Olaudah Equiano’s Fascinating Travels
Olaudah Equiano was a black person of the Ibo people, and was born in Benin, which is in Western Africa. He was from a family that also had slaves, for that was simply the lifestyle of the Ibo people. Olaudah had a seven person family, plus all their slaves, including Olaudah’s little sister, who he was very close to. One day, Olaudah and his sister were kidnapped from their house to become slaves for their assailants. He cried and hugged his sister through the night before being separated into different slave owning families the next day. His first master was a smith, dealing with gold, who Olaudah upset by accidentally killing his chicken. In fear of instant flogging, he escaped and hid in a thick bush as the entire neighborhood searched for him. Upon them giving up on finding him, they did eventually and surprisingly find him in the fireplace, where they decided to keep him and treat him well. They later sold him to several different slave owners, forcing him to leave his country and find the coast. Many Europeans and Africans had owned Olaudah, yet all were easy to understand for the languages were similar or similar enough to quickly learn. One day, he was brought to the same house as his sister, where he felt elated to see her and spent the entire night together in each other’s arms. Unfortunately, she died the next day, devastating her brother. He was quickly sold into the most wealthy house in the most beautiful country of Africa, based on what he has so far seen, where he was treated like a member of the family rather than a slave. He felt like he was back at home, eating and drinking with the wealthy widow’s family and playing darts with the boys. He was then, suddenly and unexpectedly, taken from his happy home to the most miserable house yet. He was sold to several more slave owners for the next six to seven months before reaching the sea coast and being brought onto a European slave trade ship. The Europeans packed so many African prisoners, who got paid to usher in more slaves and provide them with a glass of liquor, that the quarters on the ship were unbearingly tight. Some tried to escape and drown themselves, while others tried to steal fish to fulfill their hunger before they were wastefully thrown overboard. The Europeans captured and brutally tortured those that chose death over slavery. They ultimately arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados, where they were facing culture shock of these “distant Africans” they could slightly understand and the great size of the horses they had trouble finding. Olaudah and the others were sold to slave buyers like usual, and the story ends with the terrors and horribleness of seemingly endless slavery.
Writing the Journey Notable Passages
From the introduction, the most interesting part to me was the idea that nomadic travel was always a conflict between staying rooted and searching for a better place to reside. The paragraph says,
“In human prehistory, however, travel was the domestic routine. Humans were first nomadic hunters and gatherers of food before they settled in fixed, agricultural communities. Human history has been a narrative of perpetual movement, a conflict between the desire of the necessity of seeking a better place to dwell, thus some regard the impulse to travel as atavistic, a willed return to the nomadic spirit of our ancestral past” (Espey 7).
This is really interesting because it shows how even back in nomadic times, people had that rite of passage to leave home and find a better life for themselves. A bunch of my friends did not like Connecticut, yet chose to go to school in state because they already knew the location, the people, and the mood of Connecticut. I, however, along with a few of my classmates, were brave enough to leave the state and find a new beginning all alone. The fact that I had to make the same decision that the nomads made is really interesting to me.
After reading the prologue from The Way to Rainy Mountain, the part that stood out most to me was the discovery of horses in the Northern Plains. In the third paragraph of the prologue, it says, “Along the way, they acquired horses, the religion of the Plains, a love and possession of the open land… They had conceived a good idea of themselves; they had dared to imagine and determine who they were” (Momaday 12). Discovering and taming a horse can make life in an environment as vast as the Plains so much easier. Limits and boundaries are broken, and distances become shorter. With the encouragement of traveling further than before via horse, one can (and did) push themselves to not only discover far away lands, but to discover who they truly are by exposing themselves to these distant places. It is really interesting to me that the discovery of one thing, the horse, can allow one to discover countless more things in life.
After reading Robert Frost's “The Road Not Taken,” I was really drawn in by Frost claiming the path less traveled makes such a big difference. The last part of the last stanza of the poem reads,
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference” (Frost 18).
