A Brilliant Look At The Philosophy Of Travel

Caution: If you haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep, consider perhaps taking a nap before venturing further. We’re about to go deep.

In today’s constantly modernizing world of travel it seems we find it far too easy to get wrapped up and carried away in the fleeting minutiae of the overall industry. Last-minute fares! Tour specials! Gap-year holidays!

In this fast-paced reality we live in it constantly seems that everyone is hoping to be among the first to take the next step; the first to utilize the newest app, the first to lock into the best fare, even the first to get on the plane.

When, however, was the last time you properly took a step backwards and questioned what you’re even doing in the first place? Why am I downloading apps to find when the next train arrives? Why am I searching for a low hotel fare? Why am I even getting on this plane in the first place?

Why, in fact, am I even traveling?

Seemingly, the foundation for the entire industry, the philosophy of travel, in my opinion, doesn’t get the attention it deserves in today’s modern travel literature or in the industry as a whole.

One of the greatest essays ever written on the subject, Pico Iyer’s “Why Do We Travel,” despite being penned 12 years ago, is still one of the best reads I know of in terms of questioning what is behind, as Robert Louis Stevenson states, “the great affair to move.”Now, however, I’m placing another piece of literature into this category: a recent article from the New York Times, which masterfully delves into not only the historical basis for the great human need to move, but also the degree to which modern tourism has deviated from these pure, original and unadulterated initial urges.

According to the author, Ilan Stavans, professor of Literature at Amherst College, “We have turned travel into something ordinary, deprived it of allegorical grandeur … whatever impels us to travel, it is no longer the oracle, the pilgrimage or the gods. It is the compulsion to be elsewhere, anywhere but here.”

Amongst a multitude of other well-articulated points, Stavans expresses the idea that modern tourists – and the industry as a whole – potentially lack the humility and willingness to lose ourselves, which serve as prerequisites for, as the author puts it, “genuine travel.”

A spectacularly researched and well-thought out piece, I highly encourage those with a passion for travel and exploration to grab a cup of coffee, sit in a comfortable chair, and take ten minutes of your life to reassess the motives behind our intrinsic need for the quest and the escape.