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The Art of Travel

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  10,285 ratings  ·  593 reviews
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
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Vintage (first published 2002)
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Aug 19, 2009 Ben rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ben by: David Giltinan
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 ...more
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 th
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 of the book:
• 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 duri
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. I ...more
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.
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. In fact, I think Botton is missing out ...more
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 ...more
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 Bott ...more
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, t
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
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 th
The world I look at every day is a novel in the making, but full of peripheral rubbish. The novels on my shelves are more condensed and filtered and worthy of more attention as they have been transliterated through the brains of people who actually thought for themselves and had something to say worth more than the diluted rubbish I hear during the course of the day. This is why I read books, to short-circuit the rubbish. The daily grind is just rubbish in the main, dead pools of wasted time. Li ...more
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 appr
A book that starts off invoking the Greek term eudaimonia, or human flourishing--a word I have found beauty and meaning in since college--has undoubtedly captured my attention. I have also traveled a fair amount and was curious what this account of travel would offer up as important.

I enjoyed that philosophers, artists, and writers were invited to speak as guides in each chapter, and that the narrator was both witty and profound at times. Out of the many ideas to explore about travel, I think
Oct 15, 2012 Lori rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: travel
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 ...more
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 comple
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, ...more
This book guides the reader into a deeper appreciation for aesthetics, not merely in one's travels but also in the so-called mundane daily life. Alain de Botton touches on many subjects so vital to a fruitful travel experience, from anticipation to curiosity; from the exotic to the sublime.

Each chapter is essentially an essay, and each essay is grouped by theme: departure, motives, landscape, art, return. Some are less moving than others (at least for me). The essays absolutely not-to-be-missed
Hezká knížka — o ničem. Příjemně se čte, máte radost z toho, jak je autor vzdělaný a kultivovaný a jak dobře formuluje (díky překladatelce formuluje moc pěkně i česky)... a nic vám z toho neutkví, ani nemáte přání si něco podtrhnout, zapsat, schovat pro příště. De Botton vás nevytáhne z vaší zóny komfortu (a sebe už vůbec ne). Na druhou stranu vám taky nepokazí náladu. Knižní ekvivalent ambientní hudby. Možná to vypadá, že bych to mohl shrnout slovem „nuda“, ale není to tak. Nuda to není. Je to. ...more
This book was not what I expected, but I found it to be well written and thought provoking! Instead of travel tips and anecdotes, this book explored the essence of why we travel. Included were essays from famous authors about trips they had taken and their reflections. As someone who travels extensively, I found the content to be a insightful and poignant. For those who only travel occasionally for vacation, this book may not be that meaningful. For frequent travelers, this is a well crafted and ...more
To travel is often a simple desire to get away from the tedious everyday life but de Botton reminds me of why I go and how I can make it more fulfilling.

He writes about some of the unspoken but true aspects of travelling, e.g. the discrepancy between the enticing images of places we see from holiday brochures with what the places really look like and unpleasant experiences attached to the journey.

De Botton has articulated some of my thoughts about travelling and it calls for strong identificati
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.
Bing Wen
De Botton is more enamoured by the idea of travel than the actual act itself. In fact, he sometimes finds it a bother. On waking up in a hotel room in Madrid, he turns to a brochure and finds that it provokes in him “listlessness” and then “self-disgust” at such indolence. “My overwhelming wish was to remain in bed and, if possible, catch an early flight home”, he candidly admits. Having overcome this lassitude, he explores Madrid and is irritated by the fact that the Palacio Real, an 18th-centu ...more
My #1 book of the year.

“it always seems to me that I’ll be well where I am not and this question of moving is one that I’m forever entertaining with my soul.”

I have been a traveller for the past decade. To most I would describe my travels as being for fun, for work, for climbing, for new experiences, but this is largely a disguise. Ultimately, most of my travels result from a desire to escape and to find a place where I belong.

“The really precious things are thought and sight, not pace. It does…
Should be recommended to every traveler. Uncanny things happen when you read this book.
Miles Wang
The Art of Travel begins by acknowledging the cruel fact that when traveling you bring yourself along on the journey. The strange climate, the peculiar food, the sudden strangeness of the whole world around you when stepping out of the plane landed at the travel destination, those may make the travel worse.

Sometimes it seems that the photographs and travel guides capture the essence of a place better than our own experience. So why go? The author visits the Lake District, reading Wordsworth and
This book doesn't propose new ideas so much as rotate our view of common experiences when traveling to include the reflections of those who did once propose a new idea. At times its frustrating to read a book an opinion that points you towards the superior reference of another's opinion outside the book you're reading but when I had a previous interest in that referenced thinker, I enjoyed having two readings brought together to expand on these shared experiences. I enjoyed seeing someone bring ...more
The book is aptly named The Art of Travel, because Alain de Botton treats travel as if it were an art--if we are to achieve happiness through travel, we must appreciate travel appropriately, just as we would with a work of art.

The lifelong pursuit of happiness can best be seen through our quest to travel, our search for that which can't be found at home. Disillusionment, however, is often the result of this because anticipation is always, without fail, better than reality. While we dream of happ
There were some interesting thoughts I had while reading this book. I liked it, but mostly because it helped me think about the kind of book I want to write someday... :)

There is so much beauty and opportunity to learn through travel! Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"No sooner had he returned to Paris from his Mauritian trip than he began to dream once again of going somewhere else....It always seems to me that I'll be well where I am not, and this question of moving is one that I'm foreve
Carlos Ardavin
De Botton logra hacer de la erudición algo divertido y útil mediante la relación de anécdotas autobiográficas sazonadas por datos bibliográficos y literarios curiosos y pertinentes. En cada capítulo un hallazgo o conexión luminosa, servida por las amplias lecturas de un escritor felizmente erudito. Para los lectores viajeros y para aquellos que preferimos los viajes mentales, en la comodidad de nuestras bibliotecas personales, este libro es una delicia desde el principio hasta el fin.
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World Travel thro...: * August 2013 Choice: The Art of Travel 3 15 May 20, 2015 06:44AM  
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Alain de Botton is a writer and television producer who lives in London and aims to make philosophy relevant to everyday life. He can be contacted by email directly via

He is a writer of essayistic books, which refer both to his own experiences and ideas- and those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. It's a style of writing that has been termed a 'philosophy of everyday lif
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“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.

At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves - that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestice setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.

If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.”
“It seemed an advantage to be traveling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others...Being closely observed by a companion can also inhibit our observation of others; then, too, we may become caught up in adjusting ourselves to the companion's questions and remarks, or feel the need to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.” 74 likes
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