I love Poetry.
And you know what? It’s ironic that I love poetry so much.
When I attended college and decided to major in English, I enrolled in a poetry course for beginners, but dropped out once I learned the professor had rules against leaving the lecture to use the bathroom. (Ew).
I’ve also taken classes where poetry wasn’t open for student interpretation. Nope. If you disagreed with the professor’s perspective, you were Dead Wrong and ought to feel sorry for bastardizing literature. So usually I’d zone out and think about my next meal, likely Wendys or a Fat Sandwich. Ahhh, memories.
Now, though, poetry inspires me. I know I probably sound like a huge nerd, but whatever, it’s the truth. I have a long list of favorite poems including travel-related ones. And what better place to share my love of travel poetry than on my blog?
I hope these poems will inspire you to travel too! Even if you hate poetry (I see you), still give these texts a fair chance. I know when I let these words flow through my mind I feel an urge to throw caution to the winds, step onto a plane, and enjoy the unknown.
1. “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” – William Wordsworth
I’m a solo female traveler. Sure, I’ll join friends and family on trips, but I’ve visited a lot of new places alone. Just me and my backpack. I don’t mind solo travel. If anything, exploring the world on your own terms is very, very, very liberating. You meet new people, choose your own activities, wake up whenever you want, the whole nine yards. Besides I looooooove when no one else is around to tell me what to do. I’m an independent boss like that.
In “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud,” the speaker reflects on a beautiful daffodil field and all alone, he remembers their vibrant colors. As a solo female traveler, I have a lot of memories that only I share. And yeah, I definitely reflect on those incredible times on miserable rainy NJ commutes.
2. “Ulysses” – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
This poem is told from the perspective of Ulysses, the great ancient Greek hero of Odyssey fame. Even though he’s reached old age, Ulysses decides to leave his kingdom and make new discoveries. He simply can’t stand sitting on the throne for the rest of his life. Ulysses vows to “never yield” or give up on his journey, meaning it’s likely that he won’t return home ever again.
As you already know, I angsted a lot about turning 30. Probably too much. I worry sometimes that I’m too “old” to daydream about future trips – international and domestic – and I should just focus on, uh, more “normal” goals.
But, you know what, if an adventurous life is good enough for Ulysses, then it’s good enough for me.
3. “Song of Myself” – Walt Whitman
“Song of Myself” is a celebration of oneself. We’re often told to act humble. Not brag. To let others enjoy the spotlight. While you don’t want to turn into an arrogant sack of awfulness, too much humbleness leads to weaker self-esteem which then leads to undermining one’s own special accomplishments. So drop the excessive humbleness. Drop it now!
Travel requires confidence. Many people decide to travel for personal reasons such as healing a broken heart, re-discovering themselves, uncovering their family’s history, restarting their lives, etc. etc, but regardless, you need confidence to break outside your comfort zone.
“Song of Myself” is motivational. This poem makes you feel as if you can do anything even travel the world.
4. “The Road Not Taken” – Robert Frost
Okay, I’m in “cliche territory” now, but I had to include Frost’s famous poem on this list. It just felt incomplete without it. In Frost’s poem, the speaker comes across two diverging paths in the woods. S/he decides to take the path not trodden by millions of others. The lesser traveled path is scarier, but the speaker treks onwards and claims the decision made a meaningful difference. As you can see, the poem is a gigantic metaphor for making unconventional choices to benefit your life.
Solo travel especially is seen as an unusual choice but my trips have definitely molded me into the person who I am now, a stronger and more assured person. I don’t shudder at the idea of driving to new places, for example. I used to worry about getting lost all the time, but now I shrug, use my Waze app, and not worry too much.
5. “Uphill” – Christina Rossetti
“Uphill” embodies all that is amazing and difficult about traveling. The journey uphill takes the speaker the entire day, morning through night. Travel requires sleepless nights (argh, damn you, international flights), uncomfortable bus rides, and canceled train departures. I can’t count the number of times my transportation plans fell flat on its face. The speaker is nervous about making it to the top of the hill. Understandable.
However, the inn at the top of the hill promises company and warm beds for all travelers. No one is ever turned away. So, even if it’s physically and emotionally exhausting, travel also heals you beyond your wildest dreams. And the goodness of people? Wow. It still blows my mind. Both my lunch in Nazare and canceled Stockholm train prove kindness exists everywhere.
6. “In a Station of the Metro” – Ezra Pound
This (very) short poem gives the reader an image of nameless faces at a metro station. As travelers, we all spend time using public transportation, such as buses or trains, and watch the people around us.
Come on. Who doesn’t do this?
7. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” – W. B. Yeats
I love cities, but it’s not exactly a secret that I’m not a fan of hustle and bustle. Which is why I wonder if New Jersey is a true “fit” for my lifestyle but that’s a whole other post. Unlike my daily life, travel forces me to slow down and soak up every single experience, however small and discreet.
In Yeats’s poem, the speaker mentally returns to a beautiful lake as he stares at a road on a regular ol’ day. This poem reminds us that our journeys aren’t finished when they come to an end. The memories of dancing on a beach in Croatia or snorkeling in Iceland or paragliding in Slovenia last forever, even in the middle of a crazy day on the job. Embrace them.
8. “The Unexplorer” – Edna St. Vincent Millay
Okay, this poem is totally “tongue-in-cheek.” The speaker is a young girl who wishes to see the end of a lovely road outside her house. Her mother tells her that the road leads to the milkman’s door, and this revelation stops the girl from traveling at all. Sad, huh?
Now I’m a traveler and proudly identify as such, but I also love staying in my apartment and watching hours of television. Sometimes I can’t even be bothered to stroll five minutes down the street to buy a carton of milk.
Tell me your favorite poems – especially poems that will inspire you to travel. And remember to subscribe everywhere! Haha.