Taglines, Travel and Tilting at Windmills

What does a 17th century novel have to do with our 21st century journey around the world?

We considered this while chatting with an old friend the other day about a presentation we’d given the night before in Washington, DC. He asked about “measuring the Earth with our feet,” so we shared the story of our tagline and ran by him a few others that we were considering as replacements. You see, on this visit home we’re taking the opportunity to step outside of ourselves and question whether certain words still hold and capture what we believed they once did.

As we concluded, we both realized that “measuring the Earth with our feet” still captures why and how we travel while it hints at our curiosity-driven approach to life. Our friend suggested, “You should tell this story.”

Don Quixote and Shower Curtains

When I was young, my grandmother had a shower curtain that featured an image of Don Quixote executed by Pablo Picasso.

In those days, I wondered about the story behind the figures that dangled around the shower stall. Outside of the fact that Don Quixote was the guy who “tilted at windmills,” I knew very little about him. And the book? It was thick and hefty, flush with microscopic text; it intimidated me.

Fast forward to 2005 when Dan and I were living in Prague, Czech Republic. In the book review segment of the Economist magazine, I learned of a new translation of Don Quixote by Edith Grossman. Intrigued, I ordered the book on Amazon, but somehow neglected to notice that it was a hardback edition.

A two-and-a-half pound brick of a book arrived. Our intent: read it before our next move.

But our intentions outstripped time. When it came time to sell and give away all in Prague before our December 2006 departure, we felt a sudden urge to read Don Quixote. Into Dan’s inaugural around-the-world backpack it went.

Seeking Meaning, Finding a Tagline

A week later, as that year’s monsoon season lingered on the island of Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand we edited photos for a project and took large chunks of free time to clear our minds by reading on the beach. Dan devoured Don Quixote.

When I took my turn, I noticed a few pages whose bottom corners were turned up (an odd note-taking system that Dan employs to indicate something notable or well-written). On one of the dog-eared pages, I noticed this passage highlighted in fingernail scratches at the page’s edge:

‘Look, my friend,’ responded Don Quixote, ‘not all knights can be courtiers, and not all courtiers can or should be knights errant: there has to some of each in the world, and although we are all knights, there is a vast difference between us; courtiers, without leaving their chambers or passing beyond the threshold of the court, travel the entire world by looking at a map, not spending a blanca or suffering heat or cold, hunger or thirst;

I could relate. I had spent the previous four years gaining book knowledge — on tax and legal issues, on people and operations — across twenty countries in the former Soviet Union. But I never left the comfort of my desk in Prague; I never had the opportunity to see those places or meet those people firsthand.

The passage continued:

‘but we, the true knights errant, measure the earth with our own feet, exposed to the sun, the cold, the wind, and the inclemencies of heaven, both night and day, on foot and on horseback…’

In just a few words, Don Quixote had managed to sum up the nature of our journey. We wanted to learn about the world by experiencing it ourselves — meeting its people, eating its food, and questioning why things are and envisioning how they could be.

As Uncornered Market — the journey, the concept, the website — unfolded over the following months in Southeast Asia, we returned often to this passage and to the meaning of the those that surrounded it.

It contained the right tagline then. And as we reevaluate, it still does.

Tilting at Windmills?

When we decamped our old life in Prague in December 2006 to travel the world, we felt a bit like Don Quixote. Our friends and family supported us, but a fair chunk of them — some openly, some perhaps secretly — thought us certifiably crazy to leave the comfort of the lives we had built for ourselves. In other words, they thought we were tilting at windmills. Perhaps that explains why we were drawn to read the book and to lug it with us halfway around the world.

With introspection and self-awareness in equal doses, we occasionally wonder whether we are tilting at windmills. As we “measure the Earth with our feet,” only time will tell.

——-

What About You?
Do you use a similar quote or tagline that you believe captures who you are or means much more to you than the words themselves? And do you sometimes feel that others think you are tilting at windmills?

Enjoy this?

Then sign up for more travel wisdom & inspiration from 7+ years of traveling the world.

Comments

  1. Pete De Ritter says

    Nice post. Good tag line. I vote that you keep it.
    One tag line I’ve used is, “All change is not progress.”

  2. says

    Thank you for sharing the story behind your tagline. I’ll always think of Don Quixote when I read it now. PS- I think most of us would agree that you’re not tilting at windmills. I deeply admire the way you move through the world – and write about it.

