Only that traveling is good which reveals to me the value of home and enables me to enjoy it better.
It takes a man of genius to travel in his own country, in his native village; to make any progress between his door and his gate.
When you are starting away, leaving your more familiar fields, for a little adventure like a walk, you look at every object with a traveler’s, or at least with historical, eyes; you pause on the first bridge, where an ordinary walk hardly commences, and begin to observe and moralize like a traveler. It is worth the while to see your native village thus sometimes, as if you were a traveler passing through it, commenting on your neighbors as strangers.
A man must generally get away some hundreds or thousands of miles from home before he can be said to begin his travels. Why not begin his travels at home? Would he have to go far or look very closely to discover novelties? The traveler who, in this sense, pursues his travels at home, has the advantage at any rate of a long residence in the country to make his observations correct and profitable. Now the American goes to England, while the Englishman comes to America, in order to describe the country.
There would be this advantage in traveling in your own country, even in your own neighborhood, that you would be so thoroughly prepared to understand what you saw you would make fewer traveler’s mistakes.
If a man is rich and strong anywhere, it must be on his native soil. Here I have been these forty years learning the language of these fields that I may the better express myself. If I should travel to the prairies, I should much less understand them, and my past life would serve me but ill to describe them. Many a weed here stands for more of life to me than the big trees of California would if I should go there. We need only travel enough to give our intellects an airing.
When it was proposed to me to go abroad, rub oft some rust, and better my condition in a worldly sense, I fear lest my life will lose some of its homeliness. If these fields and streams and woods, the phenomena of nature here, and the simple occupations of the inhabitants should cease to interest and inspire me, no culture or wealth would atone for the loss.
I cannot but regard it as a kindness in those who have the steering of me that, by the want of pecuniary wealth, I have been nailed dawn to this my native region so long and steadily, and made to study and love this spot of earth more and more. What would signify in comparison a thin and diffused love and knowledge of the whole earth instead, got by wandering? The traveler’s is but a barren and comfortless condition. Wealth will not buy a man a home in nature-house nor farm there. The man of business does not by his business earn a residence in nature, but is denaturalized rather.
I want nothing new, if I can have but a tithe of the old secured to me. I will spurn all wealth beside. Think of the consummate folly of attempting to go away from here! When the constant endeavor should be to get nearer and nearer here!
Roads are made for horses and men of business. I do not travel in them much comparatively, because I am not in a hurry to get to any tavern, or grocery, or livery stable, or depot to which they lead.