If I were to travel, I’d find a poor copy of what I’ve already seen

There’s an erudition of acquired knowledge, which is erudition in the narrowest sense, and there’s an erudition of understanding, which we call culture. But there’s also an erudition of the sensibility.

Erudition of the sensibility has nothing to do with the experience of life. The experience of life teaches nothing, just as history teaches nothing. True experience comes from restricting our contract with reality while increasing our analysis of that contact. In this way our sensibility becomes broader and deeper, because everything is in us – all we need to do is look for it and know how to look. 

What’s travel and what good is it? Any sunset is the sunset; one doesn’t have to go to Constantinople to see it. The sensation of freedom that travel brings? I can have it by going from Lisbon to Benfica, and have it more intensely than one who goes from Lisbon to China, because if the freedom isn’t in me, then I won’t have it no matter where I go. ‘Any road,’ said Carlyle, ‘this simple Entepfuhl road, will lead you to the end of the World.’ But the Entepfuhl road, if it is followed all the way to the end, returns to Entepfuhl; so that Entepfuhl, where we already were, is the same end of the world we set out to find. 

Condillac begins his celebrated book with: ‘No matter how high we climb or how low we descend, we never escape our sensations.’ We never disembark from ourselves. We never attain another existence unless we other ourselves by actively, vividly imagining who we are. The true landscapes are those that we ourselves create since, being their gods, we see them as they truly are, which is however we created them. None of the four corners of the world is the one that interests me and that I can truly see; it’s the fifth corner that I travel in, and it belongs to me. 

Whoever has crossed all the seas has crossed only the monotony of himself. I’ve crossed more seas than anyone. I’ve seen more mountains than there are on earth. I’ve passed through more cities than exist, and the great rivers of non-worlds have flown sovereignly under my watching eyes. If I were to travel, I’d find a poor copy of what I’ve already seen without taking one step. 

In the countries that others go to, they go as anonymous foreigners. In the countries I’ve visited, I’ve been not only the secret pleasure of the unknown traveller, but also the majesty of the reigning king, the indigenous people and their culture, and the entire history of the nation and its neighbours. I saw every landscape and every house because they were me, made in God from the substance of my imagination. 

Fernando Pessoa
Bernardo Soares, ''The Book of Disquiet''
(Text 138)

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