We have compiled some of the best poems about travel into one post. They represent a wide variety of views and are taken from different time periods. They raise questions, share the joys of travel, and remind us to not take it for granted. Enjoy!
If You Were in Cairo by Simon Constam
Members of the Solo Traveler Insiders, our premium membership program, were treated to a reading of this poem by the author at a recent virtual event.
If You Were in Cairo
If you were in Cairo, and I in Kampala;
if you took to Phoenix, and I to Havana;
if you sojourned in Saigon, and I in Phnom Penh
even that short distance would deeply offend.
And seeing as how I’d want to stay close to you,
I’d find every which way to stay in touch with you.
If you moved to Tuvalu, to live or to work,
And email was stalled and the phones didn’t work.
I’d train clever pigeons to soar up above,
to faithfully reach you with my missives of love.
I’d vouchsafe a letter with a monk in a monastery.
I’d entrust my love note to an Amazon missionary.
I’d hire a Sherpa to mountain climb after you
on Everest, on Lhotse, Nanga Parbat or K2…
I would do anything to keep myself close to you.
I’d learn Swahili, Hindi, and even Urdu.
No hurdle of language I’d have to confront,
could ever deter my untiring want.
You can travel as far and as long as you like
by plane, train, or boat, by car or by bike.
I’d find a way, some way, to reach out to you,
I’d even use snail mail if I absolutely had to.
If you flew supersonically out into the blue,
I’d radio the pilot to tell you I love you.
If you pined for space travel and lived in the shuttle,
and our back and forth was a quite public muddle,
and officials below and your crewmates above
had all grown quite tired of such raging, unending, fulsome, embarrassing love,
no matter the trouble I’d have surely incurred,
I’d carry on calling, could not be deterred by
pleading from NASA, complaints or protests,
they’d have to come get me, put me under arrest.
If not-talking was something that you took a vow for,
I’d read to you, sing to you, whatever you’d need me to.
I’d learn to lip read and learn to sign too
There’s really no end to what I would do.
I’d follow you through darkness.
I’d follow you through rain.
My daily attention might drive you insane.
Have I made my point clear? You have nothing to fear
I’m resourceful enough to keep loving you.
So great is my love, I am indefatigable .
When it comes to you, love,
I can’t stop loving you!
Viaggiate by Gio Evan
I recently came across this poem when a friend shared it on Facebook. From what I can piece together (most information I could find about him is written in Italian, so I am at the mercy of Google Translate) Gio Evan spent about eight years traveling around India, South America, and Europe by bike. Perhaps the inspiration for this piece came from his journey. His website describes him as a “multifaceted artist, writer and poet, philosopher, humorist, performer, songwriter and street artist.”
New poems about travel don't come along every day, so this one is a nice surprise. Evan encourages us to travel for learning and personal growth, greater understanding and acceptance, and a feeling of connection to the world.
As I was unable to find an official English translation, I have posted the poem in the original Italian, straight from Evan's Facebook page, alongside the English version I first read online.
Try to travel, otherwise you may become racist, and you may end up believing that your skin is the only one to be right, that your language is the most romantic and that you were the first to be the first. Travel, because if you don't travel then your thoughts won’t be strengthened, won’t get filled with ideas. Your dreams will be born with fragile legs and then you end up believing in tv-shows, and in those who invent enemies that fit perfectly with your nightmares to make you live in terror. Travel, because travel teaches to say good morning to everyone regardless of which sun we come from. Travel, because travel teaches to say goodnight to everyone regardless of the darkness that we carry inside. Travel, because traveling teaches to resist, not to depend, to accept others, not just for who they are but also for what they can never be. To know what we are capable of, to feel part of a family beyond borders, beyond traditions and culture. Traveling teaches us to be beyond. Travel, otherwise you end up believing that you are made only for a panorama and instead inside you there are wonderful landscapes still to visit.
