The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

I read this book entirely on the new york subways.

there’s always that moment of realization that you don’t know what the hell you are doing. Traveling alone is both good and bad because you can easily do things in your own pace but at the same time it’s not that easy. Because it’s easy to get lonely and this loneliness really gets at you, especially at night, when you do want to go out but don’t know what to do and don’t know who you’ll meet on your way there.

For me, I read this book quickly and eagerly simply because I wanted something to settle my heart. I saw a lot of people walking around alone with guide books. They probably are going through the things in the guide books one by one. I found that it was the case a lot, and I didn’t bring a guide book so I am trusting my shitty instinct instead.

I think I found a lot of solace in this book. I don’t choose to travel alone but alas I have no friends so I end up being this way. Well, that’s not fair to say that I have no friends, but I have no close friends to travel with. Or rather I think no one is close enough with me to travel with….


on to quotes!

This quote is from des Esseintes, but de botton quotes him in this book:

‘What was the good moving when a person could travel so wonderfully sitting in a chair? Wasn’t he already in London, whose smells, weather, citizens, food and even cutlery were all about him? What could he expect to find over there except fresh disappointments?’

The anticipatory and artistic imaginations omit and compress; they cut away the periods and direct our attention to critical moments, and thus, without either lying or embellishing, they lend to life a vividness and a coherence that it may lack in the distracting woolliness of the present.

If we are surprised by the power of one sulk to destroy the beneficial effects of an entire hotel, it is because we misunderstand what holds up our moods. We are sad at home and blame the weather and the ugliness of the buildings, but on the tropical island we learn (after an argument in a raffia bungalow under an azure sky) 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

Des Esseintes concluded, in Huysman’s words, that ‘the imagination could provide a more-than-adequate substitute for the vulgar reality of actual experience’. Actual experience where what we have come to see is always diluted in what we could see anywhere, where we are drawn away from the present by an anxious future and where our appreciation of aesthetic elements lies at the mercy of perplexing physical and psychological demands

It is perhaps sad books that best console us when we are sad and to lonely service stations that we should drive when there is no one for us to hold or love.

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 domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.

I’m obsessed with inventing stories for people I come across. An overwhelming curiosity makes me ask myself what their lives might be like. I want to know what they do, where they’re from, their names, what they’re thinking about at that moment, what they regret, what they hope for, whom they’ve loved, what they dream of … and if they happen to be women (especially youngish ones), then the urge becomes intense. How quickly you would want to see that one naked, admit it, and naked through to her heart.

If the world seems unfair or beyond our understanding, sublime places suggest that it is not surprising that things should be thus. We are the playthings of the forces that laid out the oceans and chiseled the mountains. Sublime places gently move us to acknowledge limitations that we might otherwise encounter with anxiety or anger in the ordinary flow of events.

There is also a large portion describing why people take photos, and our desires to posses things. I don’t know, nowadays it’s so that we could post it on facebook right? Well for me, I take photos to put them on my main blog, facebook is secondary for me and I mostly don’t even use it. Now that I think about it, it has no point, because it sits in my hard drive without much meaning. But I guess the point is that I was there and here is proof that I was there.

Traveling makes me anxious and happy but at the same time very much unresolved. I don’t even know if that makes sense. But if you’re planning to go somewhere and it’s making you uneasy, read this book!

Posted: May 8th, 2012
Categories: BOOKS, QUOTES
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