According to the Latin proverb, “Travelers may change their climate but never their souls.” While it may be admitted that such a truism is essentially true, there also can be little doubt that travelers may at least change their thinking. By virtue of seeing the world—the different sights, sounds, textures, hues, and passions of cultures different than their own—affords them with a unique perspective that militates against prejudice, parochialism, and pettiness. As Mark Twain said, travel somehow “broadens the mind and softens the heart.” More often than not, travel serves to sunder our uninformed native preconceptions and to establish more mature perspectives.
For that reason, travel has always been a component part of a well rounded education. The banal prejudice and narrow presumption that inevitably accompany an unexposed, inexperienced, and undiscerning existence can often be ameliorated only by the disclosure of the habits, lifestyles, rituals, celebrations, and aspirations of the peoples beyond the confines of our limited parochialism. The great Dutch patriot Groen van Prinsterer aptly commented to his students, “See the world and you’ll see it altogether differently.”
As a result, in times past, travel was seen as far more significant than just fun and games. It was for more than mere rest and relaxation. It was intended to be more than simply a vacation or a getaway. Instead, it was a vital aspect of the refined instruction in art, music, literature, architecture, politics, business, science, and divinity. It was, according to Benjamin Franklin, “the laboratory where theory meets practice, where notion encounters application.”
Travel has thus enlightened lives and perspectives throughout history. Some of the most famous books, some of the most influential perspectives, and some of the most remarkable social transformations have had their genesis in some great quest or expedition or journey or voyage—from Agamemnon in Troy and Caesar in Gaul to Marco Polo in China and Richard the Lionhearted in Outremer, from Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and Cotton Mather in Massachusetts Bay to Charles Lindbergh in the Spirit of St. Louis and John Glenn in the Shuttle Enterprise. Just visiting has left an indelible mark upon the human experience.
As the great American poet Robert Frost put it, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."