“Of Travel” by Francis Bacon
Even though not as popular as the likes of William Shakespeare, Francis Bacon did write some of the most entertaining and educative pieces. Bacon lived in the 16th century but his deductions on how people ought to prepare as they travel are still applicable to this age. In his essay Of Travel, Bacon advices his readers on how they ought to prepare and behave while travelling. He was not fond of travelling and only travelled abroad once when his father sent him to learn French. Bacon’s health was delicate and hence his decision not to travel again after the France trip. However, this did not deter him from sharing his piece of mind especially with regard to travelling. To him, travelling to a different country or culture should not be a casual thing and people ought to prepare themselves and come back enlightened. He never viewed it as casual or as vacationing as people currently refer to travelling. In his essay Of Travel, he provides details of how people ought to travel, and this article will focus on some of the issues or pieces of wisdom he offers.
Bacon believed that a person who has plans of travelling to another country ought to learn the native language first. “He that travelleth into a country, before he hath some entrance into the language goeth to school, and not to travel.” To Bacon, it would not make sense to visit a country without learning how people say even the simplest of words. Even though his words are old, the implication is indeed rational because one would learn and enjoy a vacation more if he has the basic understanding of the native language. Conversing would be easy and things like asking for directions would also be made simpler. Therefore, Bacon words are still wise and relevant even today.
As a traveler, Bacon believed that one ought to keep a journal especially if one is travelling over land. It is always important to jot down notes as one is travelling and observing the wonders of the world as well as the amazing and unique practices of the other cultures. “Let diaries, therefore, be brought in use.” These words indeed mean that Bacon believed that information cannot be stored through observation. Currently, a majority of people who travel on a yearly basis never find the need to carry their journals or even make use of them if they have any. The disadvantage of this habit is that people forget what they saw and sometimes the places they visited. The above only helps to necessitate the need to always keep a journal while travelling.
When people visit a country, they always have a list of places or things they wish to see. Bacon also had a list and while it would not be reasonable to keep a similar list, it is always advisable to have one. The lists will always differ depending on the country one chooses to visit, however, a list should be inevitable. Additionally, having a tutor or as we call them today tour guide is also a necessity. “Then he must have such a servant, or tutor, as knoweth the country, as was likewise said.” It is indeed practical to have a tour guide who understands the terrain and is willing to travel around with you.
Bacon’s words are more than 400 years old, however, the sense and wisdom in them cannot be disputed. It is true that travelling should be fun, but it would indeed be more enjoyable if we understood what we are being told, we remember where we have been, and also have people around us who understand the native terrain well.