Henry David Thoreau understood something that many modern-day nomads would do well to recognize: travel is a matter of perspective, not location.
In fact, Thoreau traveled far and wide for his day and age, vagabonding to Cape Cod and the vast wilderness of the Maine Woods. However, the great prophet of enlightened self-reliance claimed to have done most of his traveling in his own hometown.
Thoreau understood something that many modern-day nomads would do well to recognize: travel is a matter of perspective, not location. With curiosity, an open mind, and a broad horizon of free time, it’s possible to travel in your own backyard.
Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet, and philosopher. A leading transcendentalist, he is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings.
Below are some of Thoreau’s thoughts on travel and being present in time. We hope you’ll enjoy this selection just as much as we enjoyed compiling it for you.
With curiosity, an open mind and a broad horizon of free time, it’s possible to travel in your own backyard.
Great Lessons From Henry David Thoreau About Travel
You Don’t Need Money to Travel
One [of my friend] says to me, “I wonder that you do not lay up money [but yet] you love to travel; you might take the cars and go to Fitchburg today and see the country.”
But I am wiser than that. I have learned that the swiftest traveler is he that goes afoot. I say to my friend, suppose we try who will get there first. The distance is 30 miles; the fare is 90 cents. That is almost a day’s wages.
Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night; I have traveled at that rate by the week together. You will in the meanwhile have earned your fare, and arrive there some time tomorrow, or possibly this evening if you are lucky enough to get a job in season.
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I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary – Henry David Thoreau.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
On Taking Long Walks in Nature
It is true we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the work is but retracing our steps.
We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return—prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms.
If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.
I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend 4 hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements – Henry Dave Thoreau.
I, who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day without acquiring some rust, and when sometimes I have stolen forth for a walk at the eleventh hour of four o’clock in the afternoon, too late to redeem the day, when the shades of night were already beginning to be mingled with the daylight, have felt as if I had committed some sin to be atoned for,—I confess that I am astonished at the power of endurance, to say nothing of the moral insensibility, of my neighbors who confine themselves to shops and offices the whole day for weeks and months, ay, and years almost together.
The Joy of Nothingness – Great Lessons From Henry David Thoreau About Travel
Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a very, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiselessly through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveler’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time.
I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.
I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. For the most part, I minded not how the hours went. The day advanced as if to light some work of mine; it was morning, and lo, now it is evening, and nothing memorable is accomplished.