Franz Blei, “Travel” (1911)

These days, the fashion of travel has increased in the same proportion as the talent for it—or, to put it better, the need for it—has decreased. For, the need to travel through the world with the fastest means of transportation actually means continuing to stay at home by oneself, only it’s more uncomfortable, which the powerful hotel industry will remedy in the future. Today, there are travelers who differ from fixed people only in that the ones have a mobile bedroom, the others an immobile one.

Travel has become the mania of perpetual and ever faster movement, and it has completely lost its erotic meaning. We no longer travel due to the attraction of the unknown. We no longer allow ourselves to travel out into the blue. We travel along streets and in countries that we’ve informed ourselves about very precisely, and, before the start of the trip, we already know that they are not a mysterious shade of blue but definitely a nuanced yellow. We also travel to establish that people in one place or another eat and sleeper better than we do at home. We travel with a suitcase full of opinions, too, and we have our minds set on confirming them in a foreign region. In other words, we travel in order to rediscover ourselves everywhere. Which means that we no longer travel but are always at home by ourselves.

People today seem to have so little that they can’t lose any of it. They always have to watch out that they don’t get lost. Something—restlessness, bad digestion, a feeling of importance—drives them around the world, but they are no longer able to travel.


Source: Franz Blei, “Das Reisen,” in Vermischte Schriften, vol. 2, 258–259 (Munich: Georg Müller, 1911).

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Erik Born

I’m an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Society for the Humanities and the Department of German Studies at Cornell University. My research and teaching focuses broadly speaking on relations between old media and new media, and particularly on questions of mobility.

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