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Travels with a Donkey: Wisdom from Robert Louis Stevenson

I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes from Travels with a Donkey, since I’ve been traveling and reading the pocket version my father gave me for my birthday. The Victorian Robert Louis Stevenson is one of my favorite authors from my favorite time periods, and I still think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the most imaginative science-fiction stories ever written. This travelogue of his was one of the first books he ever wrote, but you can see from it he already had a fantastic command of his thoughts and words:

“It is only a traveler, hurrying by like a person from another planet, who can rightly enjoy the peace and beauty of the great aesthetic feast. The sight of the resting country does his spirit good. There is something better than music in the unusual silence; and it dispose him to amiable thoughts, like the sound of a little river or the warmth of sunlight.”

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for. To hold a pack upon a packsaddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind. And when the present is so exacting, who can annoy himself about the future?”

“Night is a dead monotonous period under a roof; but in the open world it passes lightly, with its stars and dews and perfumes, and the hours are marked by the changes in the face of Nature. What seems a kind of temporal death to people choked between walls and curtains is only a light and living slumber to the man who sleeps afield.”

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