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The Art of Travel

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Any Baedeker will tell us where we ought to travel, but only Alain de Botton will tell us how and why. With the same intelligence and insouciant charm he brought to How Proust Can Save Your Life, de Botton considers the pleasures of anticipation; the allure of the exotic, and the value of noticing everything from a seascape in Barbados to the takeoffs at Heathrow. Even as Any Baedeker will tell us where we ought to travel, but only Alain de Botton will tell us how and why. With the same intelligence and insouciant charm he brought to How Proust Can Save Your Life, de Botton considers the pleasures of anticipation; the allure of the exotic, and the value of noticing everything from a seascape in Barbados to the takeoffs at Heathrow. Even as de Botton takes the reader along on his own peregrinations, he also cites such distinguished fellow-travelers as Baudelaire, Wordsworth, Van Gogh, the biologist Alexander von Humboldt, and the 18th-century eccentric Xavier de Maistre, who catalogued the wonders of his bedroom. The Art of Travel is a wise and utterly original book. Don’t leave home without it.


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Any Baedeker will tell us where we ought to travel, but only Alain de Botton will tell us how and why. With the same intelligence and insouciant charm he brought to How Proust Can Save Your Life, de Botton considers the pleasures of anticipation; the allure of the exotic, and the value of noticing everything from a seascape in Barbados to the takeoffs at Heathrow. Even as Any Baedeker will tell us where we ought to travel, but only Alain de Botton will tell us how and why. With the same intelligence and insouciant charm he brought to How Proust Can Save Your Life, de Botton considers the pleasures of anticipation; the allure of the exotic, and the value of noticing everything from a seascape in Barbados to the takeoffs at Heathrow. Even as de Botton takes the reader along on his own peregrinations, he also cites such distinguished fellow-travelers as Baudelaire, Wordsworth, Van Gogh, the biologist Alexander von Humboldt, and the 18th-century eccentric Xavier de Maistre, who catalogued the wonders of his bedroom. The Art of Travel is a wise and utterly original book. Don’t leave home without it.

30 review for The Art of Travel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Soo-Ryun

