10 Sizzling Hot Travel Tips From Sir Francis Bacon

Lists: Rolf Potts repackages the 17th century philosopher's 'Of Travel' essay in the manner of a 21st century magazine feature

01.22.08 | 10:57 AM ET

image
1) Make travel a part of your life’s education

Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience. He that travelleth into a country, before he hath some entrance into the language, goeth to school, and not to travel.

2) Keep a travel journal, at sea or on land

It is a strange thing, that in sea voyages, where there is nothing to be seen but sky and sea, men should make diaries; but in land travel, wherein so much is to be observed, for the most part they omit it; as if chance were fitter to be registered than observation: let diaries, therefore, be brought in use.

3) Seek interesting sights, such as:

* The courts of princes (especially when they give audience to ambassadors)
* The courts of justice (while they sit and hear causes)
* The churches and monasteries (with the monuments which are therein extant)
* The walls and fortifications of cities and towns
* The havens and harbors, antiquities and ruins
* Treasuries of jewels and robes, cabinets and rarities
* Shipping and navies
* Houses and gardens of state and pleasure, near great cities
* Armories, arsenals, magazines, exchanges, burses, warehouses

4) Seek interesting activities, such as:

* Exercises of horsemanship, fencing, training of soldiers, and the like
* Comedies, such whereunto the better sort of persons do resort
* Libraries, colleges, disputations, and lectures
* Triumphs, masks, feasts, weddings, funerals, capital executions, and such shows

5) Make use of guidebooks and local resources

Let him carry with him also some card, or book, describing the country where he travelleth, which will be a good key to his inquiry. Let him, upon his removes from one place to another, procure recommendation to some person of quality residing in the place whither he removeth, that he may use his favour in those things he desireth to see or know.

6) Seek varieties of experience, even within a single location

Let him not stay long in one city or town, more or less as the place deserveth, but not long. When he stayeth in one city or town, let him change his lodging from one end and part of the town to another, which is a great adamant of acquaintance.

7) Seek out travel companions that will challenge you

Let him sequester himself from the company of his countrymen, and diet in such places where there is good company of the nation where he travelleth. Thus he may abridge his travel with much profit. As for the acquaintance which is to be sought in travel, that which is most of all profitable is acquaintance with the secretaries and employed men of ambassadors; for so in travelling in one country he shall suck the experience of many: See and visit eminent persons in all kinds, which are of great name abroad, that he may be able to tell how the life agreeth with the fame.

8) Avoid traveling with quarrelsome people

For quarrels, they are with care and discretion to be avoided; they are commonly for mistresses, healths, place, and words; and let a man beware how he keepeth company with choleric and quarrelsome persons; for they will engage him into their own quarrels.

9) When coming home, keep your travels alive with intellectual exercise

When a traveller returneth home, let him not leave the countries where he hath travelled altogether behind him, but maintain a correspondence by letters with those of his acquaintance which are of most worth; and let his travel appear rather in his discourse than in his apparel or gesture.

10) Don’t flaunt your travel experiences to the folk back home

In his discourse let him be rather advised in his answers, than forward to tell stories: and let it appear that he doth not change his country manners for those of foreign parts; but only prick in some flowers of that he hath learned abroad into the customs of his own country.

Illustration by Joe Rivera


Sir Francis Bacon was an English philosopher, essayist and world traveler. He died in 1626, and his essays have since been collected in an Oxford University Press edition entitled Francis Bacon: The Major Works. This story is adapted from Of Travel, an incisive and opinionated treatise on how to get the most from a journey abroad.


15 Comments for 10 Sizzling Hot Travel Tips From Sir Francis Bacon

Tim Patterson 01.22.08 | 12:17 PM ET

“let his travel appear rather in his discourse than in his apparel or gesture…”

what about in his facebook profile?

Barbara Benham 01.22.08 | 12:33 PM ET

Clever, this! Thanks!

jules 01.22.08 | 6:47 PM ET

Great Advice. I’m looking to do a lot of travelling and will try to follow the advice :)

John M. Edwards 01.23.08 | 4:59 PM ET

Hey Rolf:

I’ve forgotten the gist of the joke on Sir Walter Raleigh in a can, but I have a serious question for you:

Are eggs and “bacon” named after Sir Francis Bacon?

If so, what were the thin strips of overcooked fatty pork slices called before Sir Francis slyly insinuated himself as a permanent guest at our breakfast tables.

For example, it’s quite true that Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet.

Anyway, once again I thank you for your erudite history lesson.

Lola Akinmade 01.29.08 | 12:43 PM ET

“Donít flaunt your travel experiences to the folk back home”......

Isn’t that half the fun?! :)

Great timeless tips!

Peggy Coonley at Serendipity Traveler 02.03.08 | 9:12 PM ET

A brilliant take on sage advice.As i writemy ten tips for women travelers i will incorporate this wisdom.

Milya 02.04.08 | 2:42 PM ET

It is interesting to me to know something about travelers of 16-17 th centuries. Thank you! It is treasure!

steve d 02.13.08 | 9:37 AM ET

i would think in those days the only travell that the average brit got was before the mast or behind a musket.in either of thse rolls francis’s tips, i fear,would not apply, or be applied.

Alison W Adcock 05.02.08 | 3:00 PM ET

Guys, what is HEROE?

Ireq 05.16.08 | 6:05 PM ET

Sir Francis,
This is quite a compete guide. Thank you.
Best Regards . Ireq

JuiceMag 06.10.08 | 2:23 AM ET

Wow GREAT tips, thanks for sharing, i wish i could start my trip right now!

sunnysan 07.31.10 | 8:43 AM ET

thanks very much this is a good post.

Travel-Writers-Exchange.com 08.02.10 | 8:06 AM ET

Great advice!  Travelers will be wise to heed tips # 6 and #8.  Traveling with the right will make your travel experience pleasant.  Make sure you choose travel buddies that are on the same page as you.

London Visitor 08.06.10 | 7:52 AM ET

Avoiding travelling with either quarellsome OR inflexible people. If you begin to argue during your flight you know you are in for a tough time whilst abroad.

Darrell Smith 08.20.10 | 8:22 AM ET

Great tips. Here’s one more: consider staying in a rented home away from the tourist traps. You’ll really get the local feel, food and culture.

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.