Since we started planning for this trip we have met some brave and intrepid travelers who have followed their dreams and explored the world. However, it was not until this last weekend, when I read a journal of a couple that took off to see the world for their honeymoon, that I truly appreciated the timeless allure that travel can have.
Mary and John Sword left Philadelphia and spent 8 months traveling around the tip of South America by boat and exploring the world along the way. Their story is inspiring as she recounts the people they encounter and the amazing experiences which unfolded each day .
In this day and age, we are envious but rarely surprised to read about such a story. With the proliferation of blogs and travel sites today we are able to “ride along” with people as they head out on the road. What has me so entranced is that this particular adventure story was written in 1837 by the Great, Great, Great Aunt of our roommate.
We all know how hard it is today to break out of our “chosen” paths to explore the world and design a new lifestyle, but I cannot fathom how completely strange this would be over 170 years ago. In reading through the journal, beyond being utterly fascinated by the words, I discovered there are a number of lessons available to us all in these pages:
- Take things in stride. During their voyage the ship springs a leak hundreds of miles from land, yet her reaction seems so understated. “We have met with a misfortune which is likely to cause my seeing a little more of the world than I expected…We will be obliged to put in to Rio de Janeiro to have her repaired, and we may possibly be detained there a month.”
- Be patient. When you are on the road an extended time you need to realize you are not typically in control. “The wind is now dead ahead, and there is no saying when we may get there [Valparaiso] although we are not more than 250 miles distant.”
- The best way to see a city is by foot. Every day she highlights things she sees on her walks. “It was the most beautiful walk I ever took, through the most wild and romantic scenery I ever beheld.”
- Travel writing should include some flair. “Accident the first. Lost my green veil overboard. Had it tied on my beaver bonnet, never thought of pinning it fast, and had just got up the companionway when it took leave of me forever. I suppose some mermaid has appropriated it by this time, if it has not has the honour of falling into the hands of Amphitrite herself.”
- The world is very small. While on their trip they seem to run into family friends at every turn. Even in Rio, she cannot escape people that know her. “Mr. D says he knew my father and he enquired after all the Aertsens”
- Stay in touch with your family. Who needs Skype? “As we could not go out today, and had no visitors I took the opportunity of writing to my mother; there is a vessel going to Baltimore the end of the week.”
- Sometimes you cannot tell your family everything that happens or they will freak out. Know that sometimes you must break lesson #6. “My Dearest Mother, I have obtained permission to write you a few lines, to inform you of an event which I think will surprise you, as I had not given you any previous intimation of it. You are a Grandmother for the first time….You must forgive me dear Mother for not letting you know any thing of this beforehand; but I knew that you would be uneasy about me until you heard of my safety, and I wanted if possible, to save you from all anxiety on my account.”
- Know your surroundings. “Mr. Wright quite alarmed us on Saturday evening by telling us that there is danger of being attacked on the hill of Santa Theresa, by runaway slaves who secrete themselves on this mountain, and sometimes attack passengers; and rob or might even murder them.”
- Stay up to date with current events. Sometimes this is more difficult than you would expect. “On Saturday the news came of the death of the king of England…”. This was written on August 9th, 1837. King William IV died on June 20th of that year of pneumonia.
- Reflect upon each experience with fondness. “I bade adieu to Rio with some regret, for I had spent many happy hours there.” It is wonderful to see the fondness she is able to capture in a single sentence of prose.
This journal is a true inspiration to me and helps me appreciate what travelers that went before us have achieved. I have found new resolve in their words and stand here 173 years later ready to follow in their footsteps and call ourselves “travelers.”
Who do you look to for your inspiration in the next big adventure in your life?