[Note: This is an abstract of a presentation to be delivered at the "Hitting the Road! Experiences and writing of travellers in the Victorian and Edwardian Eras Conference" (University of Tours, 2-3 February, 2023). — Taylor Tomko]

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n 1831, Charles Darwin embarked on an epic voyage that never really ended. These five years of wonder are a testimony to the genesis of his scientific mind. His visits overseas shaped his powers of reasoning and laid the seeds for what became the quest of his life. The aim of this study is to explore some of the transformative elements of the voyage that turned the young adventurer into a visionary naturalist and to highlight the power of traveling upon his methodological habits and scientific destination.

To do so, this study depends primarily on the private writings of Darwin, whose autobiography, diaries, field notes, drawings and letters provide first-hand accounts of his personal experience. The direct, graphic, and colourful accounts given during his sailing years highlight the circumstances that charted the path towards his theory.

The first part explores his formative experience on board the ship which informed his particular approach to his science, from day-to-day experiences to the acquisition of new skills. It captures the extent to which even the seemingly smallest initiatives proved to be fruitful in practice and resulted in a distinct Darwinian way of seeing.

The second part's concern is the interplay between his experience of freedom and the growth of an intimate intellectual methodology. The observation of fascinating scenes stimulated the creativity of the young naturalist, anchoring him in a state of constant attentiveness and speculation. An unexplored world broadened his mind and awakened in him the audacity to imagine a new science.

The third part considers how a journey that began with scientific aspiration sealed his youthful search for purpose and identity. By reaching the farthest corners of the then civilized and "uncivilized" world his perspective was nurtured far beyond the shackles of science. His impressions of the overwhelming diversity yet commonality of all life forms moulded the ways in which he explained, questioned, and responded to science.

Overall, the paper strives to show how Darwin's personal travel experiences, as described in his personal writings and recollections, carry the seeds of his scientific vision.

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Created 16 January 2023