Travel Like a Genius—Tips From Einstein

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Even geniuses need a break sometimes. (Photo: AP)

Did Albert Einstein even go on vacation?

As the 60th anniversary of Einstein’s death approaches on April 18, I began pondering this question.

In search of the answer, I turned to New York Times Bestselling Author Walter Issacson, the man who wrote “Einstein, His Life and Universe.” Surely, he would know.

He responded with a homework assignment: read the chapters in his book that talk about Einstein’s lakeside retreats in Germany.

So I did.

Turns out, the greatest mind of the 20th century craved a travel escape just as much as the rest of us.

I kept reading and gained a bit of insight into how the world’s greatest physicist might plan a trip today:

1. Enjoy the journey.

One of Einstein’s most famous quotes reads “I love to travel, but hate to arrive.“ So many of us look forward to the arrival at a destination with so much anticipation that we forget to enjoy the process of getting there.

Perhaps we don’t have to hate the arrival, but it is a reminder to savor the journey.

2. Make time for travel

Einstein knew that he needed to use travel to recharge his batteries and allow his mind to wander. He even skipped the Nobel Prize ceremonies to visit the Far East.

In the early days of his career, when money was tight, Einstein still made vacations a priority. It didn’t have to be extravagant. A small lakeside cottage worked out just fine.

3. Book a modest vacation rental

While in the US, Einstein often rented small cottages in oceanside towns like Watch Hill, Rhode Island or Old Lyme, Connecticut or Nassau Point, New York.

During work trips, he stayed at hotels like The Willows Historic Palm Spring Inn in California or Astor House Hotel in Shanghai.


A sunset worth savoring at Watch Hill. (Photo: Thinkstock)

4. Get outside

Einstein famously said, “look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Activities always found a way into Einstein’s travel itinerary. Simple hikes in the woods with his kids, a classical concert, or just hanging out with a drink and violin (which he played brilliantly). Einstein always carved out time to enjoy the outdoors and music.


Einstein made sure to appreciate the little things. (Photo: AP)

6. Only pack the essentials

Einstein embraced a minimalist attitude when it came to his personal hygiene and appearances. A simple white shirt, shorts, and rope belt were his regular summer attire.

“He was known for being a terrible packer,” says historian Matt Stanley of New York University. ”He would bring two pairs of pants for a three month journey, and forget toiletries completely.“

7. Capture your memories

There are a ton of photos of Einstein posing at the Grand Canyon and lounging near the ocean. When he didn’t have a camera he would draw photos of landscapes that caught his attention. Here’s one he drew while visiting Japan:


9. Get outside your comfort zone

Einstein loved to sail, but there’s speculation over whether he was any good at it. His seventeen-foot wooden boat was named Tinef, Yiddish for piece of junk.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new,” is one of his more famous observations.

He would often drift out to sea, possibly paying more attention to the fractals in water currents than adjusting his sail. A few times, the Coast Guard would go out looking for him. In 1935, The New York Times got wind of his troubles at sea and ran the article, “Relative Tide and Sand Bars Trap Einstein.” Another newspaper poked fun with the headline “Einstein’s Miscalculations Leaves Him Stuck.”


Get outside your comfort zone in order to fully embrace creativity. (Photo: Thinkstock)

10. Keep a travel journal

Einstein used the word ‘travel’ over 200 times in letters and documents collected by Princeton University.

He wrote a friend that his “curiosity was at the utmost suspense” prior to leaving for Japan.

His travel journals also hinted at his decision making process. Like most of us, he would sometimes consider weather before planning a trip or decide the best time to go. He also would write about his yearning to explore an unknown culture.

It turns out you don’t need to be a genius to travel like Einstein. You just need curiosity.

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