I wholeheartedly agree that traveling to places that people do not necessarily visit can unlock a plethora of hidden gems. I have countless trips where some of the most memorable parts of a trip happened on the journey to the mostly untrodden destination as well. From taking one-car wide, two way dirt roads in rural Spain to avoid paying tolls, to getting stopped in North Dakota on an empty highway due to a herd of buffalo passing maybe 30 feet in front of us; there are plenty of fun, crazy stories that come from trekking out to untouched destinations. Thus, it is interesting to see a poet emphasize how worthwhile it is to take the path less traveled.
Despite all the interesting points made throughout Eric Leed’s “For a History of Travel” from The Mind of the Traveler, the most interesting concept was in the very first two sentences. Leed quoted Albert Camus, who boldly claimed, “What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country… we are seized by a vague fear, and the instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits” (Camus 19-20). This claim fascinates and tests me at the same time, for it makes a very compelling argument. Curiosity of how other cultures live and operate in foreign countries definitely attracts me to travel there, but I suppose the fear of how different it really is also draws me into going there. I have never thought of traveling as a result of prompted fear, but I definitely see where this perspective comes from. It is a very interesting point of view that is discussed throughout the entire section.
After reading “The Land of Story-Books” and “Travel” by Robert Louis Stevenson, I was really fascinated by the power of the children’s minds and imaginations in both poems. One quote from “The Land of Story-Books” that stood out to me is,
“So, when my nurse comes in for me,
Home I return across the sea,
And go to bed with backward looks,
At my dear land of Story-Books” (Stevenson 32).
This shows how a kid is able to develop a sense of wonder and desire to see the world at such a young age due to his or her childhood stories. Despite his or her family going through the motions of a domestic life, the kid is still free to dream about and, hopefully, travel to the destinations he or she so desires to visit. Even for adults, travel can recreate the sense of childhood wonder at the world. This was all really interesting to me because I can reflect on when I would read about great journeys from Winnie the Pooh or Robin Hood as a kid, possibly inspiring me to want to venture to foreign lands throughout my life. I also think that it will keep me young and learning, which are two things that are well worth traveling for.
Lastly, I read Salman Rushdie’s “On Adventure” from his Imaginary Homelands. The most interesting point Rushdie made in this was that modern adventuring starts in a rich place and heads for a poorer place. In his excerpt, he states, “I offer the theory that adventuring is, these days, by and large a movement that originates in the rich parts of the planet and heads for the poor” (Rushdie 36). People who are relatively richer in the world tend to be settled down and have more time and money to spend on travel. However, people who are wealthy enough to travel do, in fact, seem to travel to poorer places for the most part. I believe this might be in order to feel more powerful and better off than the people they encounter on their journeys. Even I, who wants to visit every country in the world, meaning I will definitely end up in countries richer than Connecticut, such as Monaco and the UAE, love the idea of going to simpler societies and seeing how different life is there. I would love to serve in Peace Corps in Mozambique, Timor-Leste, or Tuvalu, which are all developing countries that are either in debt or in serious need of foreign aid. This is a true aspect that I never realized prior to reading this excerpt, so it is most interesting to me.
Travel writing is not simply about exploring new lands and resources, but also new species, ideas, and theories. The thrill of traveling somewhere new can also come with the adrenaline of heresy. Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace both discovered this new excitement of travel when they challenged the teachings of God’s creation of every individual species with the ‘crazy’ concept of evolution. Both scientists proved that travel in the 18th and 19th centuries was important when they went to opposite sides of the world and came to the same radial conclusion of evolution.
Darwin had sailed on a voyage to discover new species in South America, Africa, and Australia, yet his five days at the Galápagos Islands were more detrimental to discovery than the rest of the entire five week voyage. After arriving on these islands, Darwin was honestly rather exhausted and unimpressed. He thought the wildlife, such as the flowerless cacti and the ugly iguanas were part of a garden from Hell. However, he started to pay attention to the giant tortoises and the mockingbirds on the islands. More importantly, he recognized that the shell shape of the tortoises and the feather coloring of the mockingbirds were different from island to island, yet the same within each individual island. Darwin connected these ideas to the question of why he found fossils of extinct animals really similar to the armadillos and sloths that live nearby. Darwin was then able to draw a sketch of a tree that represented one species evolving into new species, and so forth. Although he was too scared of being shunned by the Church and society, he eventually published his findings with the world alongside Wallace, who came to a strangely identical conclusion.
