Thursday 31 October 2013

Freya Stark: Part the Second

I spent an eight-hour flight to the Arabian Peninsula becoming better acquainted with Freya Stark - this time through her biography Passionate Nomad by Jane Fletcher Geniesse.  What comes across most strongly is Freya Stark's determination to break down the walls of her life, constrained as she was by lack of money, family obligations and health problems.  Plus a world war and the inescapable fact of her femaleness.

Freya Stark was 34 before she embarked on her first true adventure: to spend months improving her Arabic (which she had insisted on learning, despite protests) in the Lebanon.  She wanted to live a big life, an important life.  Perhaps this thirst to keep pushing, to score exploration 'wins', had a negative impact on some of her relationships later on - perhaps.  It's a truism to say that fame changes people; of course it does, but then we all change anyway, regardless of fortune.

The point, she observes, and I have observed, is that travel seems to bring out one's essential self, for better or worse.  Accordingly, Miss Stark suggests that 'the pleasantness of being liked for oneself might ... be added to the five reasons for travel give me by Sayyid Abdulla, the watch-maker'.

You would of course like to know what the five are.

Sayyid Abdulla's Five Reasons for Travel:
To leave one's troubles behind one
To earn a living
To acquire learning
To practise good manners
To meet honourable men

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