Viaggiate che sennò poi diventate razzisti e finite per credere che la vostra pelle è l’unica ad avere ragione, che la vostra lingua è la più romantica e che siete stati i primi ad essere i primi Viaggiate che se non viaggiate poi non vi si fortificano i pensieri non vi riempite di idee vi nascono sogni con le gambe fragili e poi finite per credere alle televisioni e a quelli che inventano nemici che calzano a pennello con i vostri incubi per farvi vivere di terrore senza più saluti né grazie né prego né si figure Viaggiate che viaggiare insegna a dare il buongiorno a tutti a prescindere da quale sole proveniamo, che viaggiare insegna a dare la buonanotte a tutti a prescindere dalle tenebre che ci portiamo dentro Viaggiate che viaggiare insegna a resistere a non dipendere ad accettare gli altri non solo per quello che sono ma anche per quello che non potranno mai essere, a conoscere di cosa siamo capaci a sentirsi parte di una famiglia oltre frontiere, oltre confini, oltre tradizioni e cultura, viaggiare insegna a essere oltre Viaggiate che sennò poi finite per credere che siete fatti solo per un panorama e invece dentro voi esistono paesaggi meravigliosi ancora da visitare.
Consolation by Billy Collins
This poem, by former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, who was the first recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry, celebrates the time we spend at home. It encourages us to appreciate our time not traveling as much as our time traveling. It takes on a slightly different meaning now, at a time when none of us can travel
How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.
There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.
How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?
Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.
And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car
as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.
Dislocation by Simon Constam
People who don't travel a lot don't always understand how hard it can be. They often mistake traveling for taking a holiday. But they are very different things. Traveling, especially long term, challenges and stretches one in many ways. Time constraints on short trips can cause you to explore from morning to night, returning at the end exhausted yet ready to do it again the next day.
I envy those who envy me for traveling.
Sometimes I sit on a foreign street in a busy cafe,
imagining you wishing you were here,
feeling for the first time the thrilling flush
of wanting to be elsewhere,
the frisson of happiness that wishes bring.
And so I sit quietly knowing that now
it’s time to figure out just what it is
I meant to do here.
Of this poem about travel, Simon says: “I wrote Dislocation back when I was 19, in the middle of my round-the-world trip. The meaning and purpose of travel is not always evident. To build confidence, some would say. To open one's eyes, say others. And some would say to realize their destinies. I would often sit at an outdoor cafe wondering what it was exactly I was doing while the wheels and gears of everyday were spinning relentlessly at home.”
You can follow Simon on Instagram @dailyferocity where he publishes a new aphorism every day, or sign up to receive them by email.
More Thoughtful Posts
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Solo Travel to Cope with Loss
Learning to Travel by Julene Tripp Weaver
Traveling long-term allows you to travel slowly. In fact, it demands that you travel slowly. And what are the benefits of that? It's about learning the language, cooking with an old woman, having children knock on your door when something exciting is happening. How wonderful.
But then, in this poem by Julene Tripp Weaver, the circus comes to town. New opportunities arise. And the traveler picks up and follows the opportunities “beneath the throw of the knife”. They ignore the risk of leaving what is comfortable and explore new horizons.
Learning to Travel
She will learn French,
enough to greet and shop become known.
A French baker befriends her.
After a long summer
she stays on into the fall
writes poems, picks wild herbs.
An old woman cooks with her.
They sit in silence
while the sun sets. In the evening
she lights candles, when hungry
they share bread and cheese.
A circus comes to town,
young children knock
on her door to watch
elephants parade in the street.
Tents are raised.
A knife thrower invites her for his act.
The wind of flying knives pulses
dreams of moving on with the circus
until there is no question. She will go.
She pulls together a bag
says goodbye to the old woman
to the baker, to the children,
moves to the next town
beneath the throw of the knife.
Majorca by John Cooper Clarke
Instead of treating travel with reverence, this poem offers another truth about travel which is not quite, well, reverential. As Clarke says in his intro, it's about holiday packages. Love them or hate them, most of us can relate to this poem in one way or another.
