A Journey Around My Room

In Lin Yutang’s view, you must possess the capacity to open yourself to seeing what’s in front of and around you all the time, not just when you are on a special trip. He gives us a sizable translation from a Chinese philosopher who expands on this, explaining that seeing the beauty and grace in the most majestic mountains means nothing if you can’t see beauty and grace in “a little patch of water, a village, a bridge, a tree, a hedge, or a dog….”

A travel book that takes this philosophy as far as it can go and then further is that remarkable little book: A Journey Around My Room. This is book was written in 1790 by a young French officer named Xavier de Maistre. […]

With nothing else to do, he wrote a guidebook to his room, visiting over the course of those weeks various bits of furniture, paintings, his bookshelf, letters he’d kept, and his own memory of a charming and slightly rakish life … De Maistre makes a case for traveling around his room as the truest kind of travel … “The pleasure you find in traveling around your room is safe from the restless jealousy of men; it is independent of the fickleness of fortune. After all, is there any person so unhappy, so abandoned, that he doesn’t have a little den into which he can withdraw and hide away from everyone? Nothing more elaborate is needed for the journey.”

Like all good travel writers, de Maistre begins his book by giving us the lay of the land and the route he intends to take:

My room is situated on the forty-fifth degree of latitude, according to the measurement of Father Beccaria; it stretches from east to west; it forms a long rectangle, thirty-six paces in circumference, if you hug the wall. My journey will, however, measure much more than this, as I will be crossing it frequently lengthwise, or else diagonally, without any rule or method. I will even follow a zigzag path, and I will trace out every possible geometrical trajectory if need be. I don’t like people who have their itineraries and ideas so clearly sorted out that they say, “Today I’ll make three visits, I’ll write four letters, and I’ll finish that book I started.” My soul is so open to every kind of idea, taste and sentiment; it so avidly receives everything that presents itself!…And why would it turn down the pleasures that are scattered along life’s difficult path? …

But when he wants to be awakened to what is going on in the world far from his window, and learn more about the human condition, there is another destination in his room that he can visit—his bookshelf, which is filled mostly with novels and a few books of poetry. These take him out of his room while allowing him to stay in it, and expand his experiences a thousandfold. He writes, “As if my own troubles weren’t enough, I also voluntarily share those of a thousand imaginary characters, and I feel them as vividly as my own.” …

After reading A Journey Around My Room, I vowed that I would take a trip to my room every few months, and these have been some of the happiest days I’ve spent. It’s an incredible luxury to be home and not sick, to wake up with no agenda other than to wander around the apartment all day. I can lie on the sofa and look at the light as it plays across a glass table. Or see the way it catches on a cracked ceramic vase. I can play with the shells I’ve brought back from the beach. I can admire our hearty little African violet. And I can visit my books, flipping through this one and then that to light on a passage.

This only works if I remain totally unplugged. The rules for such a day are simple—no electronics at all (except for music).

~ Will Schwalbe, from “A Journey Around My Room. Traveling.” In Books for a Living.



  1. Brilliant mindfulness! We could all do with a day in a room. ‘My soul is open to every kind of idea’ My new mantra 💚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A powerful, yet gentle reminder..I think I’ll reconsider my plan for today…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Finding joy in the quotidian…so very important. I have often wondered why it takes illness for me to give myself permission to lie in bed and read. No more. I’m exploring my own little world today (perhaps even the backs of my eyelids!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i absolutely love this way of seeing and thinking –

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful plan. I used to work with a woman who took “well” days which kept her from.getting sick. She would do just that. Unplug and be in the moment.
    Why is it so hard forr us to give ourselves permission to do so?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a wonderful attitude to have if you are in prison or under house arrest, but it certainly isn’t as healthy as getting outdoors – unless Irma is coming your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. One of books I remember always, “A Journey Around My Room” by Xavier de Maistre. Thank you dear David, Love, nia

    Liked by 1 person

  8. yes

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nan Morrissette says:

    David, You’ve done it again. You’ve dropped another jewel into my daily life, this one specifically to remind me of the beauty I can find there. The things in my room, in my studio, in the personal spaces I share with my husband, all those things have stories that need to be recalled from time to time. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

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