  3. says

    Thanks for sharing! It’s always nice to hear a good story behind something :) And after reading about it, I’m glad you decided to keep it! It’s a great tag line.

  4. says

    Hi Audrey & Daniel,

    Nice story! Before we started our long time travel, I saw many countries in the luxurious way as well; working hard but sleeping in the best hotels and eating in nice restaurants. Comfortable life.

    I firmly believe in Herrick’s (1908) saying “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today, to-morrow will be dying”.

    From that saying stems my motivation to meet people on the streets and learn from them. Because craftsman in developing countries can make everything from nothing with the most beautiful smile and inviting mood! Just loving it.

    CU again around the globe!

    Cheers Petra

  5. says

    I love the explanation of your tag line. Don Quixote is one of my all time favorite books for so many reasons :)

    My tag line “travel smarter” is something I use to help me craft many of my posts. I hope that by reading you’ll be a bit smarter of a traveler based on my experience from the road and research.

  6. Bret says

    This passage from Jon Krakauer´s book “Into the Wild” I think sums up why I travel:
    “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man´s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

  7. says

    I love knowing this now…I’ve often wondered where you came up with the tagline – and now knowing I love it all the more. And you’ve actually motivated me to pick up a copy of Don Quixote this summer – it’s one of those books that, like you said, is a bit intimidating to start!

  8. says

    @Pete: Thanks, glad you liked this and vote to keep our current tagline! I like yours – “not all change is progress.” Especially when it comes to technology, it feels like we lose some fundamental values and skills along the way in the name of speed and cool gadgetry.

    @Layne: Thinking about Don Quixote every now and then can be a good thing :) We also really appreciate your words about us not tilting at windmills – we feel that deep inside but sometimes it’s hard when we’re always asked when we’re going to return to the “real world.” Really looking forward to meeting you this summer!

    @John: I can definitely relate to “measuring the earth with our stomachs”. Eating and spending time in cafes to absorb a place and people watch is one of the greatest pleasures of travel.

    @Laura: Glad you enjoyed this story and vote to keep this tagline!

    @Petra: Beautiful and meaningful quote – thank you for sharing it! It’s amazing how much you can learn from opening yourself up and talking with regular people on the street, bus, market or wherever. I also love the ingenuity and entrepreneurship we find on the streets in developing countries – the ability to fix anything and to create something wonderful from random parts.

    @Anil: Another great tagline with meaning. Given what I’ve read on your website, I agree that readers are smarter after visiting.

    @Bret: Wonderful quote and inspiration for travel. I especially like this, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences.” One of the greatest benefits to personal growth of travel is that it pushes you outside your comfort zone almost every day and this keeps your brain active and develops new skills.

    @Shannon: I highly recommend reading the Edith Grossman translation of Don Quixote – it’s easy to understand and uses modern-day language but still keeps the beauty of the original poetic prose and story. Just remember to order a paperback or Kindle version!!

  9. says

    I love taglines with literary associations- when I was living in London I used to have a blog called “Exploring the Unreal City” stolen from TS Eliot’s the Wasteland. Now my tagling “Why wait to see the world?” seems rather dull. Maybe I’ll come across something in my readings to punch it up a bit.

  10. says

    There’s a reason I use “A Camera, A Passport, A Ukulele” on my site. Those are the three essential things I keep near at hand at all times. Okay, I could probably add a laptop because honestly, having the keyboard is critical, but there’s nothing quite so poetic about it.

    I’ve always liked “measuring the world with our feet” because it’s jam packed with meaning. And reality.

  11. says

    It’s funny that Dan marks his favorite passages much in the same way that I do! (except I dog ear the top of the page) Although, most of my favorite quotes are from Tom Robbins, so I don’t know how effective it would be to have a tag line that uses a quote from a talking Can O’ Beans :)

    I really like that your tag line is fraught with meaning. Ours (“notes from our global lives”) is more descriptive than meaningful. It works, but it is no Don Quixote.

    Thanks for the explanation on your tag line! I have been wondering about that for a while.

  12. says

    Beautiful. Love it and can relate as we also see the world close up, mostly by foot!

    And we love Don Quixote and so enjoyed exploring that area of Spain…we even have a child’s Don Quixote picture book that we carried with us so our child could better understand the story and history.

    For us it’s “Co-creating Heaven on Earth” and our soultravelers3 icon represents that and our freedom/travel lifestyle is how we are doing that now ( since 2006). We committed to that theme in our marriage vows and it is a constant reminder of what we want out of our marriage, family & individual lives.