Don't miss hearing Clarke perform this piece himself by scrolling to the bottom of the poem.
fasten your seatbelts says a voice
inside the plane you can't hear no noise
engines made by rolls royce
take your choice
…make mine majorca
check out the parachutes
can't be found
alert those passengers
they'll be drowned
a friendly mug says “settle down”
when i came round i was gagged and bound
and the eyes caress
the neat hostess
her unapproachable flip finesse
i found the meaning of the word excess
they've got little bags if you wanna make a mess
i fancied Cuba but it cost me less
(Whose blonde sand fondly kisses the cool fathoms of the blue mediteranean)
they packed us into the white hotel
you could still smell the polycell
wet white paint in the air-conditioned cells
the waiter smelled of fake Chanel
Gaulois… Garlic as well
says if i like… i can call him “Miguel”
i got drunk with another fella
who'd just brought up a previous paella
he wanted a fight but said they were yella'
the guitars rang and the castinets clicked
the dancer's stamped and the dancer's kicked
it's likely if you sang in the street you'd be nicked
the double diamond flowed like sick
mother's pride, tortilla and chips
pneumatic drills when you try to kip
a stomach infection put me in the shade
must have been something in the lemonade
but by the balls of franco i paid
had to pawn my bucket and spade
next year I'll take the international brigade
Questions of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop
Why do we travel? Is it, as Elizabeth Bishop suggests, a lack of imagination?
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) is considered one of the great American poets of the 20th century. Enjoy this beautiful poem about travel.
Questions of Travel
There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
–For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren't waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?
But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
–Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
–A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
–Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr'dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
–Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages.
–And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians' speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:
“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”
For the Traveler by John O’Donohue
Aren't poetry and travel simply two different modes of exploring the world? Of learning who we are, what we believe, and how it all fits together?
When we are surrounded by family and friends, we are subject to their expectations of us. Our behavior, even our thoughts, are circumscribed by a desire for acceptance. Traveling solo you have time to discover who you are, what's really in your heart, when no one is looking.
John O'Donohue was born in 1956 and died in 2008. An Irish scholar, philosopher, priest, and poet, his first published work was “Anam Cara” which holds a wonderful quote for solo travelers:
“When you cease to fear your solitude, a new creativity awakens in you. Your forgotten or neglected wealth begins to reveal itself. You come home to yourself and learn to rest within. Thoughts are our inner senses. Infused with silence and solitude, they bring out the mystery of inner landscape.”
For the Traveler
Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:
How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.
A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.
The Lady in 38C by Lori Jakiela
Traveling on a regular basis, flight attendants have a chance to see the world. Serving hundreds of people every day from different cultures, different economic classes, genders, ages, and every other attribute that contributes to making individuals unique, they are positioned to observe and appreciate the human condition.
Poet Lori Jakiela worked for Delta Air Lines for six years. She is now a professor at The University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg.
This poem is about unadulterated joy. Using her experience as a flight attendant, Jakiela focuses us on how we often miss the joy that life has to offer.
The Lady in 38C
The Lady in 38 C
gets confused. She thinks I'm her nurse.
“Nurse!” she yells. “My finger!”
So I bring her a band-aid
and put it on even though she's fine.
“Oh thank you nurse!” she yells.
“You're a good one.”
She winks and smiles and the woman next to her
glares into her computer.
I think the old lady's charming.
She's 86, still pretty. Her eyes are blue.
Her hair is a cloud.
She looks exactly like what's outside.
She's the only air in this cabin, the only light.
“Nurse!” she yells, and I look back
over the sad heads, eggs in a carton,
faces pressed against
the mite-ridden blankets
and pillows they fought for,
and there she is, beaming.
“Nurse,” she says. “Where are we?”
I take her hand
and look out the window.
I scratch my head, smile
and say, “Somewhere
She's the only passenger
who's ever gotten that joke.