Wallace actually went on a voyage to discover new species in the Amazon rainforest before Darwin ventured out on his famous five week journey. Unfortunately, all of Wallace’s specimens and recorded findings were destroyed when his ship burned down, 700 miles from the nearest shore. He and his crew were saved from their lifeboat of starvation and dehydration ten days later by another ship, allowing him to arrive in England and meet Darwin himself. They met and talked about their past and future trips and discoveries. Wallace soon departed for the Malay archipelago to do an independent study of the wildlife found on these islands. He established “the Wallace Line”, which was an imaginary line in the waters of the archipelago that split the islands originally part of Australia from the islands originally part of Asia. The western islands had many primates, such as monkeys, while the eastern islands had primarily marsupials, like tree kangaroos. Wallace pieced together the concepts of the breakup of Pangea and the difference in wildlife on each side of the Wallace Line to come to the same conclusion of evolution as Darwin. In fact, after meeting and befriending Darwin in England, he mailed his hypotheses and notes to Darwin himself to confirm his ideas are not far fetched or crazy. Wallace had decided that because marsupials were only found on Australian islands and primates only on Asian islands, then similar species are found near each other and evolve from each other. Darwin was shocked at how perfectly Wallace’s writing summarized Darwin’s own findings. In fear of losing credit, Darwin quickly prepared to share his and Wallace’s discoveries to the world, yet everyone involved accepted that they were Darwin’s ideas first.
Due to the courageous sea voyages of scientists Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace in the 18th and 19th centuries, even after some very miserable maritime mishaps for Wallace, the world was introduced to the concept of evolution. These travels to the Galápagos Islands and the Malay archipelago not only provided travel enthusiasts with fascinating writing to this day and sparked excellent ideas for the next adventurous and tropical vacation, but it even shifted the world of science forever, veering away from religion and creationism and more towards evolution and adaptation.
Isabella Bird's "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountain" Travel Comparison Essay
Isabella Bird was born in Yorkshire, England in 1831. She rebelled against her Christian upbringing and loved to read, which was not very common of girls at the time. When she was diagnosed with insomnia and depression at age 19, her doctor recommended she travels the world on a sea voyage. She decided it would be a good idea, so she went on seven voyages before falling ill at home in 1904. Her voyages took her to the East Coast of the United States of America, Australia and Hawaii, Colorado, Japan, India, China and Korea, and lastly, Morocco. She was also the most qualified female for the Fellows of the Royal Geographic Society. Travel consumed her depressing life and made it remarkable and adventurous.
In Bird’s eight letters from his trips to Colorado and nearby states, she vividly described everything she saw and experienced during her travels while on horseback or on foot. Now that I have been living in Colorado, I was able to relate to a lot of her new experiences in this foreign place, far from the comfort of her home. In fact, there were several parallels in our time in Colorado so far.
In one paragraph, Bird mentions how she came to the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado and Wyoming, expecting them to be socially and culturally part of the midwest. The men were exceptionally kind and respectful to her, a woman travelling abroad and alone, whenever they encountered her. This courtesy was not common in the middle 1800’s, especially in England and the East Coast of the United States towards women. She was so taken aback by this due to her expectations set by her home country and the other parts of the United States she has been to. “ I mention these little incidents to indicate the habit of respectful courtesy to women which prevails in that region. These men might have been excused for speaking in a somewhat free-and-easy tone to a lady riding alone, and in an unwanted fashion. Womanly dignity and manly respect for women are the salt of society in this wild West” (Bird 8). This is similar to my first few experiences in Colorado. With the exception of California, Arizona, and briefly Wyoming and Montana, I had never been to the Western part of the United States before Colorado. Colorado, being my thirty-fifth state, offered a clean, healthy environment where everyone was genuinely happy, helpful, and willing to talk to people they pass by. I come from Connecticut, so I am used to all the New Englanders that keep to themselves, are very fake and manipulative to others, and will give you a nervous and dirty look if you say hi to them randomly as you pass them on the sidewalk. Thus, when I saw people being legitimately friendly and social, I was very shocked and pleased.
