There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.
― Robert Louis Stevenson
As travelers, we often find ourselves far from home, meeting new people and exploring new lands. Upon our return, we regale friends and families with tales of these “foreign” lands and their inhabitants, the “foreigners.” Only, we are the foreigners.
Robert Louis Stevenson turned things upside down at first glance. Certainly, that distant country is foreign. Isn’t it? Actually, he turned things rightside up! It IS the traveler who is foreign, a visitor in someone else’s home. Something we try to keep in mind wherever we go.
The Story Behind the Quote
What’s interesting is that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote those words as a foreigner. That is, he was a traveler in our lands. (“Our” lands if you happen to be American.) The most frequently cited Travel Quote by the great author comes from his book The Silverado Squatters, a collection of short stories and historical fiction based on his time in California’s Napa Valley around 1880.
Stevenson had gone to Napa Valley to be wed to American divorcee Fanny Vandegrift, who he had met some years earlier in France. At the time, the couple was so poor that, when they traveled to Calistoga to honeymoon at the Hot Springs Hotel, they couldn’t afford the exorbitant rate of $10 per week. Instead, they squatted for the summer at an abandoned bunkhouse at a derelict mining camp in Silverado. During that time, Stevenson explored the area, learned of its history, and met some of its characters. Upon their return to Great Britain, his honeymoon diary turned into Silverado Squatters, published in 1883. Experts agree that many of his notes were also used for descriptive detail in Treasure Island.
Today, the area where the Stevensons honeymooned is part of Robert Louis Stevenson State Park on the southern slope of Mt. Saint Helena, north of San Francisco. In nearby St. Helena, California, the Silverado Museum is dedicated to Stevenson as well.
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