FragLit

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Travel Fragments

Fall 2007 :: Archived Issue

2007 :: Issue 1/Fall :: Travel Fragments

Travel Quotes

Further and further into town. Buildings. Crowds. Rags. Dirt, laughter, torpor, movement. Calcutta is overwhelming: the elemental city, with no room left for masks. Only the naked truth of overpopulation, underemployment, hunger, disease, a mixture of great vitality and permanent exhaustion—but an exhaustion in which the vitality renews itself.… Before, when I was here first, I was too shocked; the trauma made me see the city as a big blur. Now I see detail, contrast, the infinite variety of light and shade. All the colors—though they are drab and obscure, they are colors. This is one of the greatest cities in the world.… It breathes, sprawls, broods, sweats, moves, lies down, and gets up again.Thomas Merton, The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (from November 12, 1968 entry)

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The more I travel, the more conscious I’ve become of the fact that I don’t fit easily anywhere. It is like being homesick for an imaginary place.Rane Arroyo, from BkMk Press interview (2003)

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I don’t tend to prepare for a new place by reading travel books. I want—but without the customary sense of suddenness—to be surprised. I want the experience to unfold as I move through it.… Travel is perhaps like art: it nourishes the parts of us we didn’t know were longing. What I experienced in Scandinavia is beyond saying; I wrap it close around me like a wool embroidered shawl.Deena Linett, from “Northbound” in the anthology An Inn Near Kyoto (1998)

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When I’m traveling alone and with no obligations—just anonymously moving without agenda and on my own through a city I’ve never been in before, there’s usually a moment when I move “inside” the place, which is like what I imagine walking inside a mirror might be like. I am no longer in the place, but of the place. This process of moving “inside” a place usually occurs concurrently with a moving “inside” myself as well, as if I am no longer powerless in a foreign place that is larger and more mysterious than my ability to contain it or understand it, but it is suddenly under my control—I am in it and of it and move through it at my own speed.Randy Roark, from “The Washington D.C. Notebook” (2004)

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26 January. It wasn’t a mirage. New York is here; everything is real. Truth bursts in the blue sky, in the soft damp air, more triumphant than the night’s unreliable charms.… I’m here, and New York will be mine.… I’m walking in streets not yet traveled by me, streets where my life has not yet been carved, streets without any scent of the past. No one here is concerned with my presence; I’m still a ghost, and I slip through the city without disturbing anything.Simone de Beauvoir, from America Day by Day (written in 1947)

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A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.Lao Tzu (c. 600 B.C.E.)

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The strange, the exhausting thing is that the nights are hotter than the days. For by day, if you have the sun, you have shade, which a breath of air can momentarily refresh. But after six at night, the wind drops; a dark, even heat sets in. Everything is thirsty. You dream of swimming, drinking. You tell yourself: I won’t be able to sleep tonight; and you go for a prowl. Even the sky is impure; without working up a storm, these are the heat blotches which remind you of the vast, scorched continent out there.Andre Gide, from Amyntas: North African Journals (written 1899-1904)

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True adventures start with desire, an inclination to enter the unknown. In hopes of finding what? More of yourself, or of the world? Yes.Kate Wheeler, from “Adventure; Choosing the Unmapped Route” (The New York Times, March 1, 1998)

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The loneliness today stretched out ahead of me towards the west.… I saw birds rising from an empty field, increasing ever more until the sky at last was filled with them, and I saw that they were coming from the womb of the earth, from very deep down, where gravity is. That’s where the potato mine is too. The road was so endless, I was overwhelmed by fright. For the past week the rain and misty greyness has made it impossible for me even to guess the position of the sun.… Above this town here sits the massive castle, enclosed by a wrought-iron fence. That’s the insane asylum. Today I often said ‘forest’ to myself. Truth itself wanders through the forests.Werner Herzog, from Of Walking in Ice (In 1974, Herzog walked from Munich to Paris.)

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What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country…we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. This is the most obvious benefit of travel. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being. We come across a cascade of light, and there is eternity. This is why we should not say that we travel for pleasure. There is no pleasure in travel, and I look upon it more as an occasion for spiritual testing.Albert Camus, from Notebooks 1935-1942

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January 5. Moscow is the most silent of great cities, and doubly so when there is snow. The principal instrument in the orchestra of the streets, the automobile horn, is rarely played here; there are few cars. Similarly, in comparison with other centers, there are very few newspapers, basically only one tabloid, the single evening paper that comes out around three every day. And finally the calls of the street vendors are also very subdued. The street trade is for the most part illegal and does not want to call attention to itself. So the vendors address the passers-by less with calls than with measured, if not whispered, words in which there is something of the pleading tone of beggars. Only one caste parades nosily through the streets here: the rag-and-bone men with their sacks on their backs; their melancholy cry traverses every Moscow street once or several times a week.Walter Benjamin, from Moscow Diary (written December 1926-January 1927)

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If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.Cesare Pavese (1908-1950)

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My mother had died, and in the emptiness that followed, all I wanted was to be far away from home. Travel has curative powers for me, and I turned to it as to a healing drug. I craved a place so distant and so difficult that it would take full concentration to survive the present moment, with nothing left for the future or the past. I chose Tibet. I wanted escape and epiphany; I got dust and distraction. In the end, they were almost the same, and I was grateful.Catherine Watson, from “Tibet: The Search for Shangri-La” in the anthology Tanzania on Tuesday (1997)

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…the straight marvel of the road on which the car rushes on like magic and no sense of speed at 60 miles an hour…Thomas Wolfe, from A Western Journal (written June 20-July 2, 1938)

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Every time I walk, every time I drive, every time I ride, I feel like I’m traveling. It doesn’t matter where I am or where I go, even if it’s just a mile from home. When I travel alone, I melt. My separate self becomes a river of perception.Olivia Dresher, from current journal-notebook (2007)

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Nepal. “To roam from place to place, challenge upon challenge—Why?” I asked suddenly into the air today. “It shatters you down until you are raw and empty,” came a voice back. “And in that terrifying emptiness there is a tiny something pure, and with it you create a Life.”Darin Elliott, from his manuscript “Fragments of the Whole: Tokens & Tales of a Journey” (1990-2006)



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