This is the season to travel, perhaps not so far this year, but still somewhere if you can afford it. Long ago Blaise Pascal wrote, “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” And yet most of us leave our room at this time of the year to travel hither and yon. But why? The current issue of Lapham’s Quarterly has devoted its current issue to the subject of travel and sometimes to this question.
The issue consists of a series of excerpts from contributors as varied as Herodotus, Basho, Melville, Dorothy Parker, etc. It is a little confusing to skip from one excerpt to another but enough are interesting to make it worthwhile and, even better, on most pages there is a painting, a map, a drawing, a box with historical facts, or a photograph.
In reading the issue, I made note of some of the quotations sprinkled throughout the text and, along with some of my own, I have selected a few to post.
What an odd thing tourism is. You fly off to a strange land, eager abandoning all the comforts of home, and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile attempt to recapture the comforts that you wouldn’t have lost if you hadn’t left home in the first place. Bill Bryson
The wise traveler travels only in imagination. W. Somerset Maugham
Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building here after seeing Italy. Francis Burney
The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases. We go on a journey chiefly to be free of all impediments and of all inconveniences—to leave ourselves behind, much more to get rid of others. William Hazlitt
Out of touch was where I wanted to be. The wish to disappear sends many travelers away. The greatest justification for travel is not self-improvement but rather performing a vanishing act, disappearing without a trace. Paul Theroux
One’s destination is never a place but a new ways of seeing things. Henry Miller
Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything. Charles Kuralt
More and more I like to take a train. I understand why the French prefer it to automobiling—it is so much more sociable, and of course these days so much more of an adventure, and the irregularity of its regularity is fascinating. Gertrude Stein
Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships, or trains. Alain de Botton
The farther one goes
The less one knows. Lao Tzu
And see all the sights from pole to pole,
And glance, and nod, and bustle by;
And never once possess our soul
Before we die. Matthew Arnold
Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will—whatever we may think. Lawrence Durrell
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. T. S. Eliot