    i couldn't put my finger on why i didn't think this book was as great as de botton's other books. but then i realized it's because of 2 reasons. 1) the focus is very euro- and christian-centric. obvo, de botton is writing about what he knows (euro intelligentsia), but perhaps a book about travelling should be about things outside your sphere of knowledge. e.g., why is it so exotic for french-speaking de botton to go to the south of france? why go to a postcolonial barbados resort and consider i couldn't put my finger on why i didn't think this book was as great as de botton's other books. but then i realized it's because of 2 reasons. 1) the focus is very euro- and christian-centric. obvo, de botton is writing about what he knows (euro intelligentsia), but perhaps a book about travelling should be about things outside your sphere of knowledge. e.g., why is it so exotic for french-speaking de botton to go to the south of france? why go to a postcolonial barbados resort and consider that such a huge jump? i wish de botton had taken some non-Euro history/art/lit classes whilst at Cambridge. 2) de botton seems to be a bit of a dandy traveller. when he travels, he goes to resorts. or to friend's houses in the countryside where he gets treated to chocolate donut things in the morning. i can't imagine that he would ever, e.g., take a shit into a hole on a moving train or off the side of a boat or sleep in a tent in the middle of nowhere. he seems to put a lot of stock in the availability of chocolate, pastries, various other desserts. i imagine he wouldn't be able to rough it or go to places where chocolate desserts are not plentiful. i've actually written fan mail to de botton and had/have a huge crush on him, but to be completely honest, i wanted a little more from this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    In The Art of Travel, Alaine de Botton succeeds in the difficult task of opening the readers eyes to the many perceptual enhancements that travel can provide. It is not a travelogue of wild times in exotic countries, nor an informative list of places one can go. The Art of Travel is abstract, and focuses on concepts relating to the inner-self and individual psychology; the internal elements that affect, and are affected by, travel. Through avenues such as poetry, writings from some of histories In The Art of Travel, Alaine de Botton succeeds in the difficult task of opening the readers eyes to the many perceptual enhancements that travel can provide. It is not a travelogue of wild times in exotic countries, nor an informative list of places one can go. The Art of Travel is abstract, and focuses on concepts relating to the inner-self and individual psychology; the internal elements that affect, and are affected by, travel. Through avenues such as poetry, writings from some of histories great travel philosophers, artwork, writings from scenic painters, fetching photographs, and through his own personalized experiences and intellectual insights, de Botton provides the reader with a greater understanding and appreciation of travel; new paradigms that can result in more visceral and illuminating travel experiences. De botton sees symbolism and connections in what may originally seem mundane. Here, in his chapter on anticipation, he writes of the riding of an airplane: "There is psychological pleasure in this takeoff, too, for the swiftness of the plane's ascent is an exemplary symbol of transformation. The display of power can inspire us to imagine analogous, decisive shifts in our own lives, to imagine that we, too, might one day surge above much that now looms over us." “What we find exotic abroad may be what we hunger for in vain at home. My favorite chapter was “On the Sublime”. It inspires the reader to reach for the beautiful in life, and it helped me realize some of the inner resources that one can develop, and the outer resources that can be recognized, when in new atmospheres. Reading that chapter was like a spiritual awakening; something akin to the transcending experience one feels when looking at slews of massive mountaintops or stretches of distant, barren deserts. I would have given The Art of Travel four stars had it not been for de Botton losing himself (and me, the reader) in the chapter, "On Eye-Opening Art". At first, he provides sound, interesting, and useful philosophies on art. But the writing becomes too involved, becoming dry, pedantic, and completely unrelated to travel. For this short, but unforgivable period of time, de Botton’s sense of wonder, curiosity, and appreciation for beauty are absent, causing the book to momentarily lose its distinguished charm. Overall, de Botton's writing is excellent. Smooth, flowing, poignant, and articulate, he is a pleasure to read. He is most insightfully expressive with regard to perspectives and perceptions, which, lucky for the reader, penetrate most portions of the novel. This is appropriate, because the travel experience itself is subjective. While two people may experience the same event at the same place and time, their perceptions and outtake will never be exactly the same. Therefore, at bottom, “travel” has to do with what goes on in the individual; those subjective inner-workings that de Botton happens to articulate so well. According to de Botton, while the splendors of various sights and cultures can help aid the kind of growth the traveler may desire, one need not leave his bedroom in order to gain mind expansion and life changing insights. In that sense, The Art of Travel is not just a book about travel, but a book about seeing things in newer, more enlightening ways; a book about how to find and appreciate beauty, and through these processes, a book about enriching our life experience. For a full travel reading spectrum, I recommend this, along with Bill Bryson’s Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, which is a lighter, funnier, and less intellectualized travel read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton Aside from love, few actvities seem to promise us as much happiness as going traveling: taking off for somewhere else, somewhere far from home, a place with more interesting weather, customs, and landscapes. But although we are inundated with advice on where to travel, few people seem to talk about why we should go and how we can become more fulfilled by doing so. In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton, author of How Proust Can Change Your Life, explores what the The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton Aside from love, few actvities seem to promise us as much happiness as going traveling: taking off for somewhere else, somewhere far from home, a place with more interesting weather, customs, and landscapes. But although we are inundated with advice on where to travel, few people seem to talk about why we should go and how we can become more fulfilled by doing so. In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton, author of How Proust Can Change Your Life, explores what the point of travel might be and modestly suggest how we can learn to be a little happier in our travels. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نهم ماه سپتامبر سال 2007 میلادی عنوان: هنر سیر و سفر؛ نویسنده: آل‍ن‌ دوب‍ات‍ن‌؛ مت‍رج‍م: گ‍ل‍ی‌ ام‍ام‍ی‌؛ ت‍ه‍ران‌ : ن‍ی‍ل‍وف‍ر‏‫، 1385؛ در 286 ص؛ شابک: 9644482891؛ چاپ دوم 1387؛ چاپ سوم 1392؛ چاپ چهارم 1395؛ چاپ پنجم 1396؛ ‬ به دیده چنین مینشیند، که کنشهای کمشماری، به اندازه ی مسافرت، به همگان وعده ی خوشبختی و خوشبحالی میدهند: پیاده شدن در جایی دیگر، جایی دور از خانه، مکانی با آب و هوای جالبتر، آداب و رسوم، و چشم اندازهای دیدنی. اما اگرچه ما غرق در توصیه‌ های بسیاری هستیم درمورد اینکه به کجا باید سفر کنیم، چنین به دیده مینشیند که کمشماری از مردمان، درباره ی اینکه چرا باید برویم، و چگونه با اینکار کنار بیاییم، گفتگو میکنند. در کتاب هنر سفر، «آلن د. بوتون»، نویسنده میگویند: «باید یاد بگیریم که در سفرهامان خوشحالتر باشیم.»؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gordon