    That vision holds us like a beacon of light or compass that guides us to stay on track with our deepest desire and following the inner Master. I’ve been meditating daily for over 30 years, so we chose Soul travel for a reason too as we think always the journey is within.

    Many thought we were nuts/tilting at windmills when we sold our dream house to do this in 2005, but now most of those same people think we are geniuses. LOL. Timing is everything. ;)

  13. says

    i think a lot of people that don’t want to live by the numbers are accused of tinting at windmills. In my own case I kind of like it now, it’s not worth trying to explain or justify your decisions, it’s for other people to accept them or not ,not for me to justify them. Travel is something that creates unimaginable benefits for those that do it. Most people will never understand and will be happy with their 2 weeks on a beach per year, probably the same beach too.

  14. says

    @Stephanie: One of the fun things about taglines with literary associations is that there are multiple levels of meaning, so those who “get” them really enjoy them. Good luck finding your next literary tagline!

    @Pam: Thanks for the kudos on our tagline. I always liked yours as well as it was simple and visual – I can imagine you with the ukulele, passport & camera. A laptop is not quite as poetic and fun.

    @Kyle: It is fun reading books after Dan because of the turned down corners & scratch marks. Regarding Tim Robins, I do have memories of some fun passages from “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.” In terms of marketing a website, having a more descriptive tagline rather than one with a hidden meaning is probably smarter!

    @Soultravelers3: I love the idea of a children’s version of Don Quixote! It’s great that you have a theme that you can summarize in a few words that has taken you from your wedding vows to your child to the current journey. Lovely!

    @Rich: I agree that people who go outside of what society considers as “normal” are considered tilting at windmills, but it’s many of these same people who have been our leaders, innovators and artists throughout time. Everyone needs to do what is right for him/her.

  15. says

    Your tagline is definitely one to keep as even without knowing the story, it tells a great deal about the kind of people and travelers you both are. It’s a powerful handful of words.on my si

    At the moment I’ve been using “New Breed of Explorer” te as that is often how I feel, but I’m not quite sure I even know fully what that means!

  16. says

    @Earl: I started our presentation last night with the story of our tagline and it really does set the tone for our travel philosophy and how we travel. When I think of your tagline, I think of expanding the definition of explorer from someone charging forward to perhaps someone a bit more thoughtful and careful.

    @Andy: When reading Don Quixote, there are so many themes and topics that are so relevant to today. Sure, the setting and technology are different, but human nature seems to be the same.

  17. says

    Love the back story! I think hidden meaning to a great tagline makes it even sweeter. But I’ve been wondering the logistics – how do you measure you’re foot steps? Please tell me you wear pedometers? Really dorky ones with a heart rate monitor too? :)

  18. says

    @Bessie: Oh, I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you with how we measure the footsteps on the site! Although we are super dorky with our GPS data loggers, we do not wear pedometers. The footprints move ahead with an estimated footsteps/day equation. Some days we walk more, others less, so this is an estimated amount.

  19. joe says

    Oh man, this was a really great story to read. I love the story of Don Quixote, and I love the quote you borrowed for your own journey.

    For me, my favorite travel quote came from Siddharta, which I read while making my way from south to north in Vietnam:

    “This is why I am continuing my travels — not to seek other, better teachings, for I know there are none, but to depart from all teachings and all teachers and to reach my goal by myself, or to die.”

    Thanks again for the awesome blog!

  20. says

    @Joe: Even as I reread this quote from Don Quixote today when responding to your comment, I get chills from both the poetic nature of it and how relevant it still is today for us. It helps ground me.

    Your quote from Siddharta strikes a chord with us as well; to find the path that is your own and independent from those of the people around you trying to tell you what’s “right.”

    Thanks again for stopping by and your kind words about our blog!

  21. says

    Love the back story! I think hidden meaning to a great tagline makes it even sweeter. But I’ve been wondering the logistics – how do you measure you’re foot steps? Please tell me you wear pedometers? Really dorky ones with a heart rate monitor too?

  22. says

    @Gregg: Glad you enjoyed the story behind our tagline. I’m afraid to disappoint you that we don’t wear pedometers with a heart rate monitor. We took an average footprint daily footprint count and keep it running for each day on the road. Some days we’re still while others we’re walking for 12 hours, so this evens things out. Perhaps we should invest in one of those dorky pedometers though…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *