Romanticism is my favorite period in all of English literature.
Not every avid reader or literature major will agree, but since I have a Master’s Degree in English, I’d love to think my opinion counts for something, haha.
If you’re unfamiliar with this period, then I suggest diving into the more popular, accessible works and enjoy the wild ride! Percy Shelley’s rebellious poetry. Mary Shelley’s thought-provoking Frankenstein. Coleridge’s environmental warnings in “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Even the fabulous Jane Austen wrote in the midst of the Romantic Period. Who doesn’t adore Mr. Darcy?
When I was in graduate school (god, it feels like forever ago), I took two classes about Romanticism and found myself practically falling into the pages. William Shakespeare is my boy, yet to be perfectly honest, I wish I would’ve done my independent study and honors thesis on the Romantics rather than the Bard. Sorry, Will.
Why do I love the Romantic Period so much? Because many of the writers’ ideals fit into my lifestyle, including the ways I chose to travel.
Romantic writers and artists rebelled against societal norms and took many risks to achieve personal fulfillment. Too often, people “sit down and act nice” to appease others, and while kindness is admirable, so is chasing your dreams no matter what the naysayers and haters believe.
It’s your life. Live it.
Ultimately it’s no coincidence the Romantics were great travelers themselves. Staying home wasn’t an option for them. Ever hear of the Grand Tour? Yup, the Romantics were part of that.
Now Romantic writers and artists – at least the ones who extensively traveled – were upper-class, white, and mostly men, so their specific experiences aren’t relevant to everyone. Nonetheless still think we can learn from the movement as a whole.
So, all my literature lovers, this post is especially written for your enjoyment!
We all know Blond Wayfarer loves to connect her passion for both books and passports. Romanticism is a fantastic windswept period that teaches me lessons about my own adventures around the planet. My Masters degree forces me to think about why I travel at all.
Even if you disliked literature in high school or college, I hope this post will encourage you to embrace your “Romantic” side and get out there!
Here are 4 ways Romanticism taught me to be an amazing traveler.
1. Our Imagination Comes Before Logic and Facts
Logically, I should save every single coin for a new house and white picket fence, but instead my heart chooses to travel – despite my bank account’s objections. Sure, it’s not smart to waste your money and I don’t advocate accumulating debt for travel purposes, but if you’re healthy and have some semblance of financial stability, go for it!
The Romantics themselves scorned the Age of Enlightenment. Instead they wanted people to get swept into a fantastical world and use their imagination to achieve great art.
I’m not saying to ignore reason and facts. We all know willful ignorance doesn’t lead to success or even fun. For example, if you decide to travel to the Caribbean in the middle of a predicted hurricane because your emotions think it’s the “right time” to go on a trip, then don’t be surprised when you’re stranded and have to call emergency services to save your butt.
But be creative on your travels. Get off the beaten path in Europe. Take a cooking class if you’ve only ever cooked soup in a can. Purchase local art to inspire others to keep creating. Stay at that funky boutique guesthouse instead of a chain hotel. Take risks.
Furthermore, remember our imaginations are powerful. My creativity inspires me to not only piece together meaningful trips, but to write this travel blog for all you lovely folks.
2. Nature Offers Us Beauty and Truth
The Romantics deeply believed in Mother Nature’s all-consuming power. Nature was practically a religion, which you can clearly see in any Wordsworth or Shelley poem. Prior to this period, people didn’t have the time or even the desire to hike a mountain simply because it existed in their backyards.
I have a much greater appreciation for nature’s wonders, partially thanks to Romanticism and my own travels.
When I visited Scotland, I learned my designer bags and shoes would only bring me temporary happiness whereas exploring the rough highlands, twisted ankle and all, brought me memories to last a lifetime.
Another example would be when I went camping in Western Canada for two weeks on a GAdventures tour. I had never gone camping. Meaning I had no clue how to pitch a tent, forgot to pack the most basic supplies (what’s a head lamp?), and failed to shower for a couple days because some of the sites didn’t have facilities (d’oh!). But no words could capture my feelings as I gazed over crystal glacier waters and awed at the majesty of the mountains. Worth. It.
3. Our Inner Self Has Great Potential
The individual person is way more important than society according Romantic artists and writers. Their opinions were not surprising. Remember: both the French and American Revolutions took place around this time.
I promise I’m not going in the political direction you think I am, so bear with me!
While I’m not saying you ought to act like a selfish brat, there’s something to be said for doing what you want for a change.
Young people, especially women, are guilt tripped into catering to the wishes and whims of others such as bosses, co-workers, parents, spouses, etc. So take a step back, realize you – yes, you!! – are awesome, and do great things to make yourself feel happy.
For example, I’ve had people imply I’m wasting money by traveling so much, and I need to think about settling down soon. To please who exactly? My parents? My parents are happy for me. My brother? He couldn’t care less how I spend my money and time; plus he loves travel as much as I do. My co-workers? None of their business. Extended family? Again, none of their business.
You can’t please everyone, nor should you even try.
If you wanna book a trip – especially solo – and all the cards fall into place, then book your trip and go.
4. The Desire to Experience Extremes
Over-the-top emotions were totally fashionable in the Romantic Period. “Holding back” wasn’t cool at all. Let crying and laughter ring free!
Okay, you don’t wanna act like a complete Drama Queen, because such behavior is polarizing and won’t win you friends. However, you should “live in the moment” as a traveler, which means you wanna take some risks and show you’re having a great time! Romanticism reminds me that my adrenaline should switch into overdrive, which pushes me to take risks I wouldn’t at home.
Examples? Ha. I may hate flying with the passion of a million suns, but I still wanted to try running off a mountain in Slovenia. Paragliding rewarded me with some of the best views of the Julian Alps. Plus, I learned that while my anxiety may try to hinder me, I can defeat it. I wore the world’s biggest smile once my feet touched the ground again.
And let your emotions show online too! I know social media can fuel people’s jealousy, but I still believe there’s nothing wrong sharing your happiness. The people who are important will understand and support you.
If you’re a literature lover, like me, do you also enjoy the Romantic Period? Has a piece of literature ever inspired you to travel to a new place? Share in the comments.