A Journey to the Centre of the Earth is one of the most beautifully written adventures of all time. I’m a sucker for timeless classics and one that is filled with adventure, mystery and endless exploration… well that’s just a win all round! The novel was first written in 1864 and tells the story of Professor Otto Lidenbrock, together with his nephew Axel and their trusty guide Hans as they follow a mysterious map, exploring the realms of the Earth. Like all great adventure novels, there are tons of travel lessons to be learnt and knowing that so many of these lessons are universal and timeless makes this read all the more enjoyable and meaningful. Here are 10 of the essential travel lessons I learnt from A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Persevere, even when adventuring, gets hard
“Professor Lidenbrock was a bibliomaniac in his spare time; but a book had no value in his eyes unless it was unique or, at the very least, unreadable.”
Sometimes while you’re busy exploring the world, unexpected things happen. Things that perhaps you were not prepared for or even things that you didn’t want to happen. But somehow… someway… through the depths of even the most difficult of situations… you find a way to persevere and survive. Sometimes when traveling, even the most difficult of situations can become the most rewarding. Meeting the children of south China actually healed my soul while climbing to the tenth tower of the great wall of China showed me just how strong I really are. Travel takes you out of your comfort zone and then throws you into situations that you probably never thought you’d experience but at the same time, it teaches you how to persevere, be resourceful and survive.
Don’t be afraid to pursue your ideas, even if they seem crazy to everyone else
When Axel and the Professor realize that the ancient manuscript they’ve deciphered holds the key to traveling to the center of the Earth, Axel initially disregards it as being a crazy idea. Perhaps it was… but had he not put his fears aside and joined his courageous uncle, there would have been no adventure!
Sometimes making a decision to move to new city or take that unexpected adventure can seem like a crazy, deranged idea. I mean, you’re packing up all your belongings into one suitcase, flying thousands of kilometers away to a foreign land… to just live? No, you’re doing it to learn about the world, to see history, to experience a new culture and meet local people. You’re doing it to learn things about yourself that you never knew you had in you and to find yes, you’re doing it to just live. If you never take that chance, how will you ever know what magic could have been.
Trust the facts but don’t be afraid to challenge them
When Professor Lidenbrock hears his nephew’s scientific, logical concerns about traveling to the center of the Earth, he expresses to him that while science is to be trusted, it should only be trusted to a certain extent.
“Each new theory is soon disproved by a new one,” he says.
Sometimes when traveling we do so much of research about a place beforehand that in our minds, we’ve already made assumptions and formulated ideas before we even get there. It’s great to have some kind of predefined notion but soon upon arriving you may realise everything that was previously thought and imagined is not how it truly is.
It’s okay to be scared and brave at the same time
One of the biggest lessons A Journey to the Center of the Earth teaches us is that, just like Axel, while it is okay to be shy, timid and even scared; if you never go on that adventure, you will never find out just what you can and cannot handle. Travel teaches you just how courageous (and resourceful) you truly can be. Suddenly sick in a strange country with no one around you speaking English? Well you’ve got to figure something out or else how will you survive? Had you wallet stolen in Barcelona? Well you’ve got to think of something or else how will get home?
Travel smart and always take precautions
“We had a medicine chest containing blunt scissors, splints for fractures, a piece of tape of unbleached linen, bandages and compresses, lint, and a basin for bleeding — all rather terrifying objects — as well as a set of bottles of dextrine, medical alcohol, liquid acetate of lead, ether, vinegar, and ammonia.”
One of the biggest and most important lessons any adventure can teach you is to always be prepared for the unexpected. You never know when something could go wrong so taking precautions and being prepared means that when it does happen, you’ve got a plan and resources at your disposal. Pack your travel first aid kits, take out travel insurance, have a secret money stash and always have emergency contact details with you.
The Earth is a magical place
When Axel and his uncle finally reached the island in Iceland, he was simply fascinated by the beautiful mineralogical findings around him. From the volcanoes to beautiful dark rock formations, the beauty of the Earth left him in complete awe. It’s the same when traveling. The Earth is filled with so much of beauty, from the secret forests of Japan to the historical fishing villages of Hong Kong to the imperial palaces of China… you’ll get to touch, see, smell and taste things you’ve only seen in pictures. It will engulf you, leave you feeling amazed and sometimes even speechless. The truth is, we travel to find the magic still existent in the world today – and there is still a great deal of beauty and magic to be found.
Travel is good for the mind and soul
After a few weeks of being underground, Axel and his uncle begin hallucinating and start to lose their minds.
“External objects have a decided effect on the brain. Anyone shut up between four walls ends up losing the power to associate words and ideas.”
Staying stagnant can really affect our mental health and being. You become so used to the things that frustrate you or which you cannot change and inevitably, you stop growing, learning and even feeling. Sometimes going on an adventure can do wonders for the mind, heart and soul. Being in a new place can show us just how small or insignificant our problems are in comparison to bigger issues the world is facing. It shows us that there are people out there who are probably experiencing something similar to what we are going through and maybe there really is a way to solve that problem after all.
We learn tolerance and patience
Verne portrays the professor as being a pretty impatient man. In fact, when he first discovers Arne Saknussemm’s manuscript, he immediately begins preparations for travel! Despite this, it is not until much later in the book that the adventure truly begins. But to get to that part… you’ve got to be patient. One of the biggest lessons I learnt while traveling is that when you venture into a new country, you’ve got to be extremely tolerant and patient. You can’t wave your finger around like a crazy tourist saying this is how it is done in your country because the reality is, you aren’t in your own country. You’ve crossed borders into another place with different cultures and traditions, different ways of doing things and different lifestyles. Open your mind and be patient, tolerant and accepting of what you see around you.
Know where you come from
When the trio finally arrive at the underground sea, they see the beach covered with little shells which was described as being inhabited by the first living creatures. This actually gave Axel and his uncle some evidence of the first forms of life and reminded them of some form of beginnings.
Traveling to far off places is a beautiful and life changing experience but knowing where you come from is essential to knowing yourself. Try new things but know your limits and the morals and values that were instilled in you from the place you call home. If something feels wrong, don’t do it just because you’re on an adventure and think that is what you’re supposed to do. Open your mind to the world around you but remember who you are and what you believe in.
Appreciate the unknown
Eventually, as the journey progresses, the group of travelers find themselves at the center of the Earth. Here they are suddenly surrounded by large mushrooms, tree-ferns and lycopodiums. While to a regular person, this may seem like bizarre and unusually large flora, to the explorers, they were simply amazed by this bit of magic hidden at the center of the Earth.
You never know what you’re going to find when exploring. Sometimes, it might be scary and so much bigger than you. Other times, it may be hard to find but when you do, it simply leaves you amazed. As a traveler, appreciate the wonder of the unknown and the relish in the magic when you find it.
What lessons have you learnt from A Journey to the Centre of the Earth?