    As with all of De Botton’s books, this one is really a series of tightly crafted essays, each of which could stand on its own. I think the key messages of the book are well captured in the very first chapter: • Upon travelling to Barbados, de Botton wakes up the next morning and heads for the beach, then observes: “A momentous but until then overlooked fact was making itself apparent: I had inadvertently brought myself with me to the island.” As my wife occasionally remarks to me during our As with all of De Botton’s books, this one is really a series of tightly crafted essays, each of which could stand on its own. I think the key messages of the book are well captured in the very first chapter: • Upon travelling to Barbados, de Botton wakes up the next morning and heads for the beach, then observes: “A momentous but until then overlooked fact was making itself apparent: I had inadvertently brought myself with me to the island.” As my wife occasionally remarks to me during our travels, in yet another rendering of the same insight: “Wherever you go, there you are!” • “We are sad at home and blame the weather or 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 either underwrite our joy or condemn us to misery.” This explains why people are happy even in Winnipeg and unhappy even in Tahiti. These are probably good things to keep in mind when setting out on the road. The external voyage only has an impact if accompanied by an internal one. De Botton has a wonderful ability to weave in all kinds of unexpected references to artists and writers, such as Charles Baudelaire and Edward Hopper. I don’t know much about either of them, but I’m still impressed with the author’s ability to casually tie together a 19th century French poet with a taste for opium and a 20th century American artist with a taste for painting Steak ‘n Shakes restaurants and Mobil gas stations. You can appreciate this book quite nicely even while sitting on the couch at home, but I happened to read it while travelling in Honduras. Reading this book while on the road is a bit like having a guide by your side who, instead of telling you what you’re looking at, pokes you regularly in the ribs and tells you to open your eyes and see.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I read this book. Then I thought about it. Then I went back and read it again, less thoroughly, with a pen in hand looking to further unpack and appreciate the ideas and self-reflections they provoked in me. It has taken me a long time to get around to declaring this book “finished” enough for me to write a review. The structure of this book is deceptively simple to summarize: each chapter is a juxtaposition of de Botton’s travel accounts with brief historical essays describing a famous author, I read this book. Then I thought about it. Then I went back and read it again, less thoroughly, with a pen in hand looking to further unpack and appreciate the ideas and self-reflections they provoked in me. It has taken me a long time to get around to declaring this book “finished” enough for me to write a review. The structure of this book is deceptively simple to summarize: each chapter is a juxtaposition of de Botton’s travel accounts with brief historical essays describing a famous author, thinker, or artist and their experience of travel and sense of place. Both sides of this juxtaposition were exquisitely crafted. Alain de Botton’s narratives are full of gentle humor and thoughtfully expressed reflections. The brief but fascinating accounts of (to name just a few) Flaubert’s impatience with the bourgeois and yearning for the exotic, van Gogh’s fervent desire to express his vision of Provence, and Alexander von Humboldt’s remarkable energy for discovery are the reading equivalent of a delightful tasting menu from some of the world’s most talented chefs. Each would have been incomplete without the other--de Botton’s highly self-aware travel narratives might seem tiresome or pompous if they were not woven into these wide-ranging explications of famous minds that have grappled with the same ideas. Conversely, these separate accounts of artistic and historical figures are given common purpose by de Botton’s commentary and contextualizing of selective sampling of their works. Over the course of this little book, the author engages with a number of travel-related ideas: the unique flavor of anxiety that can only be produced by a guidebook, the poetry of the in-between places like airports and service stations that exist only for the purpose of traveling, the truths we reveal about ourselves when we confront the realities of a foreign location and find it different than our expectations. The thesis that resonated with me the most was the simplest: the art of travel is really about consciously noticing. Being receptive and aware is the first and necessary step to being able to articulate our questions and opinions, and from there to render our experiences lastingly meaningful. This is, essentially, a personal goal for me this year, one that I am pursuing by approaching my reading more thoughtfully and by reflecting more frequently on the small ways I can gain full awareness of how I am interacting with people and my environment. So, although I am not embarking on any significant travels this year, this book nevertheless feels remarkably relevant to me personally. “Why be seduced by something as small as a front door in another country? Why fall in love with a place because it has trams and its people seldom put curtains in their homes? However absurd the intense reactions provoked by such small (and mute) foreign elements may seem, the pattern is at least familiar from our personal lives. There too we may find ourselves anchoring emotions of love on the way a person butters his or her bread, or recoiling at his or her taste in shoes. To condemn ourselves for these minute concerns is to ignore how rich in meaning these details can be.” Of course, this book does have a few flaws. There are no women represented except as companions or objects of desire for men. All forms of travel described are decidedly middle to upper class--no hitchhiking or camping stories here. (One gets the impression that Bill Bryson and Alain de Botton wouldn’t travel together very well.) The perspective is also limited only to Western thinkers and includes relatively few non-European locations (and most of those are former European colonies.) But these are forgivable in that the book is shaped by de Botton’s personal background, interests, and experiences. I merely mention it to warn those who would be put off by this kind of scope. All in all, I highly recommend it to people interested in vignette-style reflections on how we experience our immediate environment and what we can learn about ourselves by just paying more attention to it, whether at home or abroad.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Honestly, this was a bit of a disappointment to me after reading such great reviews. I'm a traveler and while there were some ideas in this book that appealed to me, the majority of the philosophies and "ways of traveling" that were shared turned me off. Botton seems a bit arrogant and I felt he contradicted himself a number of times. Not all of us have wealthy friends in the French countryside or have the means of staying at an exclusive hotel in Barbados. I think Botton is missing out on the Honestly, this was a bit of a disappointment to me after reading such great reviews. I'm a traveler and while there were some ideas in this book that appealed to me, the majority of the philosophies and "ways of traveling" that were shared turned me off. Botton seems a bit arrogant and I felt he contradicted himself a number of times. Not all of us have wealthy friends in the French countryside or have the means of staying at an exclusive hotel in Barbados. I think Botton is missing out on the thrill of travel that is unknown, unsafe, and lacking in the pretentious wanderings of a big city. I don't know, I guess Buttons ways and philosophies of traveling are not like mine. This book just wasn't my cup of tea.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    There's a certain self-effacing charm about Alain de Botton's writing that creeps up on you and which eventually becomes irresistible. Not one to shy away from big topics (love, philosophy, status, travel, Proust) he manages to bring you to fresh insights on each theme in a completely charming, highly readable fashion. I've also seen him a few times on a BBC series about different philosophers, and the same charm is evident in person. He just seems like an altogether smart, together, sweet guy. There's a certain self-effacing charm about Alain de Botton's writing that creeps up on you and which eventually becomes irresistible. Not one to shy away from big topics (love, philosophy, status, travel, Proust) he manages to bring you to fresh insights on each theme in a completely charming, highly readable fashion. I've also seen him a few times on a BBC series about different philosophers, and the same charm is evident in person. He just seems like an altogether smart, together, sweet guy. It appears that he is quite successful, despite the disparate and commercially unpromising topics he chooses to write about. I hope that he is, because his seems to me to be a talent that deserves to be rewarded.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    Life goal: write like this.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Daren

