In French, there is a sailing quote that says (roughly): “sailing is the most expensive, slowest, and uncomfortable way to go from one place you have no reason to be to another place you have no reason to be.” When I told this as a joke to a friend recently, she asked why we didn’t simply travel fast (e.g., not by boat) to spend more time in the interesting places rather than spending so much time and effort to land on the edge of nowhere.
|Widow selling dried fish in Nazare, Portugal.|
|Shady lanes of the old town, Muros, Spain.|
I don’t remember what my answer was; some blundering stale version of the voyage being half the fun, I suppose. But this week, while reading Alexander’s Path by veteran traveler, explorer, and spy Freya Stark, I found the answer I wish I’d given:
“A good traveller does not, I think, much mind the uninteresting places. He is there to be inside them, as a thread is inside the necklace it strings. The world, with unknown and unexpected variety, is a part of his own leisure; and this living participation is, I think, what separates the traveller and the tourist, who remains separate, as if he were at a theatre, and not himself a part of whatever the show may be.”
|Cathedral entrance, Porto, Portugal.|
One of our favorite things about traveling by boat is meeting people, both fellow sailors and locals who don’t live in an area inundated by tourists. As globalisation slowly erases our cultural differences (or accentuates and polishes them in an artificial Disneyland-type attraction for tourists), traveling slowly to the uninteresting places provides a last chance to experience a rapidly disappearing world.
|Repairing fishing nets, Galicia, Spain|
That said, next season’s cruise to the Balearic Islands and Sardinia will hardly be saturated with uninteresting places. I am, however, searching for what appears to be an extinct cultural experience: a nice nightclub in Ibiza for timid old farts on a budget! How uninteresting!