“(Marlow) was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them – the ship; and so is their country – the sea. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same. In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny. For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing.”
I’m enjoying contrasting this attitude of the working seaman with the passion for “travel” of those of us for whom travelling is not work. My husband, a touring actor, travels extensively for work, and like Conrad’s seaman does tend to treat other countries and cities with “a slightly disdainful ignorance”. Not like the eager, impression-hungry writer! Check out some beautiful writing and recent photographs at dappledwithdew, Kathy George’s blog, for an example of how one writer engages mindfully with new places.