Thoreau famously said he needn’t travel West or to Europe, that right around Concord gave him universe enough to explore for several lifetimes. So do I take his wisdom to heart? Well, the Concord of his day was an extraordinarily cosmopolitan place (though he low-keyed this in his writing). And he did travel to NYC, meeting Whitman there, and then out to Minnesota, just before he died.
Nevertheless, I like the image of burrowing in where you are, rather than always looking elsewhere for the interesting and inspiring. On the other hand, I don’t regret for a moment my recent tours to Reykjavik, Tel Aviv, Johns Hopkins, Auburn, and Vilnius. And there’s always a reminder to tell oneself when getting too attached to the specific advice of a guide like Thoreau (or Nietzsche, or Emerson).
They say, after all, “Don’t follow me, follow your own path, or better, cut your path, hew it where none existed.” So we read them not to find a path to slavishly follow but read them to soak in the intensity of their hewing, and to discern what it would be like to hew ours with such intensity. Of course, not any old path will do. I can’t take the path to Wall Street, or hew a new one there; there’s just no wild between here and there, and I don’t want to get there. I could learn hard labor, perhaps, but not hewing. And now I’m back home, ready to burrow in again, I can see my travels as walks in the wild . . . I hope.