Sunday, January 30, 2011


"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page." -- St. Augustine.


Dave said...

I know this sounds glib, but the reason I don't travel much is that I'd rather read Plato than visit the Parthenon, or read Martin Luther King Jr.'s writings than visit Birmingham, Alabama. (Ok, I don't really read Plato, but I do read King.)

That said, I'm open to rethinking my POV. What are the "pages" that I'm missing by not traveling to these places? For instance, I've been to Wall Street and the NYSE several times. I've learned much more about reading Michael Lewis's The Big Short or Andrew Sorkin's Too Big to Fail than I have from taking the tour through the stock market. I suppose there is a sentimental and emotional experience to visiting, say, the Lincoln Memorial or Washington Monument that you could never truly experience by reading a book, or watching a travel show. But is there more to traveling that I'm not seeing?

Angela said...

@Dave: it isn't just a matter of learning the history of a place (which I admit you can do better through study), it's everything else (which can vary from place to place) about the travel that makes it an interactive experience (as opposed to reading about travel, which is more reactive). Some examples:

The food -- Food is a huge part of culture, and you can't really get a feel for the food just by reading about it. Reading about Italy and Spain isn't the same as going there and eating the food and seeing how people there interact with their food.

The people -- Similarly, the people at a place (not important figures, just the everyday people) aren't something you can experience just by reading about it. Travel companions are also a big part of the experience for me. My memories of places are completely intertwined with the people I went with, the things we did together, and the people we met there. Kenya, for example, was an amazing trip with two good friends, and we met all kinds of people (kids who had never seen an Asian person before, villagers, tour guides, etc.)

The place itself -- No matter how much you read or look at pictures, you still can't get a full sense of how that place would strike you; you only get a sense of how that place struck the writer or photographer. Auschwitz is a terrible place, historically, but when I went there, what really struck me was that it's in a really beautiful bit of idyllic countryside, and what has stuck with me since then is the contrast between the place and what happened there.

I love reading, and I read a ton, but the reason I travel is not to learn the history of a place, it is to experience the place itself.

Ping said...

ANGELA! It's been ages since you've heard from me I know. Jonathan from New York. I lost your e-mail address and have wanted to talk to you about Switzerland because I remember you went there for work, and I'm thinking of doing the same when I finish my doctorate. I was friends with Nat, who lived in Brooklyn with a friend of yours at the time...gosh I wonder if you even remember me. OH! I know how you'll remember we went to a lali puna concert together in manhattan and then to welcome to the johnson's and some other place before jumping in a cab. Can you please email me at I have sooooooo many questions for you. Welcome back to the States, let's catch up!