“What are you reading?” I inquired.
My travel buddy looked up from his book. “A philosophy book. It’s called Letters from a Stoic.”
Interesting. I’d been expecting John Grisham or Dan Brown, not a collection of philosophical musings dating back almost 2,000 years.
The literature geek in me stirred from its slumber as I put down my embarrassing chick lit book and peered across at its antithesis.
“I’ve just read a really interesting chapter on travel, actually,” he continued. My eyes must have lit up because he saved his page and handed the book to me. “Feel free to have a read.”
Which is exactly what I did, before snapping a few pictures to pass it on to jetplanejenny readers!
Read on – and let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.
Excerpt from Seneca: Letters from a Stoic
Do you think you are the only person to have had this experience? Are you really surprised, as if it were something unprecedented, that so long a tour and such diversity of scene have not enabled you to throw off this melancholy and this feeling of depression? A change of character, not a change of air, is what you need. Though you cross the boundless ocean […] whatever your destination, you will be followed by your failings. Here is what Socrates said to someone making the same complaint:
“How can you wonder your travels do you no good, when you carry yourself around with you? You are saddled with the very thing that drove you away.”
How can novelty of surroundings abroad and becoming acquainted with foreign scenes or cities be of any help? All that dashing about turns out to be quite futile. And if you want to know why all this running away cannot help you, the answer is simply this: you are running away in your own company. You have to lay aside the load on your spirit. Until you do that, nowhere will satisfy you.
You rush hither and thither with the idea of dislodging a firmly seated weight, when the very dashing about just adds to the trouble it causes you – like the cargo in a ship, which does not weigh her down unduly so long as it does not shift, but if it rolls more to one side than the other it is liable to carry the side on which it settles down into the water. Whatever you do is bad for you, the very movement in itself being harmful to you, since you are in fact shaking up a sick man.
Once you have rid yourself of the affliction there, though, every change of scene will become a pleasure. You may be banished to the ends of the earth, and yet in whatever outlandish corner of the world you may find yourself stationed, you will find that place, whatever it may be like, a hospitable home. Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there. We ought not, therefore, to give over our hearts for good to any one part of the world. We should live with the conviction: “I wasn’t born for one particular corner: the whole world’s my home country”. If the truth of that were clear to you, you would not be surprised that the diversity of new surroundings for which, out of weariness of the old, you are constantly heading fails to do you any good. Whichever you first came to would have satisfied you if you had believed you were home in all. As it is, instead of travelling you are rambling and drifting, exchanging one place for another when the thing you are looking for, the good life, is available everywhere.
What do you think? Is travel simply an act of ‘exchanging one place for another’? Can travel change you as a person? Can being somewhere new help with your problems? Do you leave your problems at home or do they follow you on your travels? Can travel make you happy or does happiness have to come from within? Would you define travel as ‘running away’?
Do you agree that it’s possible to feel at home anywhere? Are some people more suited to travel than others? Have you given your heart to a particular town, city or country? What are you seeking through your travels?
Let’s discuss in the comments below!