Up here, nearly everyone is miserable.
I count on small joys to get by.
The woman in 38C says, “Oh, Nurse!”
and the woman next to her
who probably thinks we're somewhere
over Idaho, that wonderland of Hemingway
and golden potatoes,
rolls her eyes and bangs the computer keys
until the seatbelt sign goes on
and the captain says,
“We'll be experiencing weather.”
which is what people say
instead of scary things like storm and turbulence
and pretty soon the plane is bouncing
and the woman with the computer
grips her armrest
while the old lady throws her arms up
like she's on a roller coaster and yells,
“They should charge extra for this!”
The World Won’t Miss You for a While by Kathryn Simmonds
Perhaps the world will continue turning if you take a break now and then. And, just maybe, on your return you’ll make a better contribution to it.
In this poem, Kathryn Simmonds, a British poet born in 1972 illustrates that stepping off the planet is not just for busy Type A personalities. It is for Hare Krishnas, sous chefs, and apprentice pharmacists. It is for everyone.
The World Won’t Miss You for a While
Lie down with me you hillwalkers and rest,
untie your boots and separate your toes,
ignore the compass wavering north/north west.
Quit trailing through the overcrowded streets
with tinkling bells, you child of Hare Krishna.
Hush. Unfurl your saffron robes. How sweet
the grass. And you, photographer of wars,
lie down and cap your lens. Ambassador,
take off your dancing shoes. There are no laws
by which you must abide oh blushing boy
with Stanley knife, no county magistrates
are waiting here to dress you down: employ
yourself with cutting up these wild flowers
as you like. Sous chef with baby guinea fowl
to stuff, surveillance officer with hours
to fill, and anorexic weighing up a meal,
lie down. Girl riding to an interview,
turn back before they force you to reveal
your hidey holes. Apprentice pharmacist,
leave carousels of second generation
happy pills. The long term sad. And journalist
with dreams, forget the man from Lancashire
who lost his tongue, the youth who found it,
kept it quivering in a matchbox for a year.
3 Poems About Travel by Sheenagh Pugh
Ah, if the roads we take every day could offer us the surprises, even on occasion, that travel delivers.
In this first poem about travel by Sheenagh Pugh, a British poet (originally from Wales) who says in her biography “I have been accused of being ‘populist’ and ‘too accessible,’ both of which I hope are true,” we are offered a road to explore what we don't know. To see what could be. What could happen.
Travel cannot always be on our agenda but we can still look around blind corners for new discoveries.
What If This Road
What if this road, that has held no surprises
these many years, decided not to go
home after all; what if it could turn
left or right with no more ado
than a kite-tail? What if its tarry skin
were like a long, supple bolt of cloth,
that is shaken and rolled out, and takes
a new shape from the contours beneath?
And if it chose to lay itself down
in a new way; around a blind corner,
across hills you must climb without knowing
what's on the other side; who would not hanker
to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know
a story's end, or where a road will go?
Many of us spend too much time documenting our travels rather than experiencing them.
We could live more fully in the moment. We could savor the experience to learn more deeply and remember more clearly.
In this second poem by Sheenagh Pugh, we are advised that notes and images offer little upon our return.
The Opportune Moment
If you were waiting for the opportune moment, that was it” –
Capt Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
When you go ashore in that town,
take neither a camera nor a notebook.
However many photographs you upload
of that street, the smell of almond paste
will be missing; the harbour will not sound
of wind slapping on chains. You will read
notes like “Sami church”, later, and know
you saw nothing, never put it where
you could find it again, were never
really there. When you go ashore
in the small port with the rusty trawlers,
there will be fur hawkers who all look
like Genghis Khan on a market stall,
crumbling pavements, roses frozen in bud,
an altar with wool hangings, vessels
like canal ware, a Madonna
with a Russian doll face. When you go
ashore, take nothing but the knowledge
that where you are, you never will be again
There are two parts to this final poem about travel by Sheenagh Pugh. The first projects a future when our travel is not around the world but to Earth. It muses on a time when we have ruined our planet to the point that we no longer live here and it has become a destination suitable only for the “young and fit”. Do our travels contribute to this potential future?
