notsokrates

a life of cheerful simplicity

The proper spirit of travel

Robert Byron writes in The Road to Oxiana (my reference is to the Pimlico edition of 2004, page 317) about the proper spirit with which to engage in the adventurous kind of travel:

One knows these modern travellers, these overgrown prefects and pseudo-scientific bores despatched by congregations of extinguished officials to see if sand-dunes sing and snow is cold. Unlimited money, every kind of official influence support them; they penetrate the furthest recesses of the globe; and beyond ascertaining that sand dunes do sing and snow is cold, what do they observe to enlarge the human mind?

Nothing.

Is it surprising? Their physical health is cared for; they go into training; they obey rules to keep them hard, and are laden with medicines to restore them as and when they break down. But no one thinks of their mental health… I wish I were rich enough to endow a prize for the sensible traveller; £10,000 for the first man to cover Marco Polo’s outward route reading three fresh books a week, and another £10,000 if he drinks a bottle of wine a day as well. That man might tell me something about the journey. He might or might not be naturally observant. But at least he would use what eyes he had, and would not think it necessary to dress up the result in thrills that never happened and science no deeper than its own jargon.

What I mean is, that if I had some more detective stories instead of Thucydides and some bottles of claret instead of tepid whisky, I should probably settle here for good.

Here, here. And nothing much has changed in the intervening 80 years.

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This entry was posted on 25 April, 2015 by in travel, wisdom and tagged , .
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