was utterly jealous about them doing, although secretly glad that I wasn’t the one doing it; and the idea seemed to be that this was going to be their big studenty gap-yar outing, before the world of work closed over their heads utterly. So I kept my head down and my mouth shut. (Of course, like any “once in a lifetime” trip, this one in no way put a lid on their adventures, and now they fly around as much as always; more on that later. But that’s not the point I want to make.)
What I’ve found since is that other people make the same trip; that same “once in a lifetime” trip; but they get sponsored to do it.
Once upon a time, you had to pledge to do something that was on balance fairly uncomfortable in order to collect sponsorship: clean people’s cars; walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats; sit in a bath of cold baked beans. That sort of jape. Even the growing of a moustache is sponsorship-worthy, if you can’t grow one, don’t suit one or can’t stand one. But après cela, le déluge! Maybe now I can ask for free chocolate eggs for life, and simultaneously collect donations for each one I eat. Or maybe people will give money to my favourite charity on my behalf, if I myself simply win the lottery.
The whole premise just makes me boggle. When did we start paying people to indulge their guilty pleasures? Surely the most ethical course, if you want to continue to do your bit for the rest of the human race, is to get sponsored for something that lets you stay as close to your home as possible; after all, that’s where charity begins, isn’t it? And it doesn’t always have to involve a bath filled with baked beans. Or even a déluge of them.