It's strange, but reading this thread I have the impression that people project their own life experiences on to punting which colours their view of it.
I'm very lucky, and I realise that more and more, and have become luckier, as I've grown older - though when I point this out to friends, they tell me you make your own luck. I love what I do for a living, and can't imagine at this point ever wanting to retire. I want to get to the end of every day feeling proud of the effort I put in that day to make a difference. For me punting is mostly a joy. But it's just part of a life that I enjoy living to the full. I suspect I enjoy punting so much because I enjoy life so much.
I posted in a similar vein about a short trip to London in September, and that appeared to annoy one or two people, so this post may evoke a similar reaction. In truth, like life, I think punting is what you make of it.