The Art of Travel

You will be wondering why I haven't spared Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel for the imminent trip, since this appears to be the quintessential travelling companion. Having finished it now, I assure you it is not! As a matter of fact, it is the ideal book to read before taking off to distant places. Here is the final paragraph which sums up rather nicely:

"We meet people who have crossed deserts, floated on icecaps and cut their way through jungles - and yet in whose souls we would search in vain for evidence of what they have witnessed. Dressed in pink and blue pyjamas, satisfied within the confines of his own bedroom, Xavier de Maistre was gently nudging us to try, before taking off for distant hemispheres, to notice what we have already seen."

De Botton's book is a wonderfully unhurried eye opener towards today's high speed, long distance frenzy. Its classical style and execution in five sections (Departure, Motives, Landscape, Art, Return) together with its lavish accoutrement (I have the first edition) makes it splendid reading for the discerning armchair traveller with an occasional spike in his airmailairmiles account. About which he may feel uncomfortable when reading about John Ruskin's travelling habit of never making more than fifty miles a day ...


Joel said...

Like you, I read this book before I went on holiday and its messages come back to me frequently. Not only about the nature of travel, but also what we take from the experience. For me, his first chapter sums up so well what *really* happens when we go away - we want to think things will be different, but in fact we are the same people with the same issues, just in a different place!

And Ruskin was right, you know, about some things - in particular his suggestion that we sketch what we think is beautiful to understand the nature of its beauty. Clever, that.

Chris said...

Ah, I was already wondering where that expectations analysis of yours in your Mumbai post came from. Now everything is quite clear.

Retrospectively, both aspects you mention strike me as the most important take aways from that book. Did I mention Ruskin somewhere on the blog? I think not - but I thought about him frequently during my trip!

Chris said...

Silly me - of course I mentioned him, just not in that context!