Todd N's Reviews > The Art of Travel

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
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's review
Apr 11, 2011

really liked it
Read on April 11, 2011

I'm not good at traveling, but I'm very good at hanging out. So I figured maybe Mr. de Botton could help me with the philosophical underpinnings of my trip to Belize (where I am writing this). Turns out I am much closer in temperament to Des Esseintes (the protagonist of A Rebours) or de Maistre (who traveled all the way across his bedroom) than von Humboldt (who explored the South American continent).

Mr. de Botton takes us patiently and calmly through different reasons for travel: to experience the exotic, to satisfy curiosity, for the restorative effects of the country, to experience the "sublime," or to attempt capturing beauty. Also described is the anticipation of travel and modes of transportation, important parts of travel that shouldn't be ignored. In the end is the suggestion that perhaps travel is a mindset that can be applied to the familiar.

Later this week I am scheduled to ride a zip line through the rain forest. Despite my close reading of this book, I can find no philosophical justification for this. There is certainly no historical basis for accelerating wildly through a canopy of trees, and I sincerely doubt that it will deepen my appreciation of or help me capture the beauty the rainforest. I need a less introspective travel guide.

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