Book Review: Why Travel Matters


51Xh7kpNNhLWhy Travel Matters: A guide to the life-changing effects of travel, by Craig Storti, published by Nicholas Brealey, 2018.

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

Are you looking for a terrific graduation gift? Just published last week, this quick, thought-provoking read will encourage any beloved young adult in your life to challenge themselves to develop new perspectives and values by experiencing the world around them fully.

Why Travel Mattersis an in-depth exploration of how to ensure travel experiences transcend tourism and transform the soul. “Through the ages it has been observed that travel broadens your horizons, deepens your understanding and changes your perspective. How? What must be done when traveling to make sure these things actually happen?”

Nothing is comparable to the new life that a reflective person
experiences when he observes a new country. Though I am still always
myself, I believe I have changed to the very marrow of my bones.
—Goethe

The book is written in typical Craig Storti style: engaging prose, good humor, content based on sound concepts and theory, well explained with lots of stories and examples. I read it on one leg of my flight last week and have already purchased several copies for the graduates on my gift list.

Not a typical travel book, Storti talks to the reader about the consequences of the trip rather than the trip itself, the inner as well as the outer journey, using quotations, insights, reflections and commentary from travelers, travel writers, historians and literary masters including Mark Twain, DH Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, St. Augustine and Somerset Maugham. He reviews the history of travel, including the importance of the grand tour beginning in 16th century Europe.

He goes on to explain the rise of modern tourism in the 1840s, thanks to Thomas Cook injecting the four elements of speed, comfort, convenience and tour groups, scrubbing travel of experiences that might disturb or discomfort—and, thus, removing its transformative powers. For me, with a passion for travel, who has hired a tour guide but has yet to take a group tour, who lacks the patience to lead a group of tourists, and who values a liberal arts education heavily grounded in study abroad and cross-cultural competence, the message this book promotes is music to my ears.

They had learnt life in a different school from mine
and had come to different conclusions.
—Somerset Maugham

Storti defines tourism as escape, recreational travel during which tourists are served by locals. Tourism is relaxing; tourists see the sights. Travel, on the other hand, is arriving at a destination. Travel is educational, travelers meet with locals and are stimulated to understand.

Travelers don’t know where they’re going
and tourists don’t know where they’ve been.
—Paul Theroux

Storti weaves in recent discoveries in neuroscience and recounts powerful passages from some of the world’s greatest travel narratives to support his thesis, including the story from Saint-Exupery’s Wind, Sand and Stars of the first time the Moors realized the Sahara was a desert and so very dry compared to other parts of the world—after they’d travelled and seen their first waterfall (p. 35). The reader thus learns that impressions formed abroad change how we see home once we return. He presents and reframes basic intercultural concepts in the context of travel: “You don’t see what is in front of you; you see your brain’s perception of it” (p. 24), sharing with us how JG Farrell saw blood spatters on the pavement during his journey through India, when in reality the red he was seeing was betel juice (Indian Diary), or Storti’s own inability to identify what his eyes were seeing when he first glimpsed icebergs from the air.

Each act of seeing informs and enhances all subsequent acts;
the more we have seen, the more we are subsequently able to see.
Why Travel Matters, p. 32

In Chapter 4 Storti provides a table of cultural dimensions, writing that travel helps “you realize most people behave logically most of the time. You may not approve of their logic… but once you realize there are reasons behind their behavior you begin to accept that it makes sense.” He does occasionally get over-zealous, in my opinion, continuing on to optimistically tell readers, “There will never be people you cannot understand.”

Knowledge of ourselves—what we at Cultural Detective call “subjective culture,” meaning knowledge of ourselves as unique individuals influenced by multiple layers of culture—gives us choice over who and how we are in this world.

One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.
—Henry Miller

Storti concludes in Chapter 5 by providing a list of eleven best practices or tips on traveling for personal growth. These include:

  1. Travel alone.
  2. Stay out of touch/off the grid; you can’t have an experience and share it at the same time, attempts at the latter diminish the former.
  3. Collect sights not sites.
  4. Secure an introduction, a friend of a friend or colleague, to provide you a look inside the life of a local resident.
  5. Frequent places where you’ll find locals.
  6. Be a regular.
  7. Get inside someone’s home.
  8. Read about the country before and during your travel.
  9. Enjoy yourself.

Why Travel Matters includes three appendices: an interesting collection of rules for travel from other authors; a selection of quotes from people who are against travel, which feels a bit out of place or forced; and a wonderful list of the world’s great travel books—several of which I’m confident you’ll want to add to your reading list. Here’s to enjoying and benefitting from the journey!

There is all the difference in the world between behaving academically,
with the intellect, and behaving personally, intimately,
with the whole living self.
Proverbs are platitudes until you have experienced the truth of them.
—Aldous Huxley

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s