Seeking writings against travel
May 10, 2014 6:23 AM   Subscribe

Could you point me to writings from people who either believed travel was a waste of time or just didn't like it and preferred to stay put?
posted by miaow to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
At one point in Walden, Thoreau advises people to become experts of "home topography", or something to that effect. He thought that people should enjoy where they were instead of looking elsewhere.
posted by Hermes32 at 6:39 AM on May 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm having trouble finding a quote, but John Darnielle's "GOing to . . . " series is about a couple who moves all around in hopes of changing their circumstances and had their problems follow them instead.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:35 AM on May 10, 2014

The Roman poet Sulpicia wrote about not wanting to go on a trip in her poems 2&3.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:47 AM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

In his essay Self-Reliance, Emerson writes:
The soul is no traveler; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still...
... He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins.
Traveling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.
posted by misteraitch at 8:07 AM on May 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

Elizabeth Bishop's Questions of Travel expresses ambivalence, though perhaps comes down on the side of travel in the end.

An excerpt:

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?

It's my favorite poem. I love it so much.

posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:24 AM on May 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't know on the "waste of time" factor, but on the subject of escaping your troubles by traveling not always working, there's the time honored and previously discussed concept on Ask Metafilter of "Wherever you go, there you are."
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:00 AM on May 10, 2014

Fernando Pessoa: "travel nauseates me"
posted by canoehead at 9:15 AM on May 10, 2014

It's fiction, but Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist is also hilarious.
posted by carmicha at 9:22 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe not the type of writing that you're looking for, but Toot and Puddle has Toot leave for a 'round the world trip, while Puddle stays back home. The lesson is that they both had adventures and are glad to be back together again.
posted by Liesl at 9:33 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow thanks thanks, great answers rolling in. Just a note to say picture books are VERY welcome :)
posted by miaow at 9:38 AM on May 10, 2014

I don't know that he ever wrote much about it, but Immanuel Kant never traveleled more than 70 miles from the city he was born in (Königsberg), and was very content to rarely leave town.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:52 AM on May 10, 2014

PhoBWanKenobi may have been thinking of The Mess Inside which is not so much about travel being a waste of time so much as admitting that it can't fix problems.
posted by Candleman at 9:53 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wendell Berry wrote a nice but typically somewhat prickly little poem called "You stay home too," which includes the lines
I am at home. Don't come with me.
You stay home too.
posted by jamjam at 9:59 AM on May 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

In Mike Feder's collection of essays "New York Son" he has a great piece on how he hates travel but gave into his wife's wish to take a vacation to the Caribbean -- describing the obscenity and misery of being served by "natives" -- something that's supposed to make you feel good, but that essentially sucks on so many levels.
posted by DMelanogaster at 10:15 AM on May 10, 2014

DMelanogaster made me think of Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place that contains a withering depiction of tourists in Antigua.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 10:25 AM on May 10, 2014

just didn't like it and preferred to stay put

I'd say this particular ethos permeates the Hobbits' overall POV in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

“We are plain quiet folk, and I have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, and uncomfortable things.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:27 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Has Mrs. Mortimer been recommended to you yet? The Clumsiest People in Europe: Or, Mrs. Mortimer's Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World compiled by Todd Pruzan from the writings of the estimable Mrs. Mortimer?

It pretty well puts one off any place.
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:49 AM on May 10, 2014

The heavy is the root of the light.
The still is the master of unrest.

Realizing this, the successful person is poised and centered
in the midst of all activities; although surrounded by opulence,
he is not swayed.

Why should the lord of the country flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
To be restless is to lose one's self-mastery.

-Tao Te Ching,
26th Verse,

posted by IfIShouldEverComeBack at 12:02 PM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

PhoBWanKenobi may have been thinking of The Mess Inside yt which is not so much about travel being a waste of time so much as admitting that it can't fix problems.

No, I was thinking of the "Going To . . . " series. Here's a bit from the FAQ on
Q: What's the deal with the song series?
A: -- Going to ...
Generally, songs about needing to get out of the place you're in and/or thinking your life will magically improve by moving somewhere else.
As well as this description: "the Going to ... series describe the feeling of trying to improve your life by traveling to somewhere else, often only finding the same thing there that you had fled."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:09 PM on May 10, 2014

Seneca pointed out that travel can't save you from yourself; you bring yourself along.
posted by makeitso at 9:16 PM on May 10, 2014

"Against the Grain" (known in French as "À Rebours") by Joris-Karl Huysmans fits the bill.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:58 PM on May 10, 2014

David Foster Wallace certainly didn't enjoy the cruise he took in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:56 PM on May 10, 2014

A Book

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

- Emily Dickinson
posted by Pigpen at 11:40 PM on May 10, 2014

I remember there are section of Timeless Simplicity by John Lane that fits the mindset you are talking about in a non-negative way but rather from a simplicity point of view.
posted by Megami at 12:59 AM on May 11, 2014

there's the song "Cathedrals" by Jump Little Children:

In the cathedrals of New York and Rome
There is a feeling that you should just go home
And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is

posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:25 AM on May 11, 2014

I am quite late, and hope you see this! Check out David Foster Wallace's essay Consider the Lobster!

"As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing."
posted by maya at 6:10 AM on July 1, 2014

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