    It's not you book, it's me. In truth, if this wasn't such an easy read that I could complete it in a day, I wouldn't have bothered, and it would another to my, admittedly quite minimal, DNF shelf. As it was, it was a quick read, although it was a book I made no connection with. I should have known better, really, especially after whole Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance failure. Philosophy: not something I read well. Especially airy fairy philosophy, philosophy which treats a great love - It's not you book, it's me. In truth, if this wasn't such an easy read that I could complete it in a day, I wouldn't have bothered, and it would another to my, admittedly quite minimal, DNF shelf. As it was, it was a quick read, although it was a book I made no connection with. I should have known better, really, especially after whole Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance failure. Philosophy: not something I read well. Especially airy fairy philosophy, philosophy which treats a great love - travel - to an analysis to make it into something other than an opportunity to gain experiences and understanding. (Yes I am a simple man, with simple views.) So before I cut this review off short - if you are interested in reading this book - there are plenty of reviews by people who took and understanding from it, even enjoyed and benefited from reading it, so don't waste time on this review... I will concede one of the aspects I enjoyed in this book, and this was worth a star, was reading about Gustave Flaubert (whose book Flaubert in Egypt is hilarious and excellent in equal parts) and the inspiring Alexander von Humboldt, which are interspersed within the text. Not for me - 2 stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    My favorite read of late is Alain de Botton's “The Art of Travel.” I found this book enthralling. I couldn't put it down. Its insightful and erudite in a way that I haven't experienced since reading somewhat obscure texts for a rhetoric course in college. The book uses authors and poets and painters that we all know and love to help us think about how to fully experience our world. The book isn't really a travel tome; and I'm not sure that I learned all that much about particular destinations. My favorite read of late is Alain de Botton's “The Art of Travel.” I found this book enthralling. I couldn't put it down. Its insightful and erudite in a way that I haven't experienced since reading somewhat obscure texts for a rhetoric course in college. The book uses authors and poets and painters that we all know and love to help us think about how to fully experience our world. The book isn't really a travel tome; and I'm not sure that I learned all that much about particular destinations. Instead, each chapter offers tools for helping us to truly “see” and “feel” the spaces we inhabit as we walk in the world. I found myself dog-earing the corners of so many pages as he shared insights that resonated with my own experience of travel lately. One of the concepts that I believe will stay with me is the idea of word-painting. As you know, I love to share my experiences with you here on the blog. Sometimes I struggle to decide how much detail to include, knowing that some of you will be interested in particular aspects of a story while others will not. For me, the little things matter. I'm often fascinated by the day-to-day, somewhat mundane ways in which life is different from place to place. Every once in a while I find myself involved in a moment of overwhelming beauty or profound peacefulness. Those are moments I want to share with you. The moments when I want to “paint” the picture for you through my words. The idea is to not just capture the scene, but to fully describe the emotional connection we have to the moment—in psychological terms even. With Botton's help, I now have more tools.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Eszter

    in this lovely philosophical scrapbook, alain de botton tackles the question of why people travel. partly an eclectic collection of essays, partly a memoir, and partly a collection of historical tidbits, philosophies, works of art and found objects that de botton found cool; most people will probably find this book either pretentiously irritating or delightful. my vote goes to the latter. to qualify, i read this for the first time in the midst of a wonderful journey, so perhaps rereading it just in this lovely philosophical scrapbook, alain de botton tackles the question of why people travel. partly an eclectic collection of essays, partly a memoir, and partly a collection of historical tidbits, philosophies, works of art and found objects that de botton found cool; most people will probably find this book either pretentiously irritating or delightful. my vote goes to the latter. to qualify, i read this for the first time in the midst of a wonderful journey, so perhaps rereading it just reminds me of my own experience of traveling.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maria Ella

