“You are a traveller in little things–in something very small–which takes you into the villages and hamlets, where you meet and converse with small farmers, innkeepers, labourers and their wives, with other persons who live on the land. In this way you get to hear a good deal about rent and cost of living, and what the people are able and not able to do. Now I am out of all that; I never go to a village nor see a farmer. I am a traveller in something very large. In the south and west I visit towns like Salisbury, Exeter, Bristol, Southampton; then I go to the big towns in the Midlands and the North, and to Glasgow and Edinburgh; and afterwards to Belfast and Dublin. It would simply be a waste of time for me to visit a town of less than fifty or sixty thousand inhabitants.” (cf. Traveller in Little Things, by W.H. Hudson)
W.H. Hudson is best known for his novel The Green Mansion. But though I do enjoy that novel, to me it is one of his least interesting books. His best books are those he writes about birds and nature and about his childhood in Patagonia.
Hudson is not read much these days and his Wikipedia article is remarkably short. Yet each time I return to his books I am reminded of how fine a writer he really is. It is easy to see why Ford Madox Ford and John Galsworthy (to name just two) were so impressed with Hudson the man, the naturalist, and the writer.
Hudson entitled the book I am currently reading Traveller in Little Things. It is an image I particularly like because it is, in the end, the kind of traveller I have found myself to be. I enjoy small things and “ordinary” places more than obvious tourist spots.
I am interested in places off the beaten path, places ordinary to the locals but extraordinary to me since I have never been to that spot before: a local pub or bar, a small cafe, a small garden with unfamiliar plants, an alleyway alight with morning sun, an outdoor table where I can hear unfamiliar birds and voices, trees that I have never seen before.