Wednesday words: from my sketchbook 

Because sometimes my sketchbook is the best place for me to pour it all out into and reflect on later…


  

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Read this: The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel by Dan Kieran

The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel
by Dan Kieran

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“The word TRAVEL itself comes from the French word for work, TRAVAILLE, which in turn originates from a Latin word TREPALIUM – a three-pronged instrument of torture. As I said a moment ago, travel is SUPPOSED to be difficult. We’re SUPPOSED to suffer, feel uncomfortable and put ourselves in danger if what travel is what we are REALLY looking for.”

 

I picked this one up on a whim in New York while I was trawling through The Strand Book Store; turns out it was a good decision.

Dan Kieran writes all about slow travel which is a completely foreign concept to many of us now. He writes about his philosophy on travel, that it shouldn’t be used as simply a means of ticking off the box on a list of tourist destinations, but more as a “therapeutic journey” of your own, giving yourself time to think and slow down and take it all in, for better or worse. We come to discover that Dan, originally afraid of flying, started to travel in other ways instead. What conspired was a 20 year love affair for travelling slowly (not always easily or comfortably, it must be said), and his discoveries, both geographically and internally, on the way.

Considering the fast paced world we live in now, and the need for everyone to have everything immediately, this is a really beautiful read which makes you think about why you travel to begin with, and what you originally wanted to get out of it (hint: it’s not running through airport terminals like a maniac). Everyone who wants to travel and not just vacation should add this to their reading list, and you can grab a copy here!

Some of my favourite passages from the book…

“In my experience, most travel guides work in exactly the same way. They concentrate on short cuts that allow you to experience something foreign, but without any real immersion in the places you go.”

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“The idea of human beings struggling to achieve in the real world the perfect image they have of their own lives is something we see all around us. For one thing, it explains why we seem so content to live on the high-velocity conveyor belt of ‘tomorrow’, because it presupposes happiness in the future as a reward for suffering today. We’ll get what we want tomorrow just as long as we get our heads down and do something solid and organised right now – whether it’s taking years to get an education so we can have a career, getting a mortgage to buy a house, saving for a family, saving for a pension, all until we retire and finally die, at which point we might be embraced by a concept of religious eternity. We’re all planning for tomorrow at the expense of today, because that stops us living in the moment and having to accept the imperfect nature of things as they are. Nothing exemplifies this approach more than the carrot of the annual holiday that goes with the stick of work.”

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“It suggests that when travel takes us out of a predictable routine we do become more aware, because our conscious mind has been activated to deal with the new things we’re experiencing…  This could also explain why people seem to ‘find themselves’ when they are travelling, because they are more conscious of the experience of being alive when they are journeying in new and exciting ways. Being in alien places and cultures will inevitably result in an increased connection with yourself, because it’s in these new situations that your consciousness wakes up. You’ve turned off the unconscious autopilot that runs your normal life and started to take conscious control.”

My favorite book: The University of Hard Knocks by Ralph Parlette

The University of Hard Knocks
by Ralph Parlette

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I found this book years ago on the shelves of the Grub Street Bookshop on Brunswick Street. To this day, I cannot tell you how I came to own it. I don’t know what drew me to it – it wasn’t on a shelf at eye level, I had to crouch down to find it. It was tattered and torn and faded and old. It had no blurb to pique my interest, nor pictures. But as soon as I saw it’s broken spine and gently pulled it from the shelf, I knew it was mine. Is that weird, to feel a connection to a book? Probably. But I am a bit weird, so I’ll own it.

I took it to the counter and paid $5.00 for it. How could I have known then that $5.00 note would change my life, would change my soul, irrevocable and irreversibly? How could I make such a huge investment in myself and my life for only $5.00? Is that fate? Do you believe in fate? Do I?

It took me all of about 2 days to read it cover to cover. I was completely transfixed. This was the book I needed. The universe knew I needed it.

