Travel writing renders a sense of place as the writers interpret their own insights. It is, more so, a celebration of the grandeur of place that connects to one’s sense of place and wanderlust found in contemporary travel writing. The sense of place permeates our language up until the present because of the existence of its components: the natural and the conventional world. One travails while finding the truth of living through traveling. Reading the poetry works of William Wordsworth and Mastuso Bashō, I was able to observe this quality of reflexivity towards one’s own travel narratives in writing. I specifically chose, Wordsworth’s Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802, and The World Is Too Much with Us along with Mastuso Bashō’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North as my topics for these works embrace the idea of comprehending one’s writing while using the ambiance of their journeys. They were also able to express their thoughts from their peripheral, spiritual, or objective vision.
The best writers in travel writing know how to bring out the curiosity from within the readers. They know how to connect through their stories—the experiences that are woven with sufficient imagination, creativity, and intelligence to make memoirs. Travel writers focus on making a work of art through the accounting of one’s own travel encounters towards a specific learning outcome about the self or the existence of others. Wordsworth deliberately shows this perspective in Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802, as he learns about the alluring spirited essence of the city instead of just merely looking at it as a construction of rock and metal. “Earth has not anything to show more fair:/Dull would he be of soul who could pass by/A sight so touching in its majesty;” He appreciates the beauty of the urban scenery. Here, he was also able to reflect on the interrelation of the man-made entities along with nature.
Mastuso Bashō’s Haikus also became his own travel journal. This becomes his own origin of his sense of place and wanderlust. In The Narrow Road to the Deep North, he sets out on a pilgrimage. He observes the beauty of nature, the peace of Buddhism, and the presence of other people. Through this, he was able to contemplate the glorious representation of his own travels. As Counisineau said, “Think of the ways that questions illuminate the world around us. Questions tune the soul. The purpose behind questions is to initiate the quest” (24). The writers teach the reader about the sacred experience that one finds in taking journeys. It is about the reinvention of one’s experiences in relation to the world around us.
Matsuso shows his lifestyle as he exhibits what it means to have a spiritual Japanese identity. “But here, without a doubt, was a memorial of a thousand years: I was peering into the heart of the ancient. The virtues of travel, joys of life, forgetting the weariness of travel, I shed only tears” (621). He also narrates his religious experiences as he glorifies the mystical essence of spirituality. During his visit at the Buddhist Hall, he is awed by the greatness of inner peace. It was a stunning scene wrapped in quiet—I felt my spirit being purified” (624). Here, he expresses veneration in finding a new sphere of the spiritual dimension.
Finding peace can be an eye-opening moment that the traveler captures from within.
It is important to grasp one’s realization of what truly matters in one’s life.Such as the narrative of Wordsworth’s when he rejects materialism and of Bashō’s when he finds peace, contemporary travel writing is the same for it shares the possibility of widening the readers’ lenses beyond their daily practical lives or their mind-boggling responsibilities. A person’s creativity and inspiration usually get blurred with work obligations or a repetitive schedule in life. As Alain de Botton said in The Art of Travel,
“If our lives are dominated by a search of happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest—in all its ardour and paradoxes—than our travels. They express, however inaccurately, an understanding of what life is all about, outside of the constraints of work and the struggle for survival” (9).
Contemporary travel writing is all about encountering something new. It is an itinerary of discovering more knowledge and if one is lucky, a sense of enlightenment or peace. It is an act of finding one’s own path towards the center of one’s being. Traveling and writing during one’s trips have become a way of mediating and dealing with difficulties. Apart from that, travel writing connects one to new cultures, new people, and new sensations. Through travel writing, a narrative seeks new ideas, concepts, and beliefs that will acknowledge the varying beauty of humanity.
