The Bilingual WebZine of ART and CULTURE – Il Webzine dell'ARTE e della CULTURA

Posted by angela On March - 21 - 2015 14 Comments

Gilbert Chesterton wrote: ” 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.

What does he mean?

Please give your explanation of the meaning of his thought and write a short paragraph of your first impression of Italy and Italians. You can also use meaningful pictures instead of writing, if you prefer.

due on 24th

14 Responses

  1. sujinl2 says:

    I agree with what Chesterton wrote to a small degree. Traveling and being exposed to various cultures can narrow someone’s mind because when you know what is out there, you are able to form distinct opinions rather than having an open mind. You know what types of food you like and you know what things you enjoy.

    When I first arrived in Lucca, I was surprised by the condensed population of the city. I have seen Lucca in pictures before but I was not expecting everything to be so small and compact. For such a small city, Lucca seemed to be packed to the brim with pedestrians and bicycles roaming through the small and narrow streets. It was also interesting that the Italians didn’t seem to mind the dense streets. Though many are probably used to the lifestyle, I was expecting more angry and grumpy Italians. It also seemed to me that many Italians are very private. They simply mind their business and do not get bothered by other people. I noticed that many times people would ump into each other in the streets but most people didn’t even seem to be phased by the distraction. Overall I am very impressed by the carefree way of the Italians and their easygoing attitude.

  2. ronading says:

    While I don’t agree with what Chesterson is saying, I see where he is coming from. When you travel, it is easy to get distracted by small things are you going to eat next or souvenir trinkets that you can buy. The things that you end up thinking about are how clean the bathrooms are or how comfortable your bed is. Perhaps he thinks that when someone is at home, he doesn’t have to worry about more trivial matters and can ponder about bigger and deeper things. It’s sort of like how when civilization wasn’t as developed and people had to worry about wild animals and food and such, they did not have much time or energy for art or philosophy. However I think that most intelligent people, or people who are curious and open to learning can get past the initial problems of traveling and take the time to reflect on their trip and the new experiences they have acquired. The first time I went to China, sure, the heat and squat toilets bothered me for a while, but I think I really did enjoy the fact that I got a chance to see how many of my relatives lived, and experience the different culture. 


  3. jessicaliu says:

    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.

  4. Cathy Xu says:

    A traveller is amused and distracted by what he sees, but it’s his secondary thoughts on what he sees that poses a threat to narrow his mind. Traveling is an essential experience to one’s growth, however, it could also narrow one’s mind if he does not treat what he sees with an open mind. A traveller could see all the spectacular things of the world, but if he compares everything to his own standard or what he is used to, that may encourage him to make an incomplete judgement or feel more “all-knowing” when in fact he only sees a portion of the whole picture. Culture is not something that could be easily interpreted by someone who is only immersed in it for a short amount of time.

    Before arriving in Italy, I had always imagined Italy with the help of scenes from movies or books. To me, Italy was a land of romance, fashion, and tomato sauce. I thought of Italians wearing peacoats sipping on wine while sitting under an olive tree. When I first arrived in Pisa, I was hit by the unexpected heat wave. My first impression was that the houses were very compact, the cars were a lot smaller, and the people roaming the streets had more time on their hands. I couldn’t help but compare this country to China (the one other country I have travelled to). Though the Italian culture and society were vastly different from that of China, there were some similarities in the way people interact with others and the utilization of space. One thing that struck me in particular is the way Italians’ attitude towards American tourists. I haven’t been to too many places, but almost every city that is somewhat touristy, has treated foreigners with extra care and smiles. However, things are different in Italy. Not that the Italians don’t care, but they treat tourists like they would treat anyone else. They don’t put tourists on a pedestal and that’s understandable. To them, we are just passing by, and are just another part of their daily lives.

  5. brettj12 says:

    I believe that the quote in general refers to a person’s ability to observe a different people or culture and understand the rationale behind these peoples behaviors. It goes past someones ability to recognize the differences between two cultures and talks about understanding why these cultures are different and what about the past or the present has molded a culture into its current form. It is easy to judge others from a distance, but is “dangerous” to experience a culture and analyze it. The danger comes from the fact that you might understand the people or place so well that it makes you question your old way of doing things to the point that you might change.

    Here in Italy I’ve noticed that Italians just really like other people. They seem to be very friendly, especially to other Italians, as if everyone they talked to was a cousin of theirs. At this point I’m unsure whether these people are just overly friendly or is due to the fact that the city is actually a relatively small one and everyone truly knows everyone. The Italian dress code is also very different from America’s standards as everyone is very well dressed here. Clothes seem to fit a lot tighter, and clothes tend to be smaller. It is clear that Italians care about there outward appearance and is somewhat refreshing that people take such good care of themselves.

  6. Tulip says:

    I feel like he means that a traveller should travel with conscious thoughts. When we travel to a new place we are naive to the meaning of the things we see. So we believe everything we are told and trust the interpretations of others easily. However, when you are in your own home you have your own interpretation and meanings to your surroundings and therefore can be more knowledgeable about your surroundings.

