When I came to U.S this January, I had little room in my baggage for books. Besides the five volumes of Gustave Flaubert’s Correspondance, I only took Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil). I picked up this edition from an ambulatory book vendor in Paris, but since then, I took it everywhere I went.
The last poem, titled Le Voyage, is one of my favorites. Baudelaire is pessimist, for whom travel is appealing but disappointing.
The world, monotonous and small, today,
Yesterday, tomorrow, always, shows us our image:
An oasis of horror in a desert of ennui!
But still, we keep childish curiosity and yearn for elsewhere. When I was young, I dreamed Paris and Roma. The impossibility to realize these travels made them more charming. But What I looked for in these places? I had never questioned myself until I went there later. I still had no answer when I was sitting in the beautiful Luxembourg Garden. Suddenly, all that I had dreamed seemed so far away and the overwhelming joy was not the beautiful scenes but only the fulfillment of this long-distance and long-dreamed voyage.
I love the word “voyage”. In French, it now means all kinds of travels, despite the means. Even the destination demands just one hour’s drive, I still prefer to say Bon Voyage to myself or to others, because the word associates with new things to discover, a surprising journey and a fulfilled appetite, which break our routine and make ourselves excited even before being on road. “Life is short, Voyage more !” Has this commercial sentence touched other travelers than me?
When I had no time and no money, I read travel memories, novels and all kinds of stories. As Baudelaire wrote in this poem, we are more eager to learn that life is elsewhere.
We wish to voyage without steam and without sails!
To brighten the ennui of our prisons,
Make your memories, framed in their horizons,
Pass across our minds stretched like canvasses.
But what the others say is always not important to me. It feeds my imagination and makes my own voyage more desirable. Travel in words may be more comforting than the real journey.
When I am old and have enough money and time, do I still have the insuppressible desire to go out and see the world? Maybe at that time, I only need to revive and write down all those voyage memories which are not really mine.
To a child who is fond of maps and engravings
The universe is the size of his immense hunger.
Hope that we remain this child, even the question “Are we there yet?” bothers the whole journey.