I stumble into books; this one was an accidental discovery in an in-flight magazine; on their list of the five best books on travel and it was the first one the list. I remember watching Alain De Botton on YouTube once and I was very curious on what he has to say on travel.
I made a note of the title and on my next visit to the book shops on Church Street, I picked up a second hand copy from Blossom 👉A Sunday browsing second hand books🍭📚. It’s a fabulous read 😀.
The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton was first published in 2002 and I am reading it almost twenty years down the line ‼️ The book is not a guide on how to travel well rather it focuses on why we travel⁉️
“If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest … than our travels.” 📖
The author together with some famous names of the past talk us through why we yearn to get away from our daily routines and travel to places where we believe we can be more happier.
“We are sad at home and blame the weather and the ugliness of the buildings, ….. but on the tropical island, we learn that the state of the skies and the appearance of our dwellings can never on their own underwrite our joy nor condemn us to misery.” 😉
We believe that a new place can cheer us up and in fact sometimes they do, even if it is only for a short while!😊
I liked this observation made by the author on airplane food. I love airplane food and it’s something I really miss on the low cost carriers✈️. I look forward to the small tray in happy anticipation on what the dessert might be. I always choose the non-veg option, usually lamb or chicken with pulao or basmati rice of some sort. Then there is the croissant/bun and tea, not to forget the wine and hot chocolate😋
“Food that, if sampled in a kitchen, would have been banal or even offensive, acquires a new taste and interest in the presence of the clouds (like a picnic of bread and cheese that delights us when eaten on a cliff-top above a pending sea).” ☁️☁️
The author details on the motives for travelling by following the thoughts and trails of some famous authors, painters, poets, explorers. To add to the charm, the book in interspersed with black and white pictures.
We follow the French novelist Gustave Flaubert (author of Madame Bovary) through Egypt seeking the exotic.
“We may value foreign elements not only because they are new, but because they seem to accord more faithfully with our identity and commitments that anything our homeland could provide.” says the author. But what one finds exotic, another may view as pedestrian.
For me having henna designs done of my hands during a trip to Dubai seemed exotic, something I would not do back home and loved the experience; but my friends thought not much of it; it’s very common they said !
To explain the motive of curiosity, we travel to South America with a German naturalist and explorer named Alexander von Humboldt. But this is no travel guide! Curiosity is an important factor that can either make our travel a charming experience of discoveries or a mere expedition of been there done that.
For me, ruins, palaces, forts, abandoned temples, stepped wells, towers, churches and the like hold immense attraction; their stories and legends are fascinating !! But without the element of curiosity, the whole place may seem merely monuments of stone and uninspiring. The interest in looking back to understand what it used to be rather that what it has reduced to now, helps.
Next are the words of William Wordsworth as the author attempts to explain why during every long weekend and festival holidays, we make plans to escape the city and head anywhere with more trees and less people!
“The poet accused the cities of fostering a family of life destroying emotions: anxiety about our position in the social hierarchy, envy at the success of others, pride and a desire to shine in the eyes of strangers.”
Nature as per the poet is the antidote‼️
He moves on to other elements of why we travel and further on the author take us to Provence and paintings of Van Gogh to explain how art influences travel.
“Artists could paint a portion of the world and in consequence open the eyes of others to it.”
The is more on seeking beauty and room travel; the book is witty, delightful and insightful.
Till next post, take care !!
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I’m half way through and it’s a real little gem!
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Very true !