Wordsworth’s poems focus strongly on these particulars: the grandeur of a place, nature, and emotional conveyance. As he reveals his ideas with the use of his imagination, he honors the natural world by expressing how it was able to affect his own consciousness as an environmentalist. Here, he celebrates the beauty of the scenery and then argues as to why it should be preserved and upheld. In his poem, The World is Too Much with Us, he criticizes the world for being too materialistic and how this behavior detaches the people from nature. “The world is too much with us; late and soon,/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:/Little we see in Nature that is ours;” The speaker complains here that the world is too overwhelming for us to appreciate it. Human beings are now more concerned about time and money and therefore, using up all of their energy for the wrong reasons. It also glorifies on the beauty of nature as it depicts the imagery of the moon, the flowers, and the wind: “This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,/The winds that will be howling at all hours,/And are up gathered now like sleeping flowers;/For this, for everything, we are out of tune;” (359). Unlike society, nature is not deemed as a commodity. It is more so, a gift, overlooked through the lack of communion and appreciation. Wordsworth,presents this present predicament in his poetry while expressing his admiration for nature and the life of simplicity.
Pico Iyer also in his work Why We Travel expounds the several reasons that one should take on journeys. He shows that it is not only the perception that changes during one’s travel but also the beliefs, values, and impulses. “Travel in that sense guides us toward a better balance of wisdom and compassion—of seeing the world clearly, and yet feeling it truly. For seeing without feeling can obviously be uncaring; while feeling without seeing can be blind” (1). This perspective usually found in contemporary writing ideas is also explicitly shown in the narratives of Wordsworth and Bashō. They present a wonderment on how they saw the world, through their lenses, and how they can share it through their writings. As Bashō exclaimed upon his visit to the islands of Matsushima “Did the god of the mountain create this long ago, in the age of the gods? Is this the work of the Creator? What words describe this?” (621). In awe, he celebrates the grandeur of the natural aspects that Japan has to offer.
Contemporary travel writing concerns writers on going to places and interpreting these travel experiences into stories that move, teach, and inspire the readers to change for the better, to gain insight, or to encourage others to travel as well. As Cousineau argued, “Integral to the art of travel is the longing to break away from the stultifying habits of our lives at home, and to break away for however long it takes to once again truly see the world around us” (23). These characteristics of finding wanderlust and learning outcomes can also be seen through the works of Wordsworth and Bashō. As Bashō observes, “The tough spirit of the late-blooming cherry tree, buried beneath the accumulated snow, remembering the spring, moved me. It was as if I could smell the “plum blossom in the summer heat,” (625). There is beauty in the places that we discover and these experiences can be shared through writing.
Nedra Reynolds writes about the cultural geography, the sense of space in the social world, “Geographies of Writing: Inhabiting places and encountering difference.” She aims to understand the people’s experience and sense of space and how they see this related to the other forms of the social world. “Geography gives us the metaphorical and methodological tools to change our ways of imagining writing through both movement and dwelling—to see writing as a set of spatial practice informed by everyday negotiations and space” (6). This spatial practice, becomes a core of Bashō’s writing as well when he introduces his reason for his travels “Some years ago, seized by wanderlust, I wandered along the shores of the sea” (617).
Travel Writing calls for the writer’s desire for more experiences, beauty, and knowledge. Wordsworth and Bashō both celebrate the world as they accept their role as the narrator of such amazing scenery, ideas, and sense of geography. As Bashō reflects “My body and spirit were tired from the pain of the long journey; my heart overwhelmed by the landscape. The thoughts of the distant past tore through me, and I couldn’t think straight” (620). Travel writing will always bring about a change in one’s sense of place through new astonishing insights.
Cousineau, Paul. The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred.
Conari Press, 1998.
De Botton, Alain. The Art of Travel. Vintage Books, 2002.
Iyer, Pico. “Why We Travel.” Pico Iyer Journeys, 18 March. 2000.
picoiyerjourneys.com/index.php/2000/03/why-we-travel/. Accessed 12 Oct. 2016.
Puchner, Martin, et al. (Editors). The Norton Anthology of World Literature (3rd Ed.) New York:
W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.
Reynolds, Nerda. Geographies of Writing: Inhabiting Places and Encountering
Difference. Southern Illinois University Press, 2004.