Another relatable excerpt that Bird mentions in her letters is about how stunning Colorado’s scenery was to her the first time she saw it for her own eyes. She has seen beauty in the places she has travelled to, such as the East Coast, Australia, Hawaii, and even back home in the United Kingdom. However, she had never seen a more incredible landscape than Colorado’s mountains and parks. “From the ridge on which this gulch terminates, at a height of 9,000 feet, we saw at last Estes Park, lying 1,500 feet below in the glory of the setting sun, an irregular basin, lighted up by the bright waters of the rushing Thompson, guarded by sentinel mountains of fantastic shape and monstrous size, with Long's Peak rising above them all in unapproachable grandeur, while the Snowy Range, with its outlying spurs heavily timbered, come down upon the park slashed by stupendous canyons lying deep in purple gloom. The rushing river was blood red, Long's Peak was aflame, the glory of the glowing heaven was given back from earth. Never, nowhere, have I seen anything to equal the view into Estes Park” (Bird 24). I have travelled all over the country, as well as internationally, but Colorado is definitely one of the places that stands out the most to me naturally. Hong Kong, Sedona and the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Appalachian Trail, Acadia National Park in Maine, Hawaii, Denali National Park in Alaska, the lush countryside of Czechia, Pedra in Spain, and the Azores in Portugal all stand out greatly to me when it comes to stunning natural beauty. However, Denver’s constant backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and the Denver skyline is just incredible around every corner. Whether I am hiking the Foothills in Chautauqua Park, exploring the Red Rocks amphitheatre, or looking at the Milky Way from the Nature Place, Colorado never fails to stun me.
Whether shocked by the friendliness and genuinity or the incredible, unparalleled landscape of Colorado, Isabella Bird and I had very similar experiences and reactions in Colorado.
Frequent Flyers vs. Historical Travelers
The travelers in the short film, Frequent Flyer, have come a long way in terms of travel since the historic travelers we have learned about when reading “70 Great Journeys”. The Frequent Flyer travelers, or frequent flyers, were way more advanced than the historic travelers on how they traveled, yet way less advanced on their purpose to travel. While there are few similarities between the two types of travelers, there are certainly several differences.
One difference, for instance, is how they traveled. The frequent flyers used an airplane as their main form of transportation, while the historical travelers were traveling before planes were even invented. Herodotus, Alexander the Great, and Emperor Hadiran were all traveling intercontinentally too, but on horseback or foot rather than by plane or car. The concept of human flight or an airplane was not even thought of at this point, and it led them to have just as wild stories, if not more wild, on the journey rather than at the actual destination. The advancing of transportation definitely changed the mood of a journey from the era of the historic travelers to the era of the frequent flyers. One can fall asleep on an airplane in New York City, wake up about eight hours later, and be in Bremen, Germany, meaning one can literally cross an entire ocean and make their way towards the center of another continent in a mere eight hours. It took Christopher Columbus roughly ten weeks to cross the ocean by ship, and several would die on these types of voyages. Transportation only continues to improve.
In addition to the mode of transportation, the reason for travel was very different among the two types of travelers. The historic travelers made a trip out of both the journey and the destination, while the frequent flyers were more worried about flying back and forth between two Thai cities or making 10 stops out of a trip around the world without ever leaving the airports in all these unique, global destinations, just to earn a couple hundred thousand frequent flyer miles so that he can exchange them for a round trip ticket to someplace in Europe for free. All of this tedious flying to airports with no intent of leaving these “compact cities,” as they called them, serve them no purpose in the present except to go to specifically more comfortable lounges in the JFK airport, or to go to the rainforests in the Singapore airport. However, it was smart in the fact that it planned for the future. Winning a free round trip ticket to some country on another continent is an award that is definitely worth the busy travel. However, I believe it would still be worth it for these frequent flyers to enjoy the cities of the airports they fly to so often. The historic travelers were actually discovering new land for their home country, conquering civilizations for their resources, and spreading Christianity to Natives confused about seeing Europeans for the first time in their isolated lives. Thus, the purposes of travel vary greatly between historic travelers and frequent flyers.
Based on the mode of transportation of these two types of travelers, and on their reason to travel, historic travelers are very different than frequent flyers.