What does Seneca say to a man who thinks travelling will fix all of his problems?
In this twenty-eighth letter to Lucilius, Seneca tells his friend, “A change of character, not a change of air, is what you need” (75). Something had happened to Lucilius, and he had tried to move to a new place to reset himself.
But Seneca warns, “whatever your destination you will be followed by your failings” (75). Lucilius apparently believed that by travelling, by going somewhere new, he would become a new man.
Yet Seneca again explains, “the thing you are looking for, the good life, is available everywhere” (77). Why? The good life follows from good character. “A good character is the only guarantee of everlasting carefree happiness” (Letter 27, 73).
When we change our character, not our scenery, then travel once again becomes a good thing: “every change of scene will become a pleasure” (Letter 28, 76). Seneca is on to something. Sometimes a change of scene can be refreshing.
But if our burden is sloth, for example, then we will bring that sloth with us. “Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there” (76).
We must become the kind of person we desire to be before changes of scenery can bring lasting pleasure, or else we will bring our sloth or evil with us.
Image: Ulricus Angelus, CC BY-SA 4.0 creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons