According to Stoic philosophers Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, the ideas central to ancient Stoic philosophy provide tools for managing anxiety, specifically by cultivating a kind of indifference to events, good or bad—not by suppressing emotions, but by examining and understanding how emotions are connected to our opinions and actions. There are things we can control and things we can’t, but we can always regulate our reactions to what happens to us. And to conquer our anxieties, the Stoics believed we must get out into the world and do fieldwork. As Epictetus wrote, “We are eager and loquacious in the schools; but drag us into practice, and you will find us miserably shipwrecked.” Exposure to the strange and unfamiliar via travel is the perfect means for attaining mastery over our personality challenges. Amending your will to suit the world, not amending the world to suit you, will lead to the blissful condition of Stoic virtue, and as the Stoics believed, virtue is sufficient for happiness.
Part travel guide, part self-help book, and part memoir, Travel for STOICs is the book for the Solo Traveler who is Obsessive, Introverted, and Compulsive, informed and empowered by ideas borrowed from ancient Stoicism. As an obsessive-compulsive (O-C), you know the power of habits, so being a STOIC will provide valuable training that you’ll be able to apply to all areas of your life.
The need for empowerment implies that power has been taken away. Power is not a word often used to describe the obsessive, introverted, and compulsive person, a person who may have suffered from these conditions from a very young age and been made to feel powerless because of them. The clinical focus tends to be on intervening compulsions by mitigating obsessions. Because of this shift of focus away from empowerment, STOICs feel anything but mighty and robust, and this condition must be addressed as well. These persons also may be teetering on the edge of agoraphobia, so even the idea of leaving the house may be fraught with anxiety. Consider this book a “lead by example,” written specifically for those who dream of escaping the prison of the obsessive-compulsive and introverted. Consider me your scout, the person who’s gone and gathered the information you need to confront your anxieties and defeat them. Imagine yourself as a Stoic traveler, then get out there and do it!
Suppose we were to send you as a scout to Rome. But no one ever sends a timorous scout, who, when he only hears a noise or sees a shadow, runs back frightened, and says, “The enemy is at hand…” Get you gone and prophesy for yourself; our only fault is that we have sent such a scout. Diogenes was sent as a scout before you, but he told us other things…“There is no enemy near,” he says; “all is profound peace.” How so, Diogenes? “Look upon me,” he says. “Am I hurt? Am I wounded? Have I run away from anyone?” This is a scout worth having. But you come, and tell us one tale after another. Go back and look more carefully, and without fear.”
Stoicism is the original cognitive behavioral therapy, and solo travel is anxiety disorder exposure therapy par excellence. What better way to confront and mediate your condition than to throw yourself, solo, into the world at large, a world full of strangers and perceived threats? If I can do it, so can you.