    "Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is "Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do." More thoughts soon, I did enjoy reading this while on my Cebu trip last Nov 19th.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    A very interesting little book that opened my eyes in a number of ways, and helped me to understand part of why I'm not a very good traveler. The first chapters were the least interesting for me, mostly stressing what I already knew--that "wherever you go, there you are." Don't go all over the globe looking for happiness (as Horace wrote)--changing your sky doesn't change yourself. But later on, in discussing the Lake District in England and Wordsworth (its first and most ardent admirer) de A very interesting little book that opened my eyes in a number of ways, and helped me to understand part of why I'm not a very good traveler. The first chapters were the least interesting for me, mostly stressing what I already knew--that "wherever you go, there you are." Don't go all over the globe looking for happiness (as Horace wrote)--changing your sky doesn't change yourself. But later on, in discussing the Lake District in England and Wordsworth (its first and most ardent admirer) de Botton made me realize just how revolutionary Wordsworth's nature-worship was, and how much his popularity increased with the gradual shift of population into cities with the resulting eagerness for re-creation in Nature. In the subsequent chapter he describes his first visit to Provence and how grumpy and unimpressed he was until he opened his host's coffee-table book on van Gogh and his last years in the same area. Van Gogh's vision helped him really to see what was in front of him, and his appreciation grew. He further expatiates on what he considers the true value of art--that artists offer us the chance to see their version of what is really there. Van Gogh refined his ability to see by studying the work of other artists and comparing what they presented with what he saw. His final chapter is a charming little one on Xavier de Maistre, who in 1790 wrote "A Journey Round my Bedroom." A different angle on learning to pay attention to what is in front of you.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Don't really know what I was expecting, maybe it was some insightful ways to get more from my travel experiences. What I got was a book of two halves. The first half can be summarised - don't get your hopes up it might be shit. I persevered. The second half was better - it ain't where you go, it's the attitude you travel with. The author is obviously very well read (he even includes a bedroom photo complete with bookshelf as evidence), and the book is littered with quotes and tales from various Don't really know what I was expecting, maybe it was some insightful ways to get more from my travel experiences. What I got was a book of two halves. The first half can be summarised - don't get your hopes up it might be shit. I persevered. The second half was better - it ain't where you go, it's the attitude you travel with. The author is obviously very well read (he even includes a bedroom photo complete with bookshelf as evidence), and the book is littered with quotes and tales from various historical figures. But for me there were few highlights, the chapter on Van Gogh the only real exception. So let me conclude with a quote of my own, from Twain. No not Mark. Shania - "that [book] don't impress me much."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lulufrances

    Actual rating 3.5 It was definitely a good choice of book to bring on my trip to Australia, even if it took me a while to read and at times it was difficult to focus - but I have truly benefited from these ruminations and examinations already. Alain de Botton writes fluidly and precisely, there are many on point descriptions that fitted my travel experiences to a t and I made sure to highlight and annotate my copy as a memory. I loved the chapter featuring a lot of van Gogh and also the Actual rating 3.5 It was definitely a good choice of book to bring on my trip to Australia, even if it took me a while to read and at times it was difficult to focus - but I have truly benefited from these ruminations and examinations already. Alain de Botton writes fluidly and precisely, there are many on point descriptions that fitted my travel experiences to a t and I made sure to highlight and annotate my copy as a memory. I loved the chapter featuring a lot of van Gogh and also the Ruskin-heavy one. So relatable. Personal anecdotes: while landing in Singapore I read the passage about a plane flying from Singapore to London - how cool is that. Coincidences like that make my day. Also, apparently this book is on the syllabus for advanced English in Australia, heard about it from two people, which is also cool, seeing as it is pretty unknown where I come from.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I read this book in Kalaw, Myanmar, while on vacation to a wonderful and unexpected place. I enjoy de Botton's writing; when I was finishing graduate school I read The Consolations of Philosophy and it was just the right book for me then -- in the same way this was perfect timing to read this one. This book is about travel, not about destinations, so you'll find chapters on anticipation, travelling places, the exotic, curiosity, the country and the city, the sublime, eye-opening art, possessing I read this book in Kalaw, Myanmar, while on vacation to a wonderful and unexpected place. I enjoy de Botton's writing; when I was finishing graduate school I read The Consolations of Philosophy and it was just the right book for me then -- in the same way this was perfect timing to read this one. This book is about travel, not about destinations, so you'll find chapters on anticipation, travelling places, the exotic, curiosity, the country and the city, the sublime, eye-opening art, possessing beauty, and habit. In each chapter he anchors you in a place or two (the anticipation chapter goes to Hammersmith London, and Barbados) and relies on a guide (J.K. Huysmans for anticipation). It's a wonderful structure, relying on writers and philosophers and artists and thinkers to illuminate ideas that find their specifics in the specific places he visits. De Botton is the kind of writer who excels at articulating that thing you knew, but didn't really realize you knew it -- and he does it beautifully. There were so many sentences I read aloud to my husband, so many places I kind of gasped in recognition and delight. Here's a paragraph about the vantage point that flight gives: The new vantage point lends order and logic to the landscape: roads curve to avoid hills, rivers trace paths to lakes, pylons lead from power stations to towns, streets that from earth seemed laid out without thought emerge as well-planned grids. The eye attempts to match what it can see with what the mind knows should be there, like a reader trying to decipher a familiar book in a new language. Those lights must be Newbury that road the A33 as it leaves the M4. And to think that all along, hidden from our sight, our lives were that small: the world we live in but almost never see, the way we must appear to the hawk and to the gods. The emphasis is mine, in the quote above -- it's the bit that made me gasp. This book is a meta-travel book, for people who love Travel as much as they love travel. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Like most books, The Art of Travel has its good parts and its not-so-good parts. I love that this book focuses on, ahem, the art of traveling, as in, the different little aspects that go into traveling and visiting new places. De Botton dedicates an entire chapter to the feeling of anticipation we all get when we are about to go somewhere new, and how when we arrive, without fail all our preconceived ideas about it are crushed. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the author rushes to explain,       Like most books, The Art of Travel has its good parts and its not-so-good parts. I love that this book focuses on, ahem, the art of traveling, as in, the different little aspects that go into traveling and visiting new places. De Botton dedicates an entire chapter to the feeling of anticipation we all get when we are about to go somewhere new, and how when we arrive, without fail all our preconceived ideas about it are crushed. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the author rushes to explain, just a fact of life. The world cannot possibly be everything we expect it to be, but that makes it no less wonderful and precious.       At the same time, I felt he would sometimes go off on a tangent and forget what he was supposed to be talking about, his vocabulary would rise to a ridiculously pretentious level, or would completely lose me altogether in the middle of a chapter. I can't exactly pinpoint what the problem was, but I skimmed through many pages in this book, which made me really sad.       Still, I think this is the sort of book most people should read before they go anywhere, as it enumerates many, like I said before, facts of life that people might forget as they plan their travels. Your journey won't be perfect, and Paris won't make you unconditionally happy, but that is no reason to make you want to eat up the world any less.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I felt it was a valuable read for someone who is in to travelling and a definite for someone who wants to go spend all their money on travel but isn't sure why ("it's just what people do"). It helped me appreciate the beauty around me and to really focus on assessing what makes me happy, what stimulates me. By getting a better understanding of this I believe I'll be able to make better decisions on what I want to do with my life, as well as simply where I want to go. I'd always felt I should I felt it was a valuable read for someone who is in to travelling and a definite for someone who wants to go spend all their money on travel but isn't sure why ("it's just what people do"). It helped me appreciate the beauty around me and to really focus on assessing what makes me happy, what stimulates me. By getting a better understanding of this I believe I'll be able to make better decisions on what I want to do with my life, as well as simply where I want to go. I'd always felt I should appreciate the little things more, and felt sad as a new place, in which minute details enthralled me, became routine to the point I'd never 'see' it as it became a means to an end. This book summed up that motion well and gives me drive to fight the lazy instinct and spend my life just going through the motions. (BTW I have no idea how this site works yet so if people are able to read this - bear in mind that this summary is mainly to remind myself why I enjoyed the book if I've forgotten some years down the line!)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Heidi The Reader