    My first impression of Italy (at least Lucca) is old beauty and community. I really like the idea of small walkable streets with minimal cars. It is nice to be able to take a stroll after dinner with many other ppl doing the same thing. Its a very welcoming country and so far I am really enjoying my stay. Food is amazing and I actually look forward to eating fruits and vegetables unlike my impression in the US. It tastes dramatically different and fresh with lots of flavor. Squisito!!

  7. A Baer says:

    When we first arrived in Pisa my first impression was slightly negative. We had to buy a bus ticket and the man behind the counter slammed our money on the table and berated us for not having smaller bills. Overall Italy was a completely different experience than I have ever had and it was pretty overwhelmed with the heat, jet lag, and not knowing where we were going at all. It was interesting to be completely out of my comfort zone and to experience this new culture. Italy is incredibly beautiful and the Italian people are amazing once you learn some new etiquette rules.
    I don’t agree with Chesterton because I think that when we are moving throughout the world, experiencing new cultures our minds are expanded in ways that wouldn’t happen at home.

  8. genimcnutt says:

    I believe the meaning is that if one travels he may lose sight of what is most important in life, family and friends.

  9. s.thiederman says:

    The meaning that I got from that quote is that when traveling you start to question things that would normally not have been questioned, and that questioning another’s culture is difficult because you are not a part of it and will not understand it. In his opinion do not lose yourself to other’s cultures just because it is amusing.

    My first impression of Italy was in Rome; I was over tired, hot and hungry. However, I was in an amazing place. Italy is full of history, art and beauty. Vatican City especially, was mind blowing. I cannot believe how much time, talent, and energy went into creating such a masterpiece as the Sistine Chapel. It really made me realize how strong the impassioned the Italian people are in the knowledge of art and history. Our travel guide was a graduate who spoke 7 different languages, worked at the Vatican, and studied art. It was amazing to have someone so knowledgeable show us something so beautiful.

  10. MariaK says:

    My first impression of Italy is a country where people freely expressed themselves – and with gusto! My first day in Pisa proved me right. My friend and I was trying to get in the elevator when there was this middle-aged man who was standing outside the elevator door and we guessed it was his wife who was just getting in the door carrying a lot of groceries and house cleaning equipment. She was trying to work her way towards the elevator. I was wondering why the husband just stood at a distance instead of helping. I got in the elevator to see that it was half full of their shopping items. But I mindlessly pressed my floor, totally distracted with the shouting of the couple. This elevator has no hold or stop button and my friend tried to stop the doors from closing but her hand almost got squashed. the whole building was filled with the couples’ passionate arguments. Yes, I’m in Italy all right..

    • MariaK says:

      I ‘d like to add that this passion is carried in their fashion, art and every aspect of life. But then again this expressiveness may come from the love to live life in the here and now

  11. genimcnutt says:

    I did not formulate a first impression, truly, until arriving in Lucca; I stayed in Pisa for one night only. First, the architecture was astoundingly beautiful and the people impeccably dressed even though it was very hot. Most impressionable is how it is very difficult, if not impossible to generate a smile from any of the Italians. It is natural for me to smile at anyone and everyone when I am out and about. On one hand, it seems that Italians are not friendly. However when speaking to them, albeit when buying something in their shop, Italians are very friendly when I have asked them questions about the shop or Italy. I have met two particularly wonderful Italians, a woman and a man. My impression remains guarded.

  12. abmorley says:

    My first impression of Italy specificly Lucca was absolutley perfect in every way. You felt like you were automaticly in a small community. The first smells and sounds and feelings were very different from home. Entering through the wall you do feel safe and know you cant get lost I could feel the coummunity and the history that this country and town have. The people are walking slower and more relaxed when strolling down the road, The buildings are so beautiful and yet so old. How can something be not perfect and in someways look like they are falling apart be so beautiful? Things arent perfect here like we would view in the US, we want the best of every thing yet the old is better here. I noticed the sound of the language and the cobble stone roads, that add so much character. Every corner and street look different and has its own door and special handle.

  13. Reid says:

    I think Gilbert Chesterton is saying that someone who is at home or is in a comfortable environment, he or she will be free of the distractions of travel, and thus will have a clear mind and be able to reflect on pertinent issues and cerebral thoughts. On the other hand, the traveler is constantly distracted by novel experiences and the unfamiliar. This unfamiliarity may “narrow the mind” of the traveler in the sense that he or she may ask themselves why things are so different from what they recognize as “normal.” Additionally, these thoughts may cloud the traveler’s mind keep them from contemplating the more important issues and ideas.

    My first impression of Italy and Italians was actually five years ago when I first visited Rome. I remember thinking to myself that Italians were unhappy and rude as they did not smile when I interacted with them, especially in cafés and restaurants. However, I did, and still do, think that they are beautiful people. Many Italians have great features and gorgeous figures, and to top it off, they know how to dress. It can be 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside and they still manage to look immaculate, it’s amazing. Since then, my impression of Italians has changed a little. I now know that Italians lighten up a little when you make an effort to understand and use their language. Hopefully within the next few weeks I can learn a decent amount of their language to make the people I encounter smile.

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