Why Travel Matters: A Guide to the Life-Changing Effects of Travel
by Craig Storti (Morocco 1970- 72)
Nicholas Brealey Publisher
$24.95 (hardcover), $13.99 (Kindle)
Reviewed by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64)
Most RPCV think of themselves as seasoned travelers. (Well, maybe only me.) Still, after my first trip anywhere in 1962 as a PCV to Ethiopia, I did travel to Europe, lived for several months on one of the Balearic Islands and later spent ten months hitch hiking through twenty-seven countries in Africa. After that, as a travel writer for Travel & Leisure, Diversion, and LuxuryWeb Magazine, I went in 1979 to China, and on dozens of assignments to Europe, Central America, and Brazil. Recently I was on the first NPCA tour to Cuba. I like to think of myself as someone who knows his way around the world. Or, at least as I boast, “I can order a beer in any language.”
But after finish reading Craig Storti’s (Morocco 1970-72) Why Travel Matters: A Guide to the Life-Changing Effects of Travel I realize I’m nothing but a tourist. Storti, who is the author of a dozen books on cross-culture experiences, points out that I have been simply waltzing around the world, missing the real values of many cultures and countries. Storti’s book is a graduate school seminar, an education on how to travel, even if you never go anywhere ever again.
Did you know, for example, that “tourism” (as oppose to) “travel” began on July 5, 1841, when a man named Cook persuaded officials of the Midland Countries Railway to offer a reduced fare on the 15-mile stretch from Loughborough to Leicester? “This excursion proved so popular,” Storti writes, “that Cook kept himself busy over the next three summer organizing trips.” And so began Thomas Cook Tours.
Or did you know that the legendary Grand Tour began in northern Europe in the 16th Century with trips to France, Germany, the Netherlands, then later Switzerland, along with Spain and Italy. Soon it was covering most of the Mediterranean, including Greece and Turkey. “It became even grander, with scions of the best families regularly turning up in Egypt and the Holy Land,” Storti writes.
This book is full of such nuggets on the changes and significance of travel. It’s filled with great quotes and observations on travel from people as diverse as Thomas Aquinas and Hans Christian Anderson. And all the while Craig Storti is building his thesis of why travel matters by making this fundamental point: “When you travel, you have a choice: You can be a tourist and have a nice time, or you can be a traveler and change your life.” Storti’s book is for those who want to change their lives.
Craig shows us how we can change our lives in five chapters and three appendixes. He quotes Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) “travelers don’t know where they’re going [because that’s not the point] and tourists don’t know where they’ve been.”
Storti begins our education on “how to travel” by reaching back to the dawn of history when the human condition “was nothing but travel, in the sense of moving about or nomadism.” He demonstrates how travel and experiences changes a person, summing up, “in due course new experiences—the very essence of travel—will enable new knowledge. And new knowledge leads inevitably to increased understanding, the noblest of all human pursuits.”
Having established the theme of his discourse, Storti next shows us how to learn from new places and new peoples, writing, “travel, due to its high quotient of new experience, expands our knowledge of the world and ourselves more than any other human activity.”
He then details all this in chapters titled:
- A New Place
- A New World
- How to Travel
In “How to Travel” he separates a traveler from a tourist and instructs us with these ten points of advice:
- Travel alone.
- Stay out of touch; go off the grid.
- Every sight is a site.
- Secure an introduction.
- Frequent the places where you’ll find the locals.
- Be a regular.
- Get inside someone’s home.
- Read about the country.
Next, he adds “Rules for Travel,” advice from, among others, Napoleon Bonaparte (to his younger sister) and Samuel Johnson suggestions for traveling to the Western Islands of Scotland. Storti finishes off this short book (only 195 pages) with “Recommended Readings” listing journals and books written by a dozen famous writers and travelers, including Paul Bowles, Aldous Huxley and Paul Theroux.
So my suggestion for your next trip is that its best if you forget the guidebooks, forget DK, Frommer or Lonely Planet, and slip instead into your backpack Why Travel Matters and read it on the flight. Then when you land follow Craig Storti’s advice. It might not change your life, but it will, as Somerset Maugham is quoted, “add to your personality and bring home a different self.”
Have a great trip!
John Coyne is the co-founder and editor of this site.