    Alain de Botton takes traveling and elevates it to a life changing experience in this book. He gives words to all of the annoyances but potentially world view shattering moments that one encounters while away from home. Through historical examples and his own travels, de Botton instructs the reader how to view, draw, and appreciate the mundane to the sublime. I would recommend this to anyone who is planning a trip, has taken a trip, or is unwilling to take a trip for whatever reason. The Art of Alain de Botton takes traveling and elevates it to a life changing experience in this book. He gives words to all of the annoyances but potentially world view shattering moments that one encounters while away from home. Through historical examples and his own travels, de Botton instructs the reader how to view, draw, and appreciate the mundane to the sublime. I would recommend this to anyone who is planning a trip, has taken a trip, or is unwilling to take a trip for whatever reason. The Art of Travel is instructive even if you chose not to leave your own bedroom.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    Advice, guidance and suggestions for expanding the ability to enjoy the experience of travel, drawn from diverse eminent sources such as Ruskin, sensitively couched in the comforting admissions of a fellow-sufferer.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits I hadn't read philosophy for ages so am happy to have been able to borrow a trio of Alain De Botton books for a friend. The first, Status Anxiety, was interesting, but didn't speak directly about my lifestyle. This second book, The Art Of Travel, is absolutely on the money! De Botton explores attitudes to travel through the eyes of a number of historical thinkers and writers including Wordsworth, Van Gogh, Huysmans and, finally someone whose See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits I hadn't read philosophy for ages so am happy to have been able to borrow a trio of Alain De Botton books for a friend. The first, Status Anxiety, was interesting, but didn't speak directly about my lifestyle. This second book, The Art Of Travel, is absolutely on the money! De Botton explores attitudes to travel through the eyes of a number of historical thinkers and writers including Wordsworth, Van Gogh, Huysmans and, finally someone whose work I have actually read, Xavier De Maistre. All De Botton's thinkers are men and, I believe, all white men at that, so we don't get a rounded view of travel over the past few centuries, but I enjoyed dipping into the ideas that they espouse. This is a great book to discuss as well as to read so could make an ideal nonfiction book club choice. De Botton starts by thinking about how the anticipation of travel can be more rewarding than the reality. Huysmans fictional creation, Des Esseintes, feels more 'in' a country by visiting its ex-pat enclaves than in the original land. De Botton also looks at how our ideas of desirable places to visit are shaped by the impressions of artists and writers who preceded us. Arles is now most famous for its Van Gogh connections (although Dave and I were more taken with the Roman history!), and it wasn't until painters started interpreting the Scottish Highlands or Wordsworth strode across the Lake District that these wild places became fashionable - and, consequently, a lot less wild! De Botton writes in an easily accessible style so Reading Philosophy wasn't at all arduous! I could identify with many of the ideas discussed and now also have a lengthy further reading list that includes the third of my De Botton trio, The Consolations Of Philosophy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mohamad Hosein Eqbali

