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The Gentle Art of Tramping

Camping in Wadi Rum Jordan

The Gentle Art of Tramping by Stephen Graham is an absolute gem of a book. Dating back to 1927 it is a fabulous How-To guide to becoming a wanderer, a vagrant, a hobo. Chapters covering kit selection blend with others on the philosophy of travelling light, simple and slow, and doing it just for the heck of it.

A brilliant addition to any vagabond’s library. A few snippets for you:

  • So when you put on your old clothes and take to the road, you make at least a right gesture. You get into your right place in the world right away… You get into an air that is refreshing and free. You liberate yourself from the tacit assumption of your everyday life. What a relief!
  • A tramping hat does not get old enough to throw away. The old ones are the best.
  • Of course, once you have slept a night wearing your hat it is not much more use for town wear. It has become more of a tramp than you are.
  • The less you carry the more you will see, the less you spend the more you will experience.
  • In tramping you are not earning a living, but earning a happiness.
  • There is perhaps no greater test of friendship than going on a long tramp. You discover to one another all the egoisms and selfishnesses you possess.
  • If you want to find out about a man, go for a long tramp with him.
  • I am inclined to measure a tramp by the time taken rather than by the miles. If a hundred miles is covered in a week it is a longer tramp than if it is rushed in three days.
  • You cannot tell till you’ve spent a night in the rain, or lost the way in the mountains, and eaten all the food, whether you have both stout hearts and a readiness for every fate.
  • On the road the weak and strong points of character are revealed. There are those who complain, making each mile seem like three; there are those who have untapped reserves of cheerfulness, who sing their companions through the tired hours. But in drawing-rooms they would never show either quality. The road shows sturdiness, resourcefulness, pluck, patience, energy, or per contra, the lack of these things.
  • The morning swim is such an embellishment of the open-air life that many are tempted to plan their whole expedition with that in view.
  • Nothing in the present ever seems so good as what is past.
  • Beware of going to Jerusalem in order that you may come back and tell the world you have been. It spoils all you found on the way.

If this all resonates with you then you might also enjoy the Best Bits section of the blog.
Camping in Mexico

Finally I hope this video encapsulates the same essence of enthusiasm for microadventures as the wonderful Gentle Art of Tramping.

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  1. “You get into an air that is refreshing and free. You liberate yourself from the tacit assumption of your everyday life. What a relief!”

    “In tramping you are not earning a living, but earning a happiness.”

    My own memory of pure happiness was waking up one morning covered in dust next to a river close to the Pamirs when the sun started rising and having my breakfast. Everything was so tangible and simplistic… A shower was the last thing on my mind and food had just been consumed, so the only thing remaining for the day was just the cycling and experiencing the amazing surroundings.

    What a life!

  2. I love H. D. Thoreau’s description.

    I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering; which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going la sainte terre” to the holy land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a sainte-terrer”, a saunterer a holy-lander. They who never go to the holy land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds, but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all, but the Saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which indeed is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this holy land from the hands of the Infidels.

  3. also reminds me of leigh fermor’s walking books. lovely.

  4. “Beware of going to Jerusalem in order that you may come back and tell the world you have been. It spoils all you found on the way.”

    I think that’s the most pertinent quote of all.

  5. Graham’s book about walking around the Black Sea in 1910 was the only ‘guide book’ I read before riding around the Sea on a moped. I love it, and The Gentle Art, what beautiful writing. It was fascinating going to places he had written about exactly 100 years before, and seeing the chance. Fascinating, and at times a little sad.

  6. He, who was not by any means one given to sensationalism, drew everyone’s attention to Kateri’s face, which was North Face Winter Jacketsnow magnificent and radiant.

  7. Lump in my throat after reading that. It resonates so strongly. I would like to add one more:
    If you never take photos of the people you meet on your journey, you will only ever remember their souls, which is so much more beautiful than any photo you can ever take of them.

  8. A friend of mine suggested this book for me a few years back but for the life of me I couldn’t remember the author or title – thanks a lot for the reminder!



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