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Monday, August 27, 2007

Travelling: virtues of a traveller

I'm reading the biography of the great female traveller Freya Stark, 'Passionate Nomad: the life of Freya Stark', because I'm writing a book on Syria and Freya spent time there. I'm up to an enlightening chapter about Freya's time in Yemen when she was the leader of an archaeological expedition. She intensely disliked her two British women travelling companions because they weren't interested in the locals and learning about their culture; they were only interested in the piles of rocks they were there to dig up. As a result, Freya formed a list of 'seven cardinal virtues for a traveller' which still strike me as being relevant: "1) To admit standards that are not one's own standards and discriminate the values that are not one's own values; 2) to know how to use stupid men and inadequate tools with equanimity; 3) to be able to dissociate oneself from one's bodily sensations; 4) to be able to take rest and nourishment as and when they come; 5) to love not only nature but human nature also; 6) to have an unpreoccupied, observant, and uncensorious mind - in other words, to be unselfish; and 7) to be as calmly good-tempered at the end of the day as at the beginning." What do you think? Is Freya missing anything?

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