Andrzej Stasiuk on the joys of visiting a place you know nothing about

“It is good to come to a country you know practically nothing about. Your thoughts grow still, useless. Everything must be rebuilt. In a country you know nothing about, there is no reference point. You struggle to associate colors, smells, dim memories. You live a little like a child, or an animal. Objects and events may bring things to mind, but in the end they remain no more than what they are in fact. They begin only when you experience them, vanish when others follow.”
–Andrzej Stasiuk, On the Road to Babadag: Travels in the Other Europe (2011)

Posted by | Comments (4)  | March 18, 2013
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

4 Responses to “Andrzej Stasiuk on the joys of visiting a place you know nothing about”

  1. DEK Says:

    And will you have learned no more of a place than what you remember of a dream you had as you passed through on a train, asleep?

  2. Sage Says:

    I can’t imagine going to a country I know nothing about–I always try to learn something, from multiple sources, before traveling.

  3. Roger Says:

    This is the classic preparation vs. spontaneity debate. I say, try to have both. Prepare but don’t over-prepare, and allow for spontaneity, but don’t be ignorant. The last thing we need is for American’s or any nationality of people to act ignorant in other lands. The spirit of this quote is probably more appreciated by the experienced traveler, who can have some fun with it. But, I have seen enough people who weren’t prepared for their trips that became disillusioned and ended their journey prematurely, and that is unfortunate, and a wasted opportunity.

  4. DEK Says:

    Since I have read the book I probably ought come to Stasiuk’s defense. He writes with a poetic haziness which may be an Eastern European literary tradition or may be the product of growing up under totalitarian watchfulness, or perhaps both, but he seems to know what he is doing as he travels, however much he might dismiss it by saying, “I thought of my Europe as a place where, no matter what the distance covered and despite the borders and changing languages, a person feels he is merely going, say, from Gorlice to Sanok.” And that he thought of every place outside of Eastern Europe as imaginary, as was in general Eastern Europe.

    He has read the guide book and knows where officials are not to be trusted: “Then we prepared ourselves for extortion, stuffing in various pockets bills of all the currencies we carried. A dollar here, two there, ten in another place in case a higher bribe was needed. Also Slovak crowns, forints, even Romanian lei, because who knew what these guys would want.”

    Enjoy poetry, but don’t take it at face value.