    Some great tips and how-to's on why and how to travel, rather than where to. Useful for the average traveler and pleasant for the non-average ones.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bookshop

    I can't find any fault with this book and it's rare. The author describes perfectly the feelings I go through when travelling. The chapter are split into Departure, Motives, Landscape, Art, and Return. My favourite chapter is Departure. I often wonder about the same things as I sit in the departure lounge waiting to go into my plane. The plane I am about to enter has left a distant country the day before, flies across Asia to arrive in Europe in one piece. It is about to transport me to a I can't find any fault with this book and it's rare. The author describes perfectly the feelings I go through when travelling. The chapter are split into Departure, Motives, Landscape, Art, and Return. My favourite chapter is Departure. I often wonder about the same things as I sit in the departure lounge waiting to go into my plane. The plane I am about to enter has left a distant country the day before, flies across Asia to arrive in Europe in one piece. It is about to transport me to a completely different place from the metal and glass building covered with snow. The plane, as big as a building, can actually be suspended in the air. These sorts of wonderment. He writes all those in a more eloquent, precise and creative manner, of course. The topics discussed are about the act of travelling, not the places per se, and they are contemplative pieces. In Eye-Opening art, he discusses how an artist (in this case he picks Van Gogh) sees Provence. Having seen Van Gogh paintings and Provence, only now I realize what his paintings are all about. In "On the Exotic" he elaborates the term 'Exotic' which doesn't have to mean brown-skinned people with black hair dancing around in grass skirts around a fire built on sand. He takes a picture of a sign board in Schippol, with its two-language direction and the bright yellow signage as a sign that he's arrived in an exotic place. That's so true. In the age of instant travelling, it can be quite disorienting to board on a plane at one place, then disembark on the other when nothing (ie. the plane, the passengers, the newspapers) really changes. The discussion of a place and its related topic is led by one or two 'guides' who are mostly historical figures. He enlists the help of writers, painters, scientist and Job. Yes, that figure from the Bible. The book is a pleasure to read: nicely paced, very unique and stylish. I must get a copy for myself to re-read the phrases.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    The conclusion of the book, that we should impart a sense of travelling into our everyday lives, was a good point. And there were some beautiful insights: 'What we find exotic abroad may be what we hunger for in vain at home'. And 'A danger of travel is that we see things at the wrong time, before we have had a chance to build up the necessary receptivity and when new information is therefore as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connecting chain'. But I struggled to connect with The conclusion of the book, that we should impart a sense of travelling into our everyday lives, was a good point. And there were some beautiful insights: 'What we find exotic abroad may be what we hunger for in vain at home'. And 'A danger of travel is that we see things at the wrong time, before we have had a chance to build up the necessary receptivity and when new information is therefore as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connecting chain'. But I struggled to connect with the book. The style of travel de Botton describes is really The Art of White Upper-Middle Class Travel. It is tourism. It is resorts, group tours, and friends' homes with pain au chocolat. And he doesn't reflect critically on that. He has a whole chapter on exoticism, even referring the travel to Egypt, without even a brief consideration of Orientalism. Part of what I love about travel isn't simply the new places or the beauty, but being challenged. I didn't get much sense of that from this book. Nonetheless, it is a great example of creative non-fiction and was quite beautiful to read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chin Hwa

    This is such a jewel of a book. My life as I was reading it mirrored its content and message. I bought it in Greenwich VIllage, New York, and read it on buses, planes, trains, finishing it in a hotel lobby at the Toronto Pearson Airport. There are so many books out there on where to travel, but this book is all about HOW to travel and WHY. It's got enough philosophical nuggets to make you think about travel in a new way. One of my favourite bits was the chapter on 'Possessing Beauty' - how we This is such a jewel of a book. My life as I was reading it mirrored its content and message. I bought it in Greenwich VIllage, New York, and read it on buses, planes, trains, finishing it in a hotel lobby at the Toronto Pearson Airport. There are so many books out there on where to travel, but this book is all about HOW to travel and WHY. It's got enough philosophical nuggets to make you think about travel in a new way. One of my favourite bits was the chapter on 'Possessing Beauty' - how we get to possess it truly when we describe it through drawing or writing. How such arts can help us to really notice what's around us. Then there's also the fun chapter on traveling in your bedroom - how you don't have to travel thousands of miles to widen your perspective but that you can travel through your imagination...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Parvathy

