Seneca on Travel

“Then from this dislike of others’ success and despair of their own, their minds become enraged against fortune, complain about the times, retreat into obscurity and brood over their own sufferings until they become sick and tired of themselves. For the human mind is naturally mobile and enjoys activity. Every chance of stimulation and distraction is welcome to it–even more welcome to all those inferior characters who actually enjoy being worn out by busy activity…

For some things delight our bodies even when they cause some pain like turning over to change a side that is not yet tired and repeatedly shifting to keep it cool…like an invalid could endure nothing for long but used his restlessness as a cure. Hence men travel far and wide, wandering along foreign shores and making trial by land and sea of their restlessness, which always hates what is around it. ‘Let’s now go to Campania.’ Then when they get bored with luxury–‘Let’s visit uncultivated areas; let’s explore the woodlands of Bruttium and Lucania.’ And yet amid the wilds some delight is missing by which their pampered eyes can find relif from the tedious squalor of these unsightly regions. ‘Let’s go to Tarentum with its celebrated harbor and mild winters, an area prosperous enough for a large population even in antiquity.’ ‘Lets now make our way to the city’–too long have their ears missed the din of applause: now they long to enjoy even the sight of human blood.

They make one journey after another and change spectacle for spectacle. As Lucretius says ‘Thus each man flees himself.’ But to what end if he does not escape himself? He pursues and dogs himself as his own most tedious companion And so we must realize that our difficulty is not the fault of the places but of ourselves. — Seneca (“On Tranquility of the Mind“)

Exit mobile version