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The makings of a traveller

The Unfamiliar
Editorial: I was reading George Santayana’s Philosophy of Travel the other day and it struck me that my definition of a traveller is too narrow. I tend to think of a traveller as a vacationer or at least someone who is passing through. Santayana, though, included migrants in his definition.

Migrants are the most radical form of traveller, he said. Almost 21% of Canada’s population is made up of migrants so this is a country of travellers although I never really thought about it that way before.  Santayana thought the merchant was the most legitimate traveller, perhaps because the merchant’s mission is more purposeful.

Explorers, he said, were “more dashing” than migrants because they travel chiefly to “sharpen the edge of life”. The explorer, however, may turn into a wanderer, “out on the loose, innocently idle, or driven by some morbid compulsion”. This sounds a little like me! His most “notorious” traveller was the tourist and he admitted that he was often one himself; he saw the wisdom in going frequently from the familiar to the unfamiliar.

Unfamiliar signsI recently stumbled upon Dervla Murphy’s autobiography Wheels within wheels: The makings of a traveller. In it she describes herself as someone who prefers to wander alone, taking each day as it comes. Not at all purposeful sounding but her wanderings were certainly exceptional for she biked from Ireland to India on her own in 1963. In fact, Murphy lived a very restricted life taking care of her invalid mother but whenever she got a break she would be on her bike riding the back roads.

Her book and other great works of travel literature are being kept in print by Eland Books. So easy to download onto your Kindle and so inspirational.

Sylvia Fanjoy

© Riding the buses 2013

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