Study Guide

Questions of Travel Summary

By Elizabeth Bishop

Questions of Travel Summary

An unnamed speaker looks around her, and takes in the sights—streams, clouds, and waterfalls. They seem excessive to her. There's too much water! It's overwhelming! It's dangerous! In a word: yikes.

The speaker wonders why she's come to this unfamiliar place—should she have stayed at home? Is it worth it to travel all around the world, seeking new experiences. What's the point of pursuing tiny green hummingbirds and old stonework? She's not so sure.

Then, she seems to realize that yes, it's worth it. It would have been a pity to miss out on so many things by staying at home. (Like the hummingbird. Hummingbirds are awesome.) She thinks of the sound of wooden clogs, the sound of a brown bird that she's heard on her travels, the bird's ornate cage. These things feel valuable.

She imagines a traveller taking out a notebook. The traveller writes in her journal and asks, do we travel because we lack imagination? Shouldn't we be able to create fantastic places in our own minds? Why travel physically at all? Shouldn't we just stay at home, snug in our beds? The poem ends here, raising, but not answering, these difficult questions. The answers are all up to you.