Travel is about learning how to see in a new way

“In some ways, I think travel is about learning how to see, learning how to pay attention. It’s an alarm clock in some ways, and it’s a jumpstart to putting our senses on the setting where they’re universally receptive. I think theoretically we could do that at our homes, and yet somehow, surrounded by familiarity and the routine we know too well, our eyes tend to close and we don’t notice the things that are so wondrous for a visitor. But as soon as we physically start moving we awaken to the beauties around us.”
–Pico Iyer, from “A New Kind of Travel for a New Kind of World”, a speech given at the Key West Literary Seminar, January 5, 2006

Posted by | Comments (5)  | April 24, 2006
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

5 Responses to “Travel is about learning how to see in a new way”

  1. Zoe Says:

    Iyer’s completely right about how traveling opens our eyes. But how quickly our eyes seem to shut when we come back home. Who hasn’t experienced the post-travel blues, when all the “on the road” experience and thrill seems to get lost in doldrums of “real life”? Any advice on how to keep our traveling-eyes open?

  2. Luke Hogan Says:

    This is strange. No more than 20 minutes ago I was sitting on the East River in Brooklyn gazing at the Manhattan skyline and thinking that, as spectacular as it was, I just couldn’t see it in the way a person would who was visiting from somewhere in Asia or Europe.

    All the traffic and pollution and the heat and difficulties of New York I find irritating, yet in Bangkok I find those same inconveniences exhilarating. I’m sure a visitor from Bangkok would feel the opposite.

    In response to Zoe, maybe the best way to keep our traveling eyes open is to do so through the experiences of others: reading what visitors have written about our homes; talking to travelers; simply imagining what the place must seem like to someone from a far off land. Of course, the latter you can’t easily do without having traveled to those far off lands yourself!

  3. AB Says:

    Well I suppose Iyer has made an interesting personal observation as a writer that many travelers would agree to, but as a poet, if I didn’t see thing differently I would have nothing interesting to say. Why just last week I made a cosmic trip through the universe at a quilt show (poets don’t make enough money to travel all the time).

    On the other hand, perhaps “as soon as we physically start moving we awaken to the beauties around us” is an explanation of why I get my best ideas while riding a bicycle, perhaps it is not travel at all, only the liberation of movement for which we take personal responsibility. In other words it may not be what we see but the mind that frames it. Travel, a short cut to emotional and spiritual enhancement, I guess. Self-help authors take note.

  4. Rolf Says:

    I’d agree that maintaining that sense of awareness and receptiveness can be hard once you get home. My best advice for embracing the moment at home is to break your routines and habits. Take a new way home from work, seek out new neighborhoods, eat in new restaurants, make new friends, etc.

  5. Andrea Anko Says:

    I leave for my next vagabonding adventure in one month. I made a conscious decision that my trip begins NOW a few days ago. With that intention comes the heightend awareness. I begin to sense the almost magical lying just below the surface of my life here at home. I throw myself into my friendships and enjoy the richness, savor each friend, knowing I’ll be leaving soon. I paticipate in the music I love, going out (*not* staying in!) and having those jigs and reels become the soundtrack to my life. I approach life and situations as if I was already travelling–being brave. Sitting on a bench on busy 4th Street and writing in my journal. Striking up new friendships with strangers…

    Hopefully, I’ll be able to have this attitude when I return!