The second part urges the reader to take it all in deeply, with all your senses. This applies equally to today's travelers as tomorrow’s. It explores the possible ways of experiencing a new place. It is gorgeous.
Do You Think We’ll Ever Get to See Earth, Sir?
I hear they're hoping to run trips
one day, for the young and fit, of course.
I don't see much use in it myself;
there'll be any number of places
you can't land, because they're still toxic,
and even in the relatively safe bits
you won't see what it was; what it could be.
I can't fancy a tour through the ruins
of my home with a party of twenty-five
and a guide to tell me what to see.
But if you should see some beautiful thing,
some leaf, say, damascened with frost,
some iridescence on a pigeon's neck,
some stone, some curve, some clear water;
look at it as if you were made of eyes,
as if you were nothing but an eye, lidless
and tender, to be probed and scorched
by extreme light. Look at it with your skin,
with the small hairs on the back of your neck.
If it is well-shaped, look at it with your hands;
if it has fragrance, breathe it into yourself;
if it tastes sweet, put your tongue to it.
Look at it as a happening, a moment;
let nothing of it go unrecorded,
map it as if it were already passing.
Look at it with the inside of your head,
look at it for later, look at it for ever,
and look at it once for me.
Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman
The open road holds the pleasures of solitude as well as surprising adventures.
Walt Whitman (American poet, essayist, and journalist, 1819-1892) wrote his “Song of the Open Road” long before the automobile was invented. But somehow, that notion of the open road was already present in the American psyche. This is a massive poem, epic in nature.
Song of the Open Road
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill'd with them, and I will fill them in return.)
You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all
that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.
Here the profound lesson of reception, nor preference nor denial,
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas'd, the
illiterate person, are not denied;
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar's tramp, the
drunkard's stagger, the laughing party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the fop, the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the
town, the return back from the town,
They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be interdicted,
None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me.
You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.
You flagg'd walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined
side! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc'd facades! you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!
From all that has touch'd you I believe you have imparted to
yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me,
From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive surfaces,
and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me.
The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road.
O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not–if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied,
adhere to me?
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceiv'd in the open air, and all
free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever
beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.
From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that
would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.
All seems beautiful to me,
can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me
I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.
Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear it would not amaze me,
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear'd it would not
Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
Here a great personal deed has room,
(Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and mocks all
authority and all argument against it.)
Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass'd from one having it to another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the
excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes
it out of the soul.
Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the
spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing currents.
Here is realization,
Here is a man tallied–he realizes here what he has in him,
The past, the future, majesty, love–if they are vacant of you, you
are vacant of them.
Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for you and me?
Here is adhesiveness, it is not previously fashion'd, it is apropos;
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?
Here is the efflux of the soul,
The efflux of the soul comes from within through embower'd gates,
ever provoking questions,
These yearnings why are they? these thoughts in the darkness why are they?
Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight
expands my blood?
Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious
thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always
drop fruit as I pass;)
What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his side?
What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the shore as I walk by
What gives me to be free to a woman's and man's good-will? what
gives them to be free to mine?
The efflux of the soul is happiness, here is happiness,
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times,
Now it flows unto us, we are rightly charged.
Here rises the fluid and attaching character,
The fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness of
man and woman,
(The herbs of the morning sprout no fresher and sweeter every day
out of the roots of themselves, than it sprouts fresh and sweet
continually out of itself.)
Toward the fluid and attaching character exudes the sweat of the
love of young and old,
From it falls distill'd the charm that mocks beauty and attainments,
Toward it heaves the shuddering longing ache of contact.
Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what never tires.
