ethanessig Jan/ 18/ 2018 | 0

“Travel will give you knowledge of other countries, it will show you mountains whose outlines are quite new to you, stretches of unfamiliar plains, valleys watered by perennial streams; it will allow you to observe the unique features of this or that river, the way in which, for example, the Nile rises in summer flood, or the Tigris vanishes from sight and at the completion of it journey through hidden subterranean regions is restored to view with its volume undiminished, or the Meander, theme of every poets early training exercise, winds about, loop after loop, and again and again is carried close to its own bed and once more diverted into a different course before it can flow into its own stream. But travel won’t make a better or saner man of you.”
Seneca, Letters of a Stoic
I was enjoying Letters from a Stoic on the flight back from my most recent trip to Colorado. Ironically, Seneca was talking about travel in the section I reached. Seneca challenges our reason for traveling. People were complaining to him that their troubles followed them when they went on a journey. Seneca points out what we think would be obvious; our fear are not in a place, but a part of our own mind. They go where we go. This made me stop reading and think.
Do I travel to escape?
Yes I do. Many times I hit the road or jump on a plane, I am thinking “So glad I can get away from that.”
It could be work, relationships, or just feeling in a funk. We all go through that, and often look to travel as a solution. How many of you actually forget your worries while traveling? I know I don’t. I am certainly distracted at times. Momentarily forgetting what makes my mind race. Actually in the moment, enjoying where I am.
It is fine that we let our mind go a bit. It is only natural. So, traveling isn’t the sustainable solution to our everyday problems. Why is it still critical?
Is travel only escape or a tool?
When we fly away, often, our problems are literally behind us. The problems that are on the surface.
Seneca’s point is deeper than “travel won’t fix a problem.” There is no denying leaving a specific location is a temporary runaway, but that action does not fix how address problems in our lives in general. If I am bad in relationships, I will be bad in relationships in Kansas City or Denver. Running to Alaska will not cure me of my anxiety. This is Seneca’s point.
Travel can certainly be a tool to help us fix our problems. Getting high into the mountains without your phone may be exactly what you need for reflection, and eventual clarity. Simply getting on a train and sitting by yourself can get you on the right track.
We all have problems. We all look to escape in a variety of ways. Traveling can seem like a glamorous way to deal with our problems. An easy way to escape. Use travel as a tool for perspective and reflection. Take what you get from that and change the problems.
We can thank Seneca for the wisdom.

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