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Posted by angela On January - 16 - 2013 3 Comments

” I have never managed to lose my old conviction that travel narrows the mind, because a man in his own home is inside all other men. It is a universal experience: He thinks the great thoughts. But a man travelling is amused or appalled by a thousand distractions and trivial things, even if they are very interesting. It is the traveller who thinks the small thoughts, and there is a danger that these secondary things could replace the primary things.

Gilbert Chesterton

What does he mean?

While I would disagree with Gilbert Chesterton that travel narrows the mind, I do understand where his thoughts are coming from. I think he means that travellers often look at the face value of things. They observe the obvious details that stick out to them but they fail to put it into context and can’t see the larger picture. Travelling offers many distractions to the mind so travellers don’t have time to sit down and think about the meaning of what they see or hear. They get caught up in things they find are different or strange without noticing the subtle, more important things. While I can agree with the fact that travellers don’t take the time to synthesize and analyze their thoughts, I do believe that travel can expand the mind when they go back home and spend some time to think.

My first impression of Italy was one of adoration and love. Having came from London, Paris, and Nice, my first night in Florence was satisfying and better than I had expected. My friend and I had got in late at night to Florence but we felt completely safe navigating the streets and trying to find our hostel. People were so friendly in helping us find the correct street and the waiter at the restaurant gave us excellent customer service. While we were surprised that they had a service charge (hadn’t encountered that in the UK or in France), a delicious vegetable soup filled our empty stomachs. Florence was touristy but not as bad as London, Paris, or Nice and everything seemed much more genuine. The cobblestone streets made me smile and the orange and yellow buildings seemed like right out of a movie. I immediately knew this would be one of my favorite cities in the world.       by Elysse




While I think I understand what Chesterton is implying when he says that “travel narrows the mind”, I don’t necessarily agree. It’s true that when I first visited Italy two years ago, I was “distracted” by the differences in everyday life. I found myself wondering why people eat dinner so late, why shops aren’t open in the afternoon, why everything looked so much pettier and more romantic than back home. While I was never uncomfortable in Italy, I was not within my comfort zone if that makes sense. I was not at home and it’s true that my mind works differently as a traveler. In this way, I see what Chesterton is saying when secondary thoughts overtake primary ones and that is impossible to delve into anything deeper. Where I disagree is that the same mind remains narrow when you return home. I have traveled many places and have never forgotten experiences that have changed my outlook or appreciation for not only my own culture, but those of the countries I have visited as well. Only if you were to return home with no care for anything you have seen as a traveler would I say that your mind remains “narrow”.

Because I have been to Italy before, my arrival here this time was not a true first impression. I can say, however, that I was extremely excited to come back. I wanted to taste the gelato, eat the food, wander the streets, and take in the culture. In my previous trip to Italy I did not visit Lucca. This town is very charming and I enjoy being able to wander the streets and alleys without a million cars zooming by (i.e. Rome). It is large than I thought it would be, but I am enjoying getting to walk around and actually know where I am. There is something comforting about being able to walk the same streets, to pass the same church, to visit the same bakery everyday. This time I am able to take in my surroundings a bit more and observe the way of life here as opposed to only being concerned with running around trying to visit tourist sites.

by Jessica


Do you agree with Chesterton?


3 Responses

  1. Stefano says:

    I think travel can open your mind because you can see lot of new things and places that you never saw and that you didn’t know that they existed. And if you travel you can learn lots of new things that you wouldn’t have learned if you’d stay at home!

  2. Alice says:

    I disagree with Chesterton who says that travel narrows the mind.
    In my opinion I think that travel can improve skills and knowledge of a person
    Above all I think that travel can show what really happen in a country and the real culture of a population.
    It’s so beautiful having remembers of a travel, good and bad. But never mind because with them you can growing up and learn new things.
    It’s true that people often don’t make great thoughts when they’re interested in a travel. But I think that it’s better, so they can live their experience without thoughts. It’s a sort of imaginary life!
    When I travel I hardly ever think about thoughts because I try to observe attentively what I see and enjoy me. I sometimes forget the real life and I manage to be more carefree!

    One life without travel is nothing!!!

  3. GIORGIAB says:

    I don’t think that travell narrow our mind!
    I believe knowing new cultures or other people and languages can open or improve the ideas that you have of the world! only if you have seen the things you can say something about it and so i think it’s very important to travel. Stay at home it’s also so boring!
    Thought i agree with you when you spek about the travellers who are to busy to think about what they’re visiting or seing once thy’re at home and they’re atching the photos they will remember those moments and will say : oh look at this! That was beautiful! I must return there !
    So i think you bring something in every journey at home and heart.
    A journey can also change your life if you’re interested in this country and uses and customs and you may decide to move in that country , get marry with someone of there or you may find a job !
    That’s why a think travell it’s the best thing we can do!

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