The earth never tires,
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude
and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop'd,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
Allons! we must not stop here,
However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling
we cannot remain here,
However shelter'd this port and however calm these waters we must
not anchor here,
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted
to receive it but a little while.
Allons! the inducements shall be greater,
We will sail pathless and wild seas,
We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper
speeds by under full sail.
Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements,
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
Allons! from all formules!
From your formules, O bat-eyed and materialistic priests.
The stale cadaver blocks up the passage–the burial waits no longer.
Allons! yet take warning!
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance,
None may come to the trial till he or she bring courage and health,
Come not here if you have already spent the best of yourself,
Only those may come who come in sweet and determin'd bodies,
No diseas'd person, no rum-drinker or venereal taint is permitted here.
(I and mine do not convince by arguments, similes, rhymes,
We convince by our presence.)
Listen! I will be honest with you,
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is call'd riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin'd, you hardly
settle yourself to satisfaction before you are call'd by an
irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those
who remain behind you,
What beckonings of love you receive you shall only answer with
passionate kisses of parting,
You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach'd hands
Allons! after the great Companions, and to belong to them!
They too are on the road–they are the swift and majestic men–they
are the greatest women,
Enjoyers of calms of seas and storms of seas,
Sailors of many a ship, walkers of many a mile of land,
Habitues of many distant countries, habitues of far-distant dwellings,
Trusters of men and women, observers of cities, solitary toilers,
Pausers and contemplators of tufts, blossoms, shells of the shore,
Dancers at wedding-dances, kissers of brides, tender helpers of
children, bearers of children,
Soldiers of revolts, standers by gaping graves, lowerers-down of coffins,
Journeyers over consecutive seasons, over the years, the curious
years each emerging from that which preceded it,
Journeyers as with companions, namely their own diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Journeyers gayly with their own youth, journeyers with their bearded
and well-grain'd manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass'd, content,
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood or womanhood,
Old age, calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe,
Old age, flowing free with the delicious near-by freedom of death.
Allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights
they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys,
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you,
however long but it stretches and waits for you,
To see no being, not God's or any, but you also go thither,
To see no possession but you may possess it, enjoying all without
labor or purchase, abstracting the feast yet not abstracting one
particle of it,
To take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich man's elegant
villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-married couple, and
the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens,
To take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through,
To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go,
To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter
them, to gather the love out of their hearts,
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave
them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for
All parts away for the progress of souls,
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments–all that was or is
apparent upon this globe or any globe, falls into niches and corners
before the procession of souls along the grand roads of the universe.
Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of
the universe, all other progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.
Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not where they go,
But I know that they go toward the best–toward something great.
Whoever you are, come forth! or man or woman come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though
you built it, or though it has been built for you.
Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the screen!
It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it.
Behold through you as bad as the rest,
Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of people,
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash'd and trimm'd faces,
Behold a secret silent loathing and despair.
No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the confession,
Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and hiding it goes,
Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities, polite and
bland in the parlors,
In the cars of railroads, in steamboats, in the public assembly,
Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in the bedroom,
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, death under the
breast-bones, hell under the skull-bones,
Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons and artificial flowers,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable of itself,
Speaking of any thing else but never of itself.
Allons! through struggles and wars!
The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.
Have the past struggles succeeded?
What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? Nature?
Now understand me well–it is provided in the essence of things that
from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth
something to make a greater struggle necessary.
My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion,
He going with me must go well arm'd,
He going with me goes often with spare diet, poverty, angry enemies,
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe–I have tried it–my own feet have tried it well–be not
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn'd!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the
court, and the judge expound the law.
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourselp. will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
Why Do I Travel? Author Unknown
It is on the road that I am a poet, an ambassador, a dancer, medicine woman, an angel and even a genius
Traveling solo provides an opportunity to explore that aspect of your life which may be overshadowed by responsibilities and the expectations of others. It is an opportunity to live as a poet, an ambassador, a dancer, or whatever role you would, in a perfect world, take on. In doing so you will be that much closer to a well-earned label of genius.
