The Art of Travel
© 2002 Alain de Botton
I recently discovered that a short six-episode series on philosophy and its relationship to happiness hosted on YouTube were based on host Alain de Botton’s Consolations of Philosophy, a book on the same theme. I was surprised and delighted to find that my local library contains one of de Botton’s books, and thus I came to read his The Art of Travel. The book consists of nine essays regarding travel, divided into five sections based on their general themes. De Botton muses on why we travel and what it can do for us. The book contains within it full-page (and sometimes, full-spread) pictures -- photographs and prints of art. (His essay featuring van Gogh’s work includes both the artist’s renderings of cypress trees and photographs to compare them to.)He draws on these directly: in one essay, de Botton comments on the travel-related work of Edward Hopper, including “Automat”. De Botton is never alone in his essays: each has one or more “guides” or other people whose lives and work he will draw on. Sometimes these historical personalities have encountered the same physical ground de Botton is writing on: sometimes, just the same metaphorical ground. For me, the book hit its high point late, in his two essays on art where I found myself riveted by one paragraph and realized there was a quality about this book I hadn’t anticipated. It was a treat to experience and a splendid way to finish off the week.