#travel Philosophy: Friedrich Nietzsche

Betcha you didn’t see that one coming, did you? After that sunny happy take on why to travel, what on earth is that gloomy nilihistic

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

and masochistic

What does not kill me makes me stronger.

mad German doing here? What’s he got for the traveller, besides inspiring millions of internet memes to chuckle away our free time at?


Thing is, Nietzsche isn’t a teacher as most philosophers aspire to, he’s more of a Philosopher Troll, throwing those witty aphorisms out to shock and leaving it to you to figure out what he’s actually getting at.

Most people read the words on the page and lump him in with the life is meaningless and woe is me nihilists, but that’s actually almost the direct opposite of what he meant. What you’re supposed to get out of him is that life has the meaning we give it, and that meaning is achieved by overcoming challenge. As the meme above encapsulates nicely.

And what could be a greater challenge to set ourselves, we ask rhetorically, than visiting Every World Heritage Site? See now how Nietzsche starts blending into Zen at this point, where 旅途本身就是收获 which Steve Jobs popularized as “The Journey Is The Reward” can be seen as just an expression of Nietzche’s “Will to Power?”

Thinking that sounds like a bit of a stretch, that appreciation of travel is compatible with Nietzschean thought? Here, check out this book review:

Friedrich Nietzsche was acutely sensitive to place: to the taste of sea air, to the sweep of wind across the coast, to the narrow confines of medieval walls or the tumbling breadth of an Alpine vista framed by the window near his writing desk. He was convinced that the effects of environment, climate, and terrain on one’s life and thought were both tangible and profound.

      The places where Nietzsche lived and worked include some of the most beautiful places in Europe. In The Good European, Krell and Bates explore for the first time Nietzsche’s Epicurean appreciation of the beautiful cities and landscapes in which he worked and their effects on his thought…

And to finish off, his direct thoughts on travel you almost certainly have never read we imagine, from Human, All Too Human:

Where one must travel. — Direct self-observation does not by any means suffice for self-knowledge. We need history, inasmuch as the past wells up in us in hundreds of ways. Indeed we ourselves are nothing other than what we sense at each instant of that onward flow. For even when we wish to go down to the stream of our apparently ownmost, most personal essence, Heraclitus’s statement holds true: one does not step twice into the same river.

The maxim has by now grown stale; yet it is as nourishing and energizing as ever. So too is the maxim that in order to understand history one must search for the living remnants of historical epochs — and do so by traveling, as the venerable Herodotus traveled to sundry nations…

Whoever after long practice has become a hundred-eyed Argos in this art of traveling will finally rejoin his Io — I mean his ego — everywhere, and will rediscover the travel-adventure of this transformative and evolving ego in Egypt and Greece, Byzantium and Rome, France and Germany, in the periods of the migratory or the sedentary peoples, in the Renaissance and Reformation, in one’s own homeland and abroad, and indeed in the sea, the vegetation, and the mountains.

Now there’s some inspiration from Friedrich Nietzsche, Travel Philosopher™!

And hmmm, “… has become a hundred-eyed Argos in this art of traveling …” That woould make a pretty cool T-shirt, don’t you think?


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I go places.


  1. […] It’s been quite a while since we set forth the philosophy we travel by, as expressed by Friedrich Nietzsche: […]

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