7.12.12 | I was researching travel history books on ABE.com earlier today, which prompted me to follow them on Twitter, which is where I saw their tweet about today being Henry David Thoreau’s birthday. I hadn’t contemplated Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862) in ages, so I scooted over to his Wikipedia’s entry for a refresher course. There I discovered the most fascinating thing about him. He took to travel writing in his later years. Here is a passage from the Wikipedia entry:
Later years: 1851–1862
In 1851, Thoreau became increasingly fascinated with natural history and travel/expedition narratives. He read avidly on botany and often wrote observations on this topic into his journal. He admired William Bartram, and Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle. …. He traveled to Quebec once, Cape Cod four times, and Maine three times; these landscapes inspired his “excursion” books, A Yankee in Canada, Cape Cod, and The Maine Woods, in which travel itineraries frame his thoughts about geography, history and philosophy. Other travels took him southwest to Philadelphia and New York City in 1854, and west across the Great Lakes region in 1861, visiting Niagara Falls, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Mackinac Island. Although provincial in his physical travels, he was extraordinarily well-read and vicariously a world traveler. [Emphasis added.]He obsessively devoured all the first-hand travel accounts available in his day, at a time when the last unmapped regions of the earth were being explored. He read Magellan and James Cook, the arctic explorers Franklin, Mackenzie and Parry, David Livingstone and Richard Francis Burton on Africa, Lewis and Clark; and hundreds of lesser-known works by explorers and literate travelers. Astonishing amounts of global reading fed his endless curiosity about the peoples, cultures, religions and natural history of the world, and left its traces as commentaries in his voluminous journals. He processed everything he read, in the local laboratory of his Concord experience. Among his famous aphorisms is his advice to “live at home like a traveler.”
The sentence I put in italics for emphasis was particularly relevant, as I’m writing an essay about this very thing, the traveler’s spirit, which cannot be measured by trips taken and countries visited. Here more of Thoreau’s thoughts on home and travel, from the Walden Project. This is fascinating in the context of neverending discussions on the subject of the “staycation.”
Fittingly I found a sweeps with a Massachusetts theme: A chance for two nights at the Nantucket Inn, and then some, on the MassVacation.com website. To enter, click HERE. Don’t dally, I believe this one ends soon.