    A slow and interesting meditation on why we travel, on encountering beauty and our attempts to capture it, on seeing new places and landscapes through art and books and finally on seeing the places we live in through a traveller's eyes. De Botton references art and literature on this topic liberally. A good, solid read, even if a bit ponderous.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Don't let my rating fool you; I loved this little book. I started it on a flight to Italy thinking I would complete it within the flight time (it could easily be read in one sitting). I chose, though, to set it aside here and there and just ponder its messages. Mr. Alain de Botton's creative approach is to take an artist, or an explorer, or an author, and compare his experiences in travel to theirs. He shows remarkable restraint in his choices. He gives us Hopper and Van Gogh, Wordsworth and Don't let my rating fool you; I loved this little book. I started it on a flight to Italy thinking I would complete it within the flight time (it could easily be read in one sitting). I chose, though, to set it aside here and there and just ponder its messages. Mr. Alain de Botton's creative approach is to take an artist, or an explorer, or an author, and compare his experiences in travel to theirs. He shows remarkable restraint in his choices. He gives us Hopper and Van Gogh, Wordsworth and Ruskin, Humboldt and de Maistre and incorporates their experiences into his journeys and allows us to learn how to incorporate them into our own journeys. At first glance, I thought this was an escapade from the turn of the previous century, not the beginning of this one. His tone, his language, and mostly his inclusion of black and white photos led me to this assumption. Upon reflection, I determined that his decision allowed the reader to look at familiar art in a new way, seeing details perhaps otherwise that would have gone unnoticed. I marked and tagged many passages in this book. Here are two: "A danger of travel is that we may see things at the wrong time, before we have had an opportunity to build up the necessary receptivity, so that new information is as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connecting chain (p. 122)." "A dominant impulse on encountering beauty is to wish to hold on to it, to possess it and give it weight in one's life. There is an urge to say, 'I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me' (p. 214)." Not once did Botton quote the oft-used Proust travel maxim about the voyage of discovery is having new eyes, but that is what this book is all about.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Arvind

    Let me state upfront that I am a very reluctant traveller. I will be leaving for a short 4-day vacation tomorrow and decided to read this one to "appreciate" travelling more :) The first part of the book was on "anticipation" and it made sense. We expect a lot from a place and inevitably all moments are not moments of bliss. The author analyses the reasons for this and I could identify with this. However he missed to comment on the heavenly feeling preparing for a trip and that anticipation Let me state upfront that I am a very reluctant traveller. I will be leaving for a short 4-day vacation tomorrow and decided to read this one to "appreciate" travelling more :) The first part of the book was on "anticipation" and it made sense. We expect a lot from a place and inevitably all moments are not moments of bliss. The author analyses the reasons for this and I could identify with this. However he missed to comment on the heavenly feeling preparing for a trip and that anticipation gives. The second part on "Exotic and curiosity" was boring and irritating especially since it contained a 19th century travelogue of a Frenchman to Egypt. And the author's commentary added little to what one already knew and felt. Though I hate sightseeing tours by cars/buses, I am fond of walks (or roaming on a 2-wheeler) and soaking in the sights of nature in the morning. Visiting monuments/buildings is something I abhor. Parts 3 and 4 dealt with it and perhaps they were good but they were in agreement with me and hence redundant. And by the time I reached the short Part-5 was bored and skimmed it. There are few good observations here and there but think a better book on "The Art of Travel" is needed.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rhythima

    Considering this book from philosophical point of view, maybe it is not that mind-blowing (the benchmark is original works of Kant, Nietzsche, Luxemburg, etc.). But this book is surprisingly happy find because it is something I would call "Applicative philosophy". After reading this book, I genuinely feel travels are going to feel much different: because it is not limited to locations where we travel, but the transient states as well e.g. the airplanes, the hotels, etc. It might first hit you as Considering this book from philosophical point of view, maybe it is not that mind-blowing (the benchmark is original works of Kant, Nietzsche, Luxemburg, etc.). But this book is surprisingly happy find because it is something I would call "Applicative philosophy". After reading this book, I genuinely feel travels are going to feel much different: because it is not limited to locations where we travel, but the transient states as well e.g. the airplanes, the hotels, etc. It might first hit you as a bit pessimistic take on travel (anyways, we glorify traveling too much nowadays), but then you realize it is simply very real and authentic. Above all, I had never read Botton's writings before, so this was an absolute delight to read - with perfect humor with great mixture of instances from some (un)real stories - due to the perfect form of storytelling. His writing goes from pure abstract thoughts to absolute details, from pictures of a location to paintings of Van Gogh! An absolute delight.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Ballard

    I read The Art of Travel for a book discussion. I wouldn't have chosen it to free read, but I was excited to start reading. I didn't dislike The Art of Travel, but I was disappointed. I wanted it to be more introspective. More of the "why do we travel, where do we travel, when do we travel alone or with others, why do we spend three days in a location as opposed to three weeks?" Instead, this was only a small portion of the book - unless I completely missed the point. I found that the reading I read The Art of Travel for a book discussion. I wouldn't have chosen it to free read, but I was excited to start reading. I didn't dislike The Art of Travel, but I was disappointed. I wanted it to be more introspective. More of the "why do we travel, where do we travel, when do we travel alone or with others, why do we spend three days in a location as opposed to three weeks?" Instead, this was only a small portion of the book - unless I completely missed the point. I found that the reading went more smoothly (as opposed to the SLOG it was when I first started turning pages) when I paid close attention to how the book was divided. There is a definite continuity. I didn't care for any of the sections where de Botton laid down past travels done by historical figures. These entire sections bored me. And, why were all the photos in black and white? There had to be SOME photos in color. Drab. One fabulous sentence early on did make an impression: "I'm obsessed with inventing stories for people I come across." Oh yes...

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