The Tao of Travel

September 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

“As a child, yearning to leave home and go far away, the image in my mind was of flight… The word “travel” did not occur to me, nor did the word “transformation,” which was my unspoken but enduring wish.  I wanted to find myself in a distant place, and new things to care about.  The importance of elsewhere was something I took on faith.  Elsewhere was the place I wanted to be.” (vii.)


I’ve been reading too many good books lately to give them all reviews without turning this blog-site into an online library catalog, but this read definitely deserves its spot on this travel-inspired blog: The Tao of Travel

The author, Paul Theroux, is a lifelong traveler and has written some other notable books (such as Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and Dark Star Safari).  The Tao of Travel is a compilation of his favorite snippets of travel writing; some passages from his own novels, but mostly quotes and passages from others (which range from Anton Checkov to Vladimir Nabakov and from Freya Stark to Evelyn Waugh).  With names such as “It Is Solved by Walking”, “Everything is Edible Somewhere” and “Writers and the Places They Never Visited”, each chapter has a general theme that categorizes the lectures and authors of the particular section.  Inbetween the chapters are little inserts of “travel wisdom” from a particular traveler.


All in all, it is a delight to read for any real traveler.  This isn’t a guide book, nor is it a how-to (although, I suppose that it kind of is, if you have never really traveled before), but rather, it is a collection of thoughts that inspire the lust to move and to see the world.  This isn’t about tourism and spending a weekend away; this is about the mentality of a traveler and the composition of his soul.


I love quotes, and this book had a plethora of quotations to keep me grinning and whipping out the highlighter.  My very favorites include:

“A painful part of travel, the most emotional for me in many respects, is the sight of people leading ordinary lives, especially people at work or with their families; or ones in uniform, or laden with equipment, or shopping for food, or paying bills.” (2)

“It might be said that a great unstated reason for travel is to find places that exemplify where one has been happiest.  Looking for idealized versions of home- indeed, looking for the perfect memory.” (3)

“It is a curious emotion, this certain homesickness… we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange.  As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” -Carson McCullers

“Nothing is more suitable to a significant departure than bad weather.” (19)

“Traveling, one accepts everything; indignation stays at home.  One looks, one listens, one is roused to enthusiasm by the most dreadful things because they are new.  Good travelers are heartless” -Elias Canetti

“Exploration is the physical expression of the Intellectual Passion.”  -Apsley Cherry-Garrard

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel’s sake.  The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life a little more nearly, to get off this feather-bed of civilization, and to find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.”  -Robert Louis Stevenson

“I personally would rather do the existentially essential things in life on foot.  If you live in England and your girlfriend is in Sicily, and it is clear you want to marry her, then you should walk to Sicily to propose.  For these things travel by car or aeroplane is not the right thing.” -Werner Herzog

“One does not travel, any more than ones falls in love, to collect material.  It is simple part of one’s life.” -Evelyn Waugh

“Are there truly happy places?  I tend to think that happiness is a particular time in a particular place, an epiphany that remains a consolation and a regret… happiness is usually retrospective.” (266-67)

And the best part about this book is that it referred to so many other pieces of writing and so many other authors, that my travel literature bookshelf is going to expand 12349841x in the next few months.  Looking forward to it!

Tao of Travel


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