Splendid Happiness and Solo Travel: the Sunday Travel poem is by Martha Medeiros

Graffiti outside Neruda’s home in Santiago. I visited it in 2011.

The pursuit of happiness has come under attack of late.

On July 4th Jian Ghomeshi of “Q” (CBC radio and Sirius Satellite 159)  interviewed a number of people on how they would change America. Toni Morrison said she would change the wording of the Declaration of Independence from the “pursuit of happiness” to the “pursuit of integrity”.

Penelope Trunk has a new book out called The New American Dream: a blueprint for a new path to success (I’ve not read this book and can’t vouch for it). She suggests that “if you want to have a good life, you shouldn’t focus on happiness, but rather, on making your life interesting”

I agree.

And, from the poem “Die Slowly”, it seems that Martha Medeiros did as well. This poem delivers a most positive outlook on life from the most negative angle possible.

Ok, this is a stretch for a blog on solo travel but hang with me.

I consider solo travel to be interesting and important in and of itself. But I also consider it a framework within which to explore life. There is a mention of travel in Medeiros’ poem but it is certainly not the focus of the poem. How can I position it as this week’s Sunday travel poem? Let me put it this way…

Solo travel helps you flip on its head all that Medeiros says contributes to a slow death. It causes you to change routines in your own rhythm, challenge yourself, build self-esteem, ask questions, explore with curiosity and expand your world.

We all deserve splendid happiness. I hope you find yours.


Patio outside of book store in Neruda’s home.


Die Slowly

by Martha Medeiros

He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones i’s rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly.

He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
dies slowly.

He or she who abandons a project before starting it, who fails to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know, he or she who doesn’t reply when they are asked something they do know,
dies slowly.

Let’s try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness

When I first published this poem I attributed it to Pablo Neruda. Thanks to Heider, a reader, who pointed out that it is actually by Martha Medeiros. Apparently this is one of three poems that is frequently wrongly credited to Neruda. This also explains all the photos in this post with Neruda references.

Small amphetheatre outside of Neruda’s home for poetry readers and other events.

Graffit on street near Neruda’s home.

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Wow. Thank you so much for pointing this out. Upon doing more research I discovered that “Die Slowly” is one of three poems frequently attributed to Neruda inaccurately. Thanks for helping out.

  • Helder

    Hello! :)

    I love that poem, but I have to make a small correction: it’s actually been written by Martha Medeiros, a Brazilian writer, and not Neruda.

  • http://twitter.com/TravelandGraphs Ryan McCoy

    He or she who abandons a project before starting it, who fails to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know, he or she who doesn’t reply when they are asked something they do know,

    dies slowly.”
    Loved that part!

  • Susan

    Thank you for sharing this Janice – I love Neruda but have never read this inspiration

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Thanks for commenting and supporting the sentiment. If we are to live we might as well LIVE!

  • Edgyjunecleaver

    “Lets try to avoid death in small doses.” became my mantra in 1999 when I made the decision to leave an empty marriage. It should probably become my mantra again. Thanks for the reminder. 

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Hi Jeff,

    Oh that crossroad! Here’s another post that really says what I think about the travel crossroads: http://solotravelerblog.com/should-i-stay-or-should-go-travel/. Best wishes for an exciting future.

  • Jeff Dobbins

    Wow. I’m at a crossroads, trying to figure out how to break away from a soul-sucking job to pursue a path that is inspiring, exciting, yet murky from here. There are many well-intentioned folks who warn me to “watch my step.”  This poem resonates with the fact that, despite logic, I know what I have to do. Thank you

  • Julie25

    This is great. One of my fave poets. X

  • Linda

    I love Neruda, but missed this one until now. Love it on so many levels! Thanks for this post!!