Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seven Cardinal Virtues for a Traveller

Reading the biography of Freya Stark I imagined her as the female Indiana Jones.

A brilliantly headstrong, adventurous intellectual, Dame Freya Stark explored the harsh and mysterious lands of the Middle East in the early 20th century.  Her writings and interviews are filled with FABULOUS quotes, and this is my favorite. It's taken from a letter to her mother written in 1938 (as quoted in Jane Fletcher Geniesse's "Passionate Nomad, The Life of Freya Stark"). 
Last night I made a list (for myself) of the seven cardinal virtues for a traveller:
  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.
  7. To be as calmly good-tempered at the end of the day as at the beginning.
The moment I read this quote I could click off travel scenarios from my own life fitting each, and think of situations where I wasn't so "virtuous" a traveller. Future stories of my befuddlement are surely coming out of this....

Readings and recommendations:

A recent article in the New Yorker indicates her works are being reissued. 


  1. Good list. There's some hashish in India that can seriously help with #3.

  2. I just read about her list in a book on female travellers from 1785 onwards. She's making some very sensible points. I am certainly going to copy these travel virtues into my travel journal.