The journey is the destination


Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He is perhaps best known nowadays for his quotes. “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” is probably his biggest hit. A seemingly simple but nevertheless, profound statement.

I guess it’s the constraints of the typical 2 week holiday that seduced people into getting to their chosen destination as quickly as possible. You sit in the departure lounge on a miserable and grey Manchester Monday afternoon, and 14 hours later you’re half way around the world. On the way, you’ve probably watched a couple of films, read a book or snoozed. Whatever you’ve done to pass the time, the one thing you haven’t done is let the journey unfold in an organic way. The fact you’re 12,000 miles away in a relatively short time is slightly surreal. You may have followed the journey on the airplane screen and watched your plane cross oceans and continents which will have given you some idea of your path to your destination but you most certainly haven’t experienced the journey in any real sense.

I’m a big fan of a road trip and it’s my idea of travel heaven. My first experience of this form of holiday was as a child. We drove down from Sheffield to Dover, crossed the channel and then slowly meandered our way through France. We avoided the Péage and stuck to A or B roads. There was no sense of urgency to get to the South of France. We took in charming towns and villages. We stopped when we felt like it. The journey took almost three days and it was probably my most memorable trip. The crowning glory was cresting the Jura mountains. Way off in the distance was the shimmering mirage like vision of Mont Blanc’s snowy peak. In the foreground I could just make out the huge fountain of Geneva gushing water into the air. There were other memorable moments, the discovery of Annecy was one such moment I’ll always treasure. We made a bit of a detour near Grenoble to take in Alpe D’Huez. Imagine the thrill of this 12 year old boy getting to ride a bike up one of the most iconic climbs in the Tour de France.

Eventually arriving at our camp site I had a concrete sense of the distance traveled and the subtle changes that had unfolded on the way. A real sense of what a 1,000 miles journey meant in terms of architecture, culture and climate and geography.  The journey was more memorable than the actual holiday itself. Being in the South of France made sense in a way that just wouldn’t be possible had we flown. More importantly it sparked a desire to experience this type of travel more often.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, the destination has become more important than the journey. We get so wrapped up in our processes, in completing each step, that we forget to experience the stops along the way. In my book the stops along the way are the destination, bit by bit until you reach your goal.

Danny Frith is Director at SkiBoutique. SkiBoutique is a luxury ski chalet agency based in Switzerland.

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Comments (14)

  1. Jack says:

    I think more people are coming to understand the idea that the journey matters more than the getting there. For those who’ve taken time out of their lives to travel, a gap year or a career break, gives a chance to get there slowly. Taking a bus or train with local people shows you how the locals live, giving you the time to think over your life.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m from the States, so the concept of a gap year is pretty non-existent to me. But I know people who really wished they took the chance to do something like that rather than just getting a job right out of college. For me, that’s why I love to travel. I wouldn’t want to end up regretting something as I got older.

    • Dan Frith says:

      Thanks for your comment Jack.

  2. Lynne Gardner says:

    Although I totally agree with putting the emphasis on the journey, in reality for many of us we simply do not have the time. My holiday time is so precious that to save some hours I opt for direct flights when two flights would often be half the price. My trick is to read a book or to download a film which will get me in the mood for my destination.

    • Kerry says:

      So true, I often forget how hard it can be to travel sometimes. This is becoming quite clear now with everything that’s been going on. Hopefully, when all is said and done, we can remember not to take traveling for granted. Most people can do it once a year if they are lucky.

    • Dan Frith says:

      Lynne,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree, for some, time is a luxury that they would rather spend at their chosen destination.

  3. Jim says:

    A long time ago I took part in an amazing school trip, so long ago that Live Aid played on the radio as we headed towards our channel crossing from Dover. Our destination was the distant Greek Pindos Mountains.

    Nowadays health and safety considerations plus risk assessments would probably have meant that the trip never took place. We stopped somewhere in central France for the pupils to throw down their sleeping bags in a field, then again in Northern Italy before boarding a night ferry crossing from Brindisi to Igoumenitsa. I’m sure that few of those pupils have forgotten sunrise as they sailed towards the Greek port. Finally, a robed Greek shepherd guided us on foot to our mountain hut home for the next week whilst we explored the Pindos range.

    It was a journey that changed so many of the pupils, I could see them maturing as the journey progressed.

  4. Andrew says:

    I’m a big fan of road trips as well. Though I like to thoroughly plan my trips to the last period (meaning even estimated costs of fares and meal allowances) because I am extra that way, I find that on road trips you can let go of the itinerary. If only for a little bit. To me it means discovering new places one might never see on a map or blog article. And it’s not really getting lost, but more of discovering a new way to get from point A to point B, albeit much longer. When you don’t have such a planned itinerary, you tend to take in things much more. You slow down to enjoy the moments and the company you are with, which is what I think is the essence of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote.

    • Dan Frith says:

      Andrew,

      Thanks for your comment. Planning a trip was anathema to my parents. We just packed up the car and headed south and let the journey unfold.

  5. Jenny Fisher says:

    I laughed at the ‘typical 2 week holiday’. My holidays are typically one week so I definitely agree with the rush and push to fit enough in during that restricted time frame. I think we’ve also come to expect quickness and convenience these days. We want a fast way there and everything to go smoothly so we can ‘start’ the holiday, even though many of us, myself included, probably spend so much time thinking and stressing and planning that we fail to enjoy the here and now of the holiday until it’s too late and we’re boarding the plane back home!

    Seeing the Jura mountains must have been unreal. I think that as I’ve got older and I’ve done a lot of city scapes and find myself a bit overwhelmed with the rush, that I more appreciate the quieter paced holidays and more natural surroundings. The south of France would be a great choice.

    I think we need to make a conscious effort to slow down and enjoy each step of the way, rather than getting wrapped up in stress or too busy thinking about what’s next on the itinerary or to do list. This is a great reminder, really good post Danny!

  6. Frank says:

    When I saw the tagline about Ralph Waldo Emerson, I got pretty intrigued. He was one of my favorite writers growing up. I love the Transcendentalist movement, such an important period of literature. Just seeing that quote has inspired me to take another look at some of their writings, they have been invigorating for me in the past. Especially Henry David Thoreau. Love his writings too!

    • Dan Frith says:

      Frank,

      Thanks for your comment. I just love the inter net for the priceless ability to look things up, a treasure trove of knowledge, obscure and otherwise.

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