6.29.2005

Mark Twain on Travel

I haven't read any Mark Twain since The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 8th grade, but I liked this quote from The Innocents Abroad:

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
The Innocents Abroad

I got it from the Wandering Jew's blog. And I really do think that's true. For me, travel frees us from the confines of our everyday lives, and I think that kind of freedom may be necessary for "broad, wholesome, charitable view of men and things." In general, travel expands your mind and viewpoint by exposing you to difference. Different everything (as I think I mentioned before)--sights, sounds, smells, tastes, people, everything!

In addition to the problems of physically "vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime," I am also wary of the dangers of emotionally and/or spiritually "vegetating in one little corner." Like many students of history and fans of musty old archives, I sometimes lament how much things change, even in my own life. I have kept private journals since I was nine, and sometimes I read things I wrote when I was twelve or eighteen, and I wonder, "Why can't I be as passionate about that now?" And the answer is that I'm in a different little corner of the world, and of my life, than I was then. And, overall, I am very, very happy to be a different person than I was when I was twelve or eighteen. I was probably more passionate about various ideas at 12 or 18 than I am now, but I was also far more narrow-minded. And that's a change I'm definitely happy about.

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