Friday, January 27, 2012
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
I am quickly becoming hooked on De Botton's lucid and intelligent writing. In The Art of Travel, he explores all aspects of the travelling experience, cleverly combining thoughts on travel from artists, poets, and other luminary thinkers with his own personal accounts and points of view.
His books are so beautifully conceived and executed. The Art of Travel opens with a section "On Anticipation" where he argues strongly, and using some hilarious historical examples, how so much of the enjoyment of any travel adventure, is in planning. He also digs deep into the human psyche and captures why travel is addictive for so many of us. Throughout the whole book I found myself marvelling at his singularly brilliant way of expressing human truths:
"Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are so conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train." p.57
The final chapter "On Habit" invites the reader, after many happy pages of adventure through the beautiful and the sublime, accompanied by words of wisdom on travel from the likes of Flaubert, Wordsworth and Van Gogh, to reconsider our own familiar home environments through fresh eyes. And that, as exhilarating and refreshing as travelling so often is, there is much to see in our own backyards if we only adjust our mindset to one of curiosity.
This book is just as good as The Consolations of Philosophy which I read last year. I am besotted with De Botton. On more than one occasion now, his books have lured me away from my usual diet of fiction to walk with him through his extraordinary take on what it is to be human.