This first page, these first few lines, had me hook, line and sinker. Not long after reading and re-reading and re-re-reading the book, I ended up getting that line tattooed on my arm: “Every bump is a lesson.”

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Basically, this book came to be from Ralph Parlette’s lecture “The University of Hard Knocks.” This is, as far as I’m concerned, the ultimate users guide for life. There’s no other way to describe this book, and it’s almost impossible to summarise or review. Instead, let me show you some of my favourite quotes from this book (it’s damn near impossible to select a few, the entire book is one perfect quote) that’ll open your eyes, heart and soul, and teach you a few things about really living your life…

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I used to say, “Nobody uses me right. Nobody gives me a chance.” But if chances had been snakes, I would have been bitten a hundred times a day. We need oculists, not opportunities.

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As we get bumped and battered on life’s pathway, we discover we get two kinds of bumps—bumps that we need and bumps that we do not need. Bumps that we bump into and bumps that bump into us. We discover, in other words, that The University of Hard Knocks has two colleges—The College of Needless Knocks and The College of Needful Knocks. We attend both colleges.

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“Ralph Parlette,” I said to myself, “when are you going to learn to see as well as that blind man? He learns his lesson with one bump, and you have to go bumping into the same things day after day and wonder why you have so much ‘bad luck’!”

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All over America are fathers and mothers who have struggled and have become strong men and women thru their struggles, who are saying, “Our children shall have better chances than we had. We are living for our children. We are going to give them the best education our money can buy.” Then, forgetful of how they became strong, they plan to take away from their children their birthright—their opportunity to become strong and “prepared”—through struggle and service and overcoming.

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Trust me, if you read not a single thing more for the rest of your life, you do need to read this book. It should be compulsory reading for every single human being. If you can’t find a magic copy like I did, you can buy a newer one here, or alternatively thank the good people at Gutenberg.org for recognising how completely important this text is and providing a free copy you can read online.

 

Read this: The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux

The Tao of Travel
by Paul Theroux

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After the MWF sessions that I attended this past weekend and hearing the wonderful reading lists of Tony Wheeler and Don George, I thought it was appropriate to post this review next! Paul Theroux has been long thought of as one of the great stalwarts of travel writing. As such, it only figures that he would be incredible well read on all subjects pertaining to travel, and therefore able to put together some great information taken from all of the travel tomes that he himself has read. The Tao of Travel is that compendium.

Compiled to celebrate 50 years on the road, this book is a beautiful collection of some of Theroux’s own work, as well as some of the best of the travel writing that inspired and shaped him. There are quotes, information and book excerpts on everything from “exotic” meals and horrible travel ordeals, to the grandeur of travelling by train rather than any other form of transport and the contents of some travellers’ bags. I also personally enjoyed reading his 5 travel epiphanies at the end of the book, and his essentials:

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It’s one of those books that I know I’ll read over and over again in the years to come; the quotes selected in there (from both his own work and the work of other writers) are all beautiful and carefully chosen, and for the most part still very much relevant, despite how long ago most were written. It’s a fantastic wealth of accumulated information and knowledge from some very well travelled individuals, and well worth the read. Pick up a copy for yourself here, and enjoy the ride!

 

Travel thoughts: what I want.

So I’m sitting in my hotel room with my sister, only a few short days left in Vietnam for us. I’ve been forced to sit down and delete some photos from my phone as there is apparently no room left for new ones (surprise surprise), when I came across this quote I had saved quite some time ago, that pretty much sums up what goes through my head 28 times a day…

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I’ve been thinking on this a bit before I picked up my phone to type. That really is what I want to do with my life, and I’m finally starting to actually do of these things. I’ve made plans to enable me to travel. I read, a lot, every day. I drink so many cups of tea, and they’re delicious. And I write. When I saved that quote a year ago, that was where I wanted to be; was nice to look back and realise how far I’ve come, and how much further I still want to go.

Also, I’m a little bit smitten with Vietnam… If you’ve been following the adventure on Instagram, you’ll probably be able to see why! More posts to come when I get home 🙂 xo