For me, travel is disruptive
and desolating. A little desolation, however, is good for the soul, whose
tendency is to sink into complacency. Daheim, empfindet man nicht so sehr die
Unheimlichkeit des Seins. Travel knocks me out of my natural orbit, out of the familiar with its gauzy filters, into the strangeness of things. Even an
overnighter can have this effect. And then time is wasted getting back on track.
I am not cut out to be a vagabond. I Kant hack it. I do it more from duty than
from inclination. But I'm less homebound than the Sage of Koenigsberg.
More on travel in the Travel category in which you will find Emersonian and Pascalian reasons against it.
These days I have money to travel, time, and opportunities. In close communion with my 'inner Kantian,' however, I resist the blandishments and with them the vexations of spatial translation. By my present count, there are three chief reasons to keep to my Southwestern Koenigsberg, the Emersonian, the Pascalian, and the Vallicellan. The first is that travel does not deliver what it promises; the second is that it delivers us into temptation and vexation; the third is that it knocks us out of our natural orbit, to return to which wastes time.
The first reason is from Ralph Waldo Emerson's wonderful essay, "Self-Reliance," wherein he writes, "Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places." (Selected Essays, ed. Ziff, p. 198) This notion of the indifference of places is one I believe Emerson borrowed from the Roman Stoic Seneca (4 B.C. - 65 A.D.), though I can't remember where Seneca says this. The idea is simple and sound.
Wherever we are, we see the world through the same pair of eyeballs, and filter its deliverances through the same set of conceptions, preconceptions, anxieties, aversions, and what-not. If I travel to Naples, thinking to get away from myself, what I find when I wake up there is "...the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from." (Ibid.) Shift your spatial horizon as you will, you may not effect any change in your mental horizon. If you can't find enlightenment in Buffalo, where the water is potable and mosquitoes are rare, what makes you think you will find it in Benares where mosquitoes are ubiquitous and the water will give you dysentery?
Forty years ago I had a conversation with a young Austrian at the train station in Salzburg, Austria. He told me he was headed for Istanbul "to make holiness." But could he not have made holiness in Salzburg? Could he not have found a Pauline 'closet' somewhere in that beautiful city of Mozart wherein to shut himself away from the world and pray to his Father in secret?
But to the young and romantic the lure of foreign destinations is well-nigh irresistible.
The second reason is from Blaise Pascal who sees "the sole cause of man's unhappiness" in the fact that "he does not know how to stay quietly in his room." (Pensees, trans. Krailsheimer, p. 67.) Sallying forth from his monastery, the monk exposes himself to every manner of distraction and vexation. The alluring world may even lure him to his destruction. Had Thomas Merton remained in his hermitage at Gethsemane, instead of flying off to a useless conference in Bangkok, he would not have met his early death by accidental electrocution.
The third reason is that vacations tend to require a recovery period for getting reestablished in our natural orbits. In the summer of 2000, two weeks in Poland and Germany cost me another two weeks of recovery time before I could get back into the philosophy writing groove. Is the time spent travelling wisely used? It is not clear to me. But then I may have been unduly influenced by Kant, who never strayed from Koenigsberg. Your mileage may vary.
Becoming increasingly in touch with his 'inner Kantian,' he travelled less and less as the years rolled on.He decided he had seen enough phenomena, and that seeing more would not bring him closer to any noumena.
It's October 11th today, Columbus Day. This is a month to be savored day by day, hour by hour. To aid in the savoring, here is today's Kerouac quotation, from "The Vanishing American Hobo" in Lonesome Traveler, p. 173 of the 1970 Black Cat edition. (Purchased my copy in a shop on Bourbon Street in New Orleans on 12 April 1973, while on the road, enroute to Boston from Los Angeles. From that point of the trip on I had two Kerouac books in my rucksack, the just mentioned and, you guessed it, On the Road.)
There is nothing nobler than to put up with a few incoveniences like snakes and dust for the sake of absolute freedom.
Dunmovin is a California ghost town, now little more than a wide spot in the road on U. S. 395, one of my favorite highways. I have driven past it many a time, but never stopped to explore, not that there is much there to explore. But I thought of it today, did a search and found an interesting post, dated 15 September 2008, The Ghost Town of Dunmovin, California.
After reading the post, I brought up the current page of the Harry Helms Blog and was both surprised and saddened to find that the relatively young Mr. Helms is losing his battle with cancer. Here is his farewell post. May we all accept our deaths with as much peace and equanimity.