We have all heard, I presume, that traveling will make you feel better, especially during Christmas Holiday, New Years, or for that matter, the Saturnalia.
“Go on holiday!”
“Get out of here. It will make you feel better!”
And on and on.
Seneca in his Epistles (letters) has something to say about this, and we should take heed:
Do you suppose that you alone have had this experience? Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate (i.e. you should change your attitude not your surroundings.) Though you may cross vast spaces of sea, and though, as our Vergil remarks,
“Lands and cities are left behind,”
Virgil, Book III. Line 72.
your faults will follow you whithersoever you travel.
Seneca, Epistles, Letter XXVIII.1
Hoc tibi soli putas accidisse et admiraris quasi rem novam, quod peregrinatione tam longa et tot locorum varietatibus non discussisti tristitiam gravitatemque mentis? Animum debes mutare, non caelum. Licet vastum traieceris mare, licet, ut ait Vergilius noster,
“Terraeque urbesque recedant,”
Virgil, Liber III.72
sequentur te, quocumque perveneris, vitia.
Seneca, Epistula, XXVIII.1
Your faults, your problems will follow you. They go where you go. The cure is to deal with them internally, in your mind, in your soul. Once you do this you may go anywhere. You are only masking this when you travel and eventually it will come to the surface and become apparent.
Horace also discusses this in his own Epistles, I.11.27 as mentioned by Elaine Fantham in Seneca – Selected Letters:
And you—whatever hour God has given for your weal, take it with grateful hand, nor put off joys from year to year; so that, in whatever place you have been, you may say that you have lived happily. For if ’tis reason and wisdom that take away cares, and not a site commanding a wide expanse of sea, they change their clime, not their mind, who rush across the sea.a ’Tis a busy idleness that is our bane; with yachts and cars we seek to make life happy.
What you are seeking is here…
Horace, Epistles, I.11.27
tu quamcumque deus tibi fortunaverit horam
grata sume manu, neu dulcia differ in annum;
ut quocumque loco fueris vixisse libenter
te dicas. nam si ratio et prudentia curas,
non locus effusi late maris arbiter aufert,
caelum, non animum, mutant, qui trans mare currunt.
strenua nos exercet inertia: navibus atque
quadrigis petimus bene vivere. quod petis hic est…
Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Epistulae I.11.27
However, I’d like to add my slight dissent.
Sometimes, taking a break into nature or another surrounding that is comforting can help us deal with our internal struggles. As long as you know this, traveling can be a respite and a cure for our damaged soul. But we must be aware of this: traveling itself does not help us, we help ourselves. So read these letters and delve into other letters by these authors. They will comfort you on your travels.
Seneca in the same letter then quotes Socrates to add legitimacy to his claim:
How can you wonder your travels do you no good, when you carry yourself around with you?
Socrates (Unknown Source – I am unable to cite this source).
How can novelty of surroundings abroad and becoming acquainted with foreign scenes or cities be of any help? You are running away form your own company. You must lay aside the burdens of the mind; until you do this, no place will satisfy you.
Quid cognitio urbium aut locorum? In inritum cedit ista iactatio. Quaeris quare te fuga ista non adiuvet? Tecum fugis.
The very dashing about just adds to the trouble it causes you.
As it is, intend of traveling, you are rambling and drifting, exchanging one place for another when the thing you are looking for, the good life, is available everywhere.
quod quaeris, bene vivere, omni loco positum sit.
Again, it (traveling) can be a temporary respite from your troubles, but unless confronted (i.e your troubles, problems, internal conflicts), they remain.
That trouble once removed, all change of scene will become pleasant; though you may be driven to the uttermost ends of the earth, in whatever corner of a savage land you may find yourself, that place, however forbidding, will be to you a hospitable abode.
At cum istud exemeris malum, omnis mutatio loci iucunda fiet; in ultimas expellaris terras licebit, in quolibet barbariae angulo conloceris, hospitalis tibi illa qualiscumque sedes erit.