The Widsom of Steves and Hazlitt (Indie 30 – Day 14, Quote)

The Widsom of Steves and Hazlitt (Indie 30 – Day 14, Quote)

BootsnAll prompt: What’s your favorite quote about travel? Why does it stand out to you?

When I first saw this prompt, I thought it would be really tough. At present, I’m not in the habit of collecting and remembering quotations. I thought I’d have to spend some time Googling travel quotes to find one I liked. I thought about writing about not keeping quotes. I sipped at my coffee and put my feet up on my desk. And then I remembered that as an undergrad I used to collect quotes on writing, travel, and things that amused me and put them up on my Facebook profile. I jumped over to my profile, scanned my info page and found a treasure trove of forgotten wisdom and things that make me laugh. I found quotes about travel and quotes from traveling with friends. I spent a little time posting on one friend’s Facebook wall to remined her of a particularly fun moment from our travels. And then I settled down to selecting a quote.

“Of course, travel, like the world, is a series of hills and valleys. Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic. If something’s not to your liking, change your liking.” -Rick Steves

I love this quote not only because it is good travel advice, but because it is good life advice. Hills and valleys present themselves everywhere: in our health, the landscape, budgets, friendships, romantic relationships, and a single work day. But, as my brother once (at least) reminded me, there’s no reason why every day can’t have at least something good in it. In much of life (if not all), it is useful to be “fanatically positive and militantly optimistic” – you can do just about anything if you are determined to do it.

But I really want to talk about travel. A positive attitude and the willingness to change your liking are two of the best things you can pack on a trip (the others in my top five are clean underwear, my camera, and my toothbrush). When you set out, you never know what you’ll find. That’s one of the most exciting things about travel. It can also be one of the scariest. But I’ve found that people are generally friendly, kind, and willing to share their culture with travelers. Bad things definitely happen and one must be careful, but it is best to combine that caution with optimism – most likely everything will be okay, or even better than okay: wonderful!

And on most trips, you’ll encounter something you don’t like: a bathroom without toilet paper, toothpaste that tastes nothing like your favorite flavor at home, long lines at popular sights, drinks served without ice… but as Steves says: change your liking. Or as Seven of Nine would say: adapt. After four months living in Italy, I almost never have ice in my drinks. I don’t even have ice in my freezer anymore.


An ability to be “militantly optimistic” has also allowed for some of the best travel experiences of my life. It let my brother and I face our fear and take the night train to Berlin. It was the attitude that allowed me to tour Berlin with a wonderful Englishman who lived in Berlin toward the end of the Cold War and when the Berlin Wall fell even though I’d fallen down the stairs the night before and my foot was swollen and painful. (Okay, maybe that’s a bit of my stupidity, too, but I figured if it was more than sprained even my optimism wouldn’t get me out of going to the doctor. And I was right – no broken bones in that foot.) My optimism let me leave for Ireland this year just over four weeks after having gallbladder surgery so that my boyfriend could go to Europe for the first time and we could road trip across that lovely country; he took care of me and we had a great time.

I could go on and on about how these qualities have been wonderful travel companions. But I think you get the picture…and I was so inspired by my cache of quotes that I couldn’t pick just one, though. I also love this:

“I should like to spend the whole of my life in traveling abroad, if I could anywhere borrow another life to spend afterwards at home.” -William Hazlitt


This quote tells a truth that I think many avid travelers can identify with – it gets at the heart of the conflict between exploration and settling. I love traveling. There is part of me that wants to sell all my possessions, strap on my backpack, and never look back toward home. But then there’s another part that wants a steady job, a family with kids and a dog, and a fabulous kitchen to cook big family meals in before sitting by the fireplace and knitting every evening. Like Hazlitt, I see the best solution as having two lives: one of travel and one of being a homebody. But since that is not possible, the best compromise is to travel as much as possible while also cultivating relationships and settling down when I feel ready. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m sure the day will come.

I feel Hazlitt’s longing though – what would I give for a life of nomadic existence trekking in the Himalayas, picking grapes in Tuscany, sipping coffee in Parisian cafes, and sampling the thousands of varieties of Peruvin potatoes? Much more if I knew that afterward I could spend a quiet life scrapbooking, writing about my travels, and cooking food from all over the world with those that I love. And that I’d get about 80 years to live each life.

Instead, I’ll work on changing my liking to integrating travel into the (hopefully many) decades I have left and then coming home to write about it, scrapbook, cook etc. I’ll work on changing my longings to be more flexible and to be willing to alternate throughout my life between nomadic existence and being settled. The freelance life would assist with that…and there’s that optimism we all need.

It’s been nice today to write about the words of others. Perhaps it’s time to start collecting quotes again…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *