What is the theme of “Of Travel” by Francis Bacon?

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The main theme of “Of Travel” by Francis Bacon is that knowledge of the place to which one is traveling is a basic prerequisite before setting out. Otherwise, the traveler, especially the young traveler, will not derive much benefit from his journey.

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Knowledge broadens the mind, as they say, and Francis Bacon is certainly of that opinion in his essay “On Travel.” Bacon sees travel primarily in utilitarian terms, as a means of expanding one's knowledge of the world.

Even so, one must also have some basic knowledge of the place that one intends to visit before setting out. Bacon is quite insistent on this point; if a traveler doesn't have sufficient knowledge of a particular place, then he shouldn't go there. Otherwise, he will not derive much benefit from his travels.

For a young man traveling to a strange country, it is advisable, thinks Bacon, to be accompanied by an older man who's been there before, who can speak the language and act as a guide. In making such a recommendation, Bacon is evidently concerned that, without such a wise older man to guide him, a young traveler will not make the most of his travels and miss the significance of what he sees on his journey.

This is all the more imperative when traveling by land, as there are often so many different things to see that it's easy to miss them. With a wise old guide on hand, a man with firsthand experience of the country, this is much less likely to happen, thereby ensuring that the young traveler's knowledge is duly expanded.

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