The Art of Travel – Alain de Botton


Alain de Botton, is a writer of many books described as ‘philosophy of everyday’. And what’s the use of philosophy if can’t be included in our everyday life..? His books have been bestsellers in almost 30 countries and translated in more than 25 languages.

The art of travel

The Art of Travel  is a philosophical look at the ubiquitous but peculiar activity of travelling ‘for pleasure’, with thoughts on airports, landscapes, museums, holiday romances,  photographs, exotic carpets and the contents of hotel mini-bars.

The book mixes personal thought with insights drawn from some of the great figures of the past. It dares to ask what the point of travel might be – and modestly suggests how we could learn to be less silently and guiltily miserable on our journeys.

Let’s have a look inside:

”what we find exotic abroad may be what we hunger for in vain at home… the pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.”

‘Wherever you go, there you are’


”…I discovered that my melancholy self that I knew in my everyday life, had followed me here to this beautiful island, despite the radical differences of the environment. ”


and after having a couple fight while on the trip:

”In fact, the ability to derive happiness from aesthetic objects or material goods seems to depends mostly from the fact that previously we have satisfied many other emotional and mental needs, such as the need for understanding, love, expression, respect.

It’s impossible to enjoy the tropical environment and a beautiful beach if we discover that our relationship has for basic characteristics the lack of misunderstanding and a taste of bitterness. As we can learn from a tropical island (with a small argument in a beautiful scenery under the beautiful blue sky), the environment and the aspect of our house can’t alone ensure us that we’ll be happy – nor therefore condemn us to misery.

If it surprises us the power with which a sulking mood can destroy the beneficial effect of an amazing hotel, it is because we don’t realise right what keeps us cheerful.

It is contradictory that we can put through some grandiose plans, like the construction of hotels or dredging moorages, while we remain at the mercy of our deep mental obstacles that undermining their delight. A small fight is enough to take away the achievements of civilisation.

Those imaginable barriers that goes beyond us bring to my mind the ascetic, sarcastic wisdom of some ancient philosophers, who abandoned prosperity to live in poor cabins or even a jar, claiming that the crucial components of happiness can’t be material or aesthetic, but they definitely must have a mental character – precept which never seemed to me so true until the moment me and my girlfriend made it up at the night in the backstage of a tropical beach barbecue, which in that moment the luxurious touch of it seemed to us humiliating irrelevant.”


Flaubert in Cairo

One of the most beautiful things is the camel, wrote Flaubert from Cairo. I never get tired watching this strange animal that sways like a donkey and moves it’s neck like a swan. (…) You have to see many of them in the desert walking the one after the other, like soldiers in phalanx and never stop going…

Why he admired the camel so much? Because he was identified with her stoicism and her inelegant appearance. He also thought that some of it’s  characteristics were possessed by the Egyptian people: the calm power and a humility completely different from the arrogance of his bourgeois neighbours in Normand

Friedrich Nietzsche on the Advantage and Disadvantage of History in Life

The thought of Nietzsche would lead to another form of tourism, by which we learn that our society and identity are formed by our past, which gives us the sense that we fit into a continuum, that we belong somewhere.

The traveler who had this perception would learn from the other cultures, ”to look beyond the ephemeral, strange individual life… to be himself the spirit of the house, the generation, the city. He could look at the old buildings and feel ”the happiness that you feel when you know that you aren’t just something arbitrary and accidental but you emerge through this past as a heir, and like that your existence is forgived and justified. ”

To sum up

And it is true, that sometimes we meet people that have crossed the whole desert, they have walked on glaciers or opened by themselves a road in the jungle, but you can’t distinguish in their souls an indication of the things they have been confronted with.

De Maistre – as he was wearing his pajamas and while in the space of his room, wanted politely to motivate us, before taking the streets for a distant hemisphere, to take into consideration what we have already seen.

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