Albert Camus on Travel

What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country … we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits … this is why we should not say that we travel for pleasure. There is no pleasure in traveling, and I look upon it more as an occasion for spiritual testing … Pleasure takes us away from ourselves in the same way as distraction, in Pascal’s use of the word, takes us away from God. Travel, which is like a greater and a graver science, brings us back to ourselves.

Albert Camus
Notebooks 1935-1951

11 thoughts on “Albert Camus on Travel

    • Cool – that sounds wonderful, Jane – I hope you have an amazing time and I bet you will. Reckon you’ll bring back lots of writing? That quote really caught my attention when I first read it

  1. we don’t need fear of the unknown, the strange, to give value to our visit. Any and every emotion that is produced by the experience gives it value. Any and every new thought or response to new perceptions. Fear filters and biases our perception.
    Ashley, you didn’t look very fearful on the canal in your recent posting, but you did seem to think you were getting value for money/time spent there!

    • I agree, all emotions are vital when we travel. And I definitely took time to relax and just enjoy things, very much so. It was one of the singular experiences of my life so far I reckon.

      I interpret Camus here as saying (though he doesn’t do so explicitly) that the sole pursuit of pleasure is no so desirable when we travel, whereas being out of our comfort zone, even a little uncomfortable or afraid, can assist with receptivity to the unknown, instead of repeating the patterns of home.

  2. This is an interesting concept! I haven’t traveled enough to offer my own opinion, but travel for Catherine in Sophie Cunningham’s novel Geography does indeed become closer to herself through travel.

  3. Yes travel helps us find ourselves, but not through fear! Through the new thoughts and feelings we experience – the new ideas. I have gained much through travelling, and through meeting new people – people who live their lives in different ways both at home and away.
    To live our lives in fear, avoiding pleasure because it takes us away from ourselves? What if I find pleasure in my own company? Enjoy exploring aspects of myself that different people and places bring to me?
    Heaven protect me from the Godly and the pessimists!

    • I find Camus potentially elitist rather than pessimistic, like he’s having a dig at people who travel without exposing themselves to new experiences – a group you wouldn’t fit into I’d say 🙂

      I think he’d be horrified, for instance, to hear that people travel thousands of miles, often internationally, to eat in the same restaurant chain that can be found in their hometown. These are the people who don’t seem to leave their comfort zones and won’t or can’t always seek the unknown.

      Here’s another quote I really liked, which is similar in some ways. it from Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel (2002) where he’s interested in the idea of “receptivity.” He suggests that the

      “pleasure we derive from a journey may be dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than the destination we travel to”

      and a receptive traveller will “approach new places with humility. We carry with us non-rigid ideas about what is or is not interesting” (p246)

      Similar but not as downbeat as Camus perhaps.

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