Physical journeys have the ability to change the way someone looks at life and their level of happiness, but a mental journey can have just the same effect on another. Just the same level of these two qualities can be reached by someone who prefers routine as to someone who spends each moment doing something new and out of the ordinary.
Everyone’s journey is different, and yours may just be a part of someone else’s. In the novel Siddhartha, the idea is projected that humans can gain knowledge at their home through school and by reading, but real wisdom is something that you don’t gain until you have extraordinary experiences. This idea is incorrect in many ways, one being that what everyone considers a “journey” is different. For example, the journey of someone with agoraphobia – the fear of being in public or in new places – isn’t going to be the same as the journey of someone who loves travel and can afford to do so constantly. “Many have I transported, thousands, and for all of them my river has been nothing but an obstacle on their journeys.” [p.84, Siddhartha] In Herman Hesse’s book, Siddhartha’s friend and coworker, Vasudeva, discusses with Siddhartha the fact that the river which the two help others get across is an inconvenience to many, but a meaningful experience to the two of them. Vasudeva is seen as wise by Siddhartha, but has he traveled over land and sea? While one person’s wisdom may come from travel, like Siddhartha’s, another’s wisdom may come to them as Vasudeva’s did, and they don’t feel the need to go on a physical journey in order to feel complete and content.
While not embarking on a journey may be the path to wisdom for some, doing the opposite may be for others. At the time in which Siddhartha’s journey took place, traveling would have been considered far less inconvenient and more normal, whereas nowadays, it costs lots of money to be able to travel the way Siddhartha did. People of the modern world have grown accustom to the lives they live, and going months without structure or being away from home is something that most people would happen to struggle with. Saying that a physical journey is the path to wisdom would mean that only the upper and middle class would be able to be considered wise, which is very false. Traveling doesn’t guarantee wisdom either, as many people travel to extravagant places to do one specific thing, only to come back unchanged.
Although many take travel for granted or don’t find it appealing, for others it is the path to wisdom, and has proven to be life-changing. A cousin of mine spent a year living in Costa Rica, and came back as someone rather wise for his age. Another example, a family friend of ours volunteered in Panama for a month, and came back home not being able to look at her couch without crying, after seeing what little the people she helped had. A physical journey, for many, brings different ideas and experiences forth, and can change the way someone looks at the way they do things at home. For many, such as Siddhartha, going to new places and trying new things can also help you find out that what you thought you wanted to do isn’t right for you. In Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha and his friend Govinda set off to find the Buddha and follow him in his studies. Instead of finding that this is the lifestyle he was destined for, Siddhartha ends up finding out quite opposite. Buddha’s teachings don’t resonate with him, and he decides not to follow his intended path, saying that “no one attains deliverance through teaching!” [p. 29, Siddhartha] Sometimes you must try something before you decide whether or not it’s for you, and in doing this, Siddhartha learned about what he wanted in life and from the things around him, and became wiser in the fact that he knew how to stand his ground.
The idea that someone must go on a physical journey to find wisdom is incorrect, as shown by the text Siddhartha and many people in the present-day world. No matter which path you choose – the mental or physical one – remember that yours is not effective for all others, and not to judge others for what they believe, because one day, you might just find yourself believing it too.