First, there was:
“St. Augustine, when he speaks of the great advantages of traveling, says that the world is a great book, and none study this book so much as a traveler. They that never stir from their home read only one page of this book.”
There’s some contention that St. Augustine never said such a thing, but that doesn’t matter. Smart people took that quote and made it easier to read for those of us who don’t speak like Oscar Wilde. That’s when we got:
“The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page.”
I don’t know about this stirring thing.
Thank goodness someone didn’t let that revamp stand, and now we’ve got the version so many people love to say and stamp on wood pallets and quote haughtily in Instagram captions.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”
But actually not cool. That is such a pretentious set of words.
I believe in the power of travel for those who enjoy it. If someone asks me about travel, I’m ready to talk their ears off. For those of you who have already been the victims of my de-earing, I kind of apologize.
Let’s be honest, though. My ability to flash my passport at an immigration official does not make me better than anyone else.
People who don’t enjoy travel are not uncultured because of their decision to take a staycation instead of enclosing themselves in a tube that’s rocketed thousands of miles. My friends whose passports are too weak to allow them to travel freely are not “reading only a page.” Some people’s income is too low for them to even consider a frivolous trip anywhere. Just because some people don’t or can’t travel doesn’t make me the sage world traveler who has better stories or a fuller life.
So the world’s a book. Some of us are desperate to read it. Some people aren’t. That’s okay. People are allowed to enjoy different books.
I’ve traveled to 14 countries (I think). That’s a privilege I don’t take lightly. Thanks to those trips, various online forums, Facebook groups, and networking, I’ve been able to talk to people who are stamp collectors. They have dozens more passport stamps than I do and have been to more countries. Supposedly they’ve read more of the world’s book that has everyone so excited.
But allow me a hypothetical. If someone visits an all-inclusive resort in Tahiti and spends the entire time lounging on the beach and only interacting with resort staff, should they be regarded more highly than someone who took their kids to a museum in their hometown that week? Or someone who spent time on their art? Or someone who’s just struggling to make ends meet? Or someone who has been to Tahiti in their daydreams, and has read about the history of the place, but may never actually be able to go?
Travel is a trophy for a lot of people, especially on social media. Sometimes it is for me, too. My trip to Peru consisted mostly of delicious food and touristy stuff — not much culture, but still a great trip. That’s okay. Staying at an all-inclusive resort is okay.
(The world’s book is more a genre, and there are a lot of different types of books in it: backpacking, strict tourism, mileage runs, resorts, hostels, Michelin-starred restaurants, street food, yada yada yada. There’s a lot of sanctimoniousness within the travel community itself when it comes to which type of travel is best, but that’s an entirely different post. There are soapboxes involved. But yay literacy!)
Anyway. It’s important for us who enjoy travel to not get sanctimonious about our hobby. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” supposedly, but Mr. Twain could probably say the same of working in a soup kitchen, or volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, or talking to people in your community who live different lives than you do.
Just a thought.