Classic Authors on Holidays and Travel

Have you ever wondered how famous classic authors spent their holidays? Where did they travel? What were they passionate about? Why did they travel? Let’s take advice from four great authors and see how they liked to travel and spend their holidays.

Jack London and Mark Twain on Surfing

It is not surprising that an author who wrote about adventure also lived it in his own life. Jack London was one of the first recreational surfers, and he also wrote about the sport. He was also a traveller, a photographer and a sailor. He and his wife went on yacht trips to Hawaii and Australia. His work, The Cruise of the Snark tells the story of their sailing adventure across the South Pacific. In Chapter 6, A Royal Sport, he writes about his surfing experiences:

“It is all very well, sitting here in cool shade of the beach, but you are a man, one of the kingly species, and what that Kanaka can do, you can do yourself.  Go to.  Strip off your clothes that are a nuisance in this mellow clime.  Get in and wrestle with the sea; wing your heels with the skill and power that reside in you; bit the sea’s breakers, master them, and ride upon their backs as a king should. And that is how it came about that I tackled surf-riding.  And now that I have tackled it, more than ever do I hold it to be a royal sport.” (Jack London)

Did you know that Mark Twain also tried surfing? He writes about it in his travel memoir,  Roughing It (read it on Project Gutenberg):

“I tried surf-bathing once, subsequently, but made a failure of it. I got the board placed right, and at the right moment, too; but missed the connection myself.—The board struck the shore in three quarters of a second, without any cargo, and I struck the bottom about the same time, with a couple of barrels of water in me. None but natives ever master the art of surf-bathing thoroughly.” (Mark Twain)

Virginia Woolf on Travel

Illustration from To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Helbling Reader Level 5. Illustrated by Francesca Protopapa.

Illustration from To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Helbling Reader Level 5. Illustrated by Francesca Protopapa. © Helbling Languages

To the Lighthouse  is essentially a book about summer holidays. Virginia Woolf spent her happiest childhood summer holidays in Talland House, the family home rented by her father in St Ives, Cornwall. In this New York Times review of the book Travels with Virginia Woolf by Jan Morris, Katherine Knorr points out that Woolf felt most comfortable ‘on known ground’, in the  English countryside. She still travelled across Europe, and she was a great observer and wrote about her experiences with detail. In A Room of One’s Own she encourages us to travel:

“By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.” (Virginia Woolf)

 F. Scott Fitzgerald meets and travels with Ernest Hemingway

After spending two years on Long Island, the setting for The Great GatsbyF. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald moved to Europe, and spent seven years mostly in Paris. Fitzgerald was a passionate traveller, like many other American writers who visited Europe in the early twentieth century. In A Moveable Feast Ernest Hemingway writes about meeting Fitzgerald in The Dingo Bar in Paris in 1925, and then going on a trip to Spain. Based on descriptions of their European travels, it seems that Fitzgerald as well as Hemingway enjoyed and explored Europe as if they were on a many-year-long holiday. As Fitzgerald wrote in The Ice Palace and Other Stories:

“I’m not sure what I’ll do, but— well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

For some literary fun, visit this website to see photographs of famous authors on holiday:

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