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  • Writer's pictureAnji Connell

The Art of Travel

By Alsin de Botton

Review Anji Connell



"The Art of Travel" by Alain de Botton is a philosophical exploration of the joys and challenges of traveling. In this book, de Botton reflects on the art and philosophy of travel, considering why we travel, what we seek to find or escape in our journeys, and how travel can impact our perceptions of ourselves and the world.


Key themes in "The Art of Travel" include:

1. Philosophical Reflections: De Botton integrates

philosophical ideas from thinkers like Wordsworth,

Van Gogh, and Ruskin to explore the deeper

meanings of travel beyond mere sightseeing.


2. Introspection and Observation: The book

prompts readers to reflect on their motivations for

traveling and how the places they visit can shape

their thoughts and emotions.


3. Aesthetics and Sensory Experience: De Botton discusses the ways in which travel can awaken our senses and enhance our appreciation of beauty, art, and nature.


4. Juxtaposition of Expectations and Reality: The author contrasts the idealized visions we often have of a destination with the sometimes mundane or disappointing realities we encounter when we arrive.


5. Cultural Insights: Through anecdotes, historical references, and personal reflections, de Botton delves into how different cultures perceive and experience travel, offering insights into the human condition and our longing for connection and meaning.


"The Art of Travel" is not a traditional travel guide but rather a philosophical exploration of the psychological and emotional dimensions of travel, inviting readers to consider the ways in which travel can transform our perspectives and enrich our lives. It encourages us to approach travel with a more thoughtful and introspective mindset, seeking meaning and connection in our journeys beyond mere geographic exploration.


De Botton reminds us that at the end of your life, there is no prize for travelling to the most places. Nor is the dream to travel a modern-day phenomenon; it would seem as if even the great philosophers of the past commented on the difficulties incurred by our wanton wanderlust. Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote about the restlessness of those who seem compelled to travel. "They make one journey after another and change spectacle for spectacle. As Lucretius says, 'Thus each man flees himself.' But to what end if he does not escape himself? He pursues and dogs himself as his own most tedious companion. And so we must realise that our difficulty is not the fault of the places but of ourselves."


He also wrote to a friend in his letter 'On Travel a

Cure for Discontent': "Socrates made the same remark to one who complained, "Why do you wonder that globe-trotting does not help you, seeing that you always take yourself with you? The reason which set you wandering is ever at your heels." What pleasure is there in seeing new lands? Or in surveying cities and spots of interest? All your bustle is useless. Do you ask why such flight does not help you? It is because you flee along with yourself. You must lay aside the burdens of the mind; until you do this, no place will satisfy you." According to de Botton, Seneca may be on the right track, with his comment, "You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate."


So when you have that urge to travel to escape, keep in mind Seneca's advice that the ability to live the good life can be found anywhere: "...you are not journeying; you are drifting and being driven, only exchanging one place for another, although that which you seek – to live well – is found everywhere."

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