Paul Theroux on how travel can come to resemble home

“When a person says, in a foreign place, “I feel right at home here,” he is making a statement about the nature of travel, not in the texture of the place he’s in. …I don’t belittle this sort of travel, which I regard as Traveling As A Version Of Being At Home; but it is wrong to mistake it as the sort of travel that allows a person to make discoveries. Many people travel in order to feel at home, or to have an idealized experience of home: Spain is Home-plus-Sunshine; India is Home-plus-Servants; Africa is Home-plus-Elephants-and-Lions; Ecuador is Home-plus-Volcanoes. It is not possible for people to travel in large numbers and have it any other way. In order to process and package travelers in great numbers, a system has to be arrived at. This system, in an orderly way, defeats the traditional methods of travel and has made true travel almost obsolete. In order for large numbers of Americans to visit Bangkok, Bangkok must become somewhat like America. The change in China, since the arrival of foreign travelers, has been enormous; and the result has been some very un-Chinese-looking hotels, food, buses, and so forth. It seemed to me in China that these holiday-makers would, in the end, bring about a different sort of cultural revolution.”
–Paul Theroux, Sunrise with Seamonsters (1984)

Posted by | Comments (4)  | December 19, 2011
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

4 Responses to “Paul Theroux on how travel can come to resemble home”

  1. Davis Says:

    There are many places whose citizens might benefit if they became more like the West, though we travelers, deprived of the unfamiliar and exotic, will find ourselves the poorer for it. We who travel to experience the truly foreign thus have a conflict of interest with our hosts, even as our visit ostensibly enriches them.

  2. James Says:

    Well, Many people travel in different country to visit the beautiful places around the world. They just want to explore and see unfamiliar places..Travelers have a respect in different country they visit..

  3. Christie Says:

    I think he’s referring to how we go to great lengths to leave our homes just to try to recreate a sense of one in the new place. It depends how we define the word “home”. In this instance we cannot consider it the place in which we were born. So is it where our family lives? Where we own property? Or where we feel comfortable? The English language has interesting phrases revolving this word that refuses to have a limit, “home away from home”, and conversely, a “homebody”, someone who prefers not to travel. It’s interesting to consider this against Theroux’s words because he implies that those who are not “homebodies” still seek the environment of that special place we rest our head even when we are compelled to leave it.

  4. Ika Says:

    its very difficult to define home, like what theorux referred to… when we cant find the suitable meaning of home, we’ll misunderstood the definition of it as well. so, what is home?