Travel and Intelligence – not quite a Sunday Travel Poem


…to feel that something in your heart, somehow indigenous to this new land, is coming to life from the moment of your arrival.

“Infused with some new intelligence…”

In the letter below, the great German-language poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, suggests that travel infuses us with new intelligence.

Really? Do we gain intelligence as we travel? Knowledge for sure. But intelligence?

Intuitively I would say that there is a good argument for this. After all, by experiencing different cultures we gain more ways to experience, navigate and negotiate the world. But it seems that my argument is simplistic. It goes much farther. Studies show that travel will not only make you smarter but also more creative and open-minded. This is largely due to being away from home.

Ah, more reasons to support our desire to travel. And, given that traveling solo takes you more away from home than traveling with someone from home, I think that solo travelers gain more from their travels.

Back to Rilke. This letter vibrates with his enthusiasm for travel. Found on a blog called A Year with Rilke I have imposed line breaks into this prose so that it is easier to enter and it is more like the poetry we’ve been reading. I think the language warrants this.

Oh, the joys of travel!
To feel the excitement of sudden departure, not always knowing whither.
Surely you and I are in agreement about that.
How often did my life seem concentrated in that single moment of departure.
To travel far, far—and that first morning’s awakening under a new sky!
And to find oneself in it—no, to discover more of oneself there.
To experience there, too, where one has never been before,
one’s own continuity of being and, at the same time,
to feel that something in your heart, somehow indigenous to this new land,
is coming to life from the moment of your arrival.
You feel your blood infused with some new intelligence,
wondrously nourished by things you had no way of knowing.

If you are interested in reading A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke you can acquire it on Amazon.

  • Scott

    Travel, I believe, gives each of us the opportunities for knowledge, intelligence (?), creativity and open-mindedness . . . but, as with all opportunities, it is up to each of us to realize those things; in short, they are not “givens.”  

    The simple fact that we have traveled, means nothing (in itself.)  A(nother) stamp in the passport is all that is assured.  The rest is up to us :)