We’ve been unable to confirm the author of this poem about travel. Perhaps Sana Musama or Musasama, but we can’t be certain. Regardless, it's a beautiful and significant piece of writing. If you have more details on the poet, please let us know so we can properly acknowledge them.
Why do I travel?
It is on the road that my inner voice speaks the loudest and my heart beats the strongest.
It is on the road that I take extra pride in my wooly hair, full features and lineage.
It is on the road that I develop extra senses and the hairs on my arms stand up and say “Sana, don't go there”, and I listen.
It's when I safety pin my money to my underclothes and count it a million times before I go to sleep,
It is on the road that I am a poet, an ambassador, a dancer, medicine woman, an angel and even a genius.
It's on the road that I am fearless and unstoppable and if necessary ball up my fist and fight back.
It is on the road that I talk to my deceased parents and they speak back
It's on the road that I reprimand myself, and set new goals, refuel, stop and begin again.
It is on the road that I experience what freedom truly is.
It is my travel that has transformed me making me a citizen of the world. When my humanness, compassion and affection are raised to a new level and I share unconditionally.
The Return by Geneen Marie Haugen
Single people are frequently the butt of jokes and jibes about “getting lucky”. But this term takes on a whole new meaning through solo travel, as it does in this poem. Here, one gets lucky when they return from travel “trailing snake scales, wing fragments and the musk of Earth and moon”.
Not everyone understands the need to travel and fewer still understand the need of solo travelers to head out on their own. By traveling solo, you can connect more deeply with a place and its people than when you are distracted by a companion. You get close to the ground, to the “musk of the earth”. You will be more affected by travel.
The poet, Geneen Marie Haugen is a writer, wilderness wanderer, and scholar.
Some day, if you are lucky,
you'll return from a thunderous journey
trailing snake scales, wing fragments
and the musk of Earth and moon.
Eyes will examine you for signs
of damage, or change
and you, too, will wonder
if your skin shows traces
of fur, or leaves,
if thrushes have built a nest
of your hair, if Andromeda
burns from your eyes.
Do not be surprised by prickly questions
from those who barely inhabit
their own fleeting lives, who barely taste
their own possibility, who barely dream.
If your hands are empty, treasureless,
if your toes have not grown claws,
if your obedient voice has not
become a wild cry, a howl,
you will reassure them. We warned you,
they might declare, there is nothing else,
no point, no meaning, no mystery at all,
just this frantic waiting to die.
And yet, they tremble, mute,
afraid you've returned without sweet
elixir for unspeakable thirst, without
a fluent dance or holy language
to teach them, without a compass
bearing to a forgotten border where
no one crosses without weeping
for the terrible beauty of galaxies
and granite and bone. They tremble,
hoping your lips hold a secret,
that the song your body now sings
will redeem them, yet they fear
your secret is dangerous, shattering,
and once it flies from your astonished
mouth, they — like you — must disintegrate
before unfolding tremulous wings.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
This may be one of the most well known poems about travel.
In travel, in life, is the road less traveled more courageous? Is it better? Maybe. Maybe not. But whatever course you take it will make all the difference.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Die Slowly by Martha Medeiros
This poem delivers a most positive outlook on life from the most negative angle possible.
Solo travel helps you flip on its head all that Martha Medeiros says contributes to a slow death. It causes you to change routines in your own rhythm, challenge yourself, build self-esteem, ask questions, explore with curiosity, and expand your world.
We all deserve splendid happiness. I hope you find yours.
He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones i's rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
He or she who abandons a project before starting it, who fails to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know, he or she who doesn't reply when they are asked something they do know,
Let's try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.
Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness
What are your favorite poems about travel? Tell us about them and their meaning for you in the comments section below.
Thinking about hitting the open road? Check out our Solo Road Trip category. Do you have a solo travel story to tell? Share your photos and the story of your trip here.