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The Art of Travel Paperback – May 11, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725340
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

An experienced traveler and the author of five books, including How Proust Can Change Your Life, De Botton here offers nine essays concerning the art of travel. Divided into five sections "Departure," "Motives," "Landscape," "Art," and "Return" the essays start with one of the author's travel experiences, meander through artists or writers related to it, and then intertwine the two. De Botton's style is very thoughtful and dense; he considers events of the moment and relates them to his internal dialog, showing how experiences from the past affect the present. In "On Curiosity," for example, which describes a weekend in Madrid, De Botton compares his reliance on a very detailed guidebook to the numerous systematic measurements Alexander von Humboldt made during his 1799 travels in South America. De Botton compares Humboldt's insatiable desire for detail with his own ennui and wish that he were home. There are also details about a fight over dessert, the van Gogh trail in Provence, and Wordsworth's vision of nature. Although well written and interesting, this volume will have limited popular appeal. Recommended for larger public libraries. Alison Hopkins, Brantford P.L., ON
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Rather than lavishing pages on the sumptuous taste of a sun-ripened olive in Provence, philosopher de Botton examines what inspires us to escape the humdrum and purchase tickets to Tahiti, tromp through the countryside, or wander Rome. Left to one voice, such an inquiry might grow dull, but de Botton uses the lives and works of artists and writers to explore the premise. With each chapter, the author dissects our motivation to depart normality and go (he quotes Baudelaire) "anywhere, anywhere!" De Botton's anecdotal accounts of his own travels illustrate the theme of each chapter, such as exoticism or escapism, showing the unexpected (but all too common) disappointments inherent in getting away. Then, using the interior and artistic lives of others, de Botton probes the psychological underpinnings of why we go. The book shines when discussing Flaubert's lifelong urge for Egypt and painter Edward Hopper's affinity for the desolation of fuel stops and Automats. This literary travelogue feeds hungry readers seeking self-insight. Nicole Waller
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Alain is the author of seven non-fiction books that look at the great questions of ordinary life - love, friendship, work, travel, home - in a way that is intellectually rigorous, therapeutic, amusing and always highly readable. His goal is to bring ideas back to where they belong: at the center of our lives.

Customer Reviews

Luckily, that book was Alain De Botton's "The Art of Travel."
Chris Acree
Everybody seemed intent on getting away a.s.a.p., as long as possible, and to a very far away and preferably out of the way place.
MartinP
This was the first book I read for a book club that I joined.
Merriel L Johnson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

350 of 366 people found the following review helpful By MartinP on July 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In the past, when I still regularly attended graduation parties, such parties were always teeming with graduates-to-be harbouring fanciful travel plans. Everybody seemed intent on getting away a.s.a.p., as long as possible, and to a very far away and preferably out of the way place. They wanted to become travellers, a breed not to be confused with commonplace tourists. I've never been able to detect any intrinsic motivations driving this graduate travelling habit, e.g. a deep-seated and longstanding interest in a particular country or culture. It was simply a matter of opportunity, this jumping at the a chance to be thoroughly irresponsible for a while, before entering on the responsibilities of a steady job. And of course, everybody was going and it would be very un-cool to stay at home. After these people returned from their well-organised adventures, it invariably struck me how little they had changed, and how little they had to tell about the places they had been; apart maybe from random scraps on local customs that I could as easily and more completely have found in any travel guide book. Nevertheless most of these people, even years later, would be prone to lapse into dreamy states of blissful reminiscence at the slightest cue, expressing a deep longing to go back there, preferably to stay. It got me wondering why it is that the same things we find boring or commonplace at home are suddenly deeply interesting simply because they occur 5,000 miles away.
I remember one such party where I met an acquaintance who just got her degree in philosophy. I asked her if she was planning on her more or less mandatory world trip as well. But she just gave me a weary smile, tapped the side of her head and said: `Travelling is something you do in here'.
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101 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Jon R. Schlueter on September 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In his chapter called "On Eye-opening Art", Alain de Botton describes his lukewarm initial reaction to the much-extolled Provence, France. Then, in a sleepless first night there, he happened to read chapters in a book about Vincent Van Gogh that focussed on Van Gogh's Arles period. Van Gogh's art opened de Botton's eyes to the beauty of the landscape, because he started to see it as that great artist had. I mention this detail in particular because what Van Gough did for de Botton, de Botton does for the reader. "The Art of Travel" introduces the reader to an attitude toward and practice of travel that allows him or her to enjoy it more fully. de Botton's suggestions and observations are surprising, of the "Huh, I never thought about that" variety.
de Botton is well read, and he draws upon his knowledge of artists, philosophers, naturalists and poets, combined with first-person narrative, to illuminate his points. If you take the author's suggestions to heart, wherever you go -- across the globe or in your own neighborhood -- you will immerse yourself in your wanderings to a greater and more satisfying degree.
Having said that, I should add that this book is not just a means to an end. The journey itself is enjoyable. de Botton's writing is as engaging as his philosophy is attractive.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on August 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Alain De Botton's latest publication, ~The Art of Travel~ is a philosophical investigation, simply written, on the reasons and motivations for why we travel. The book's main thesis is that our lives are dominated by a search for that illusive and fleeting emotion or state known as happiness. Travel, he proposes, is a major activity, amongst many, where we seek-out this state of mind. Travel can possibly show us what life is about outside our routine-filled day-to-day existence. The book examines our motives for travelling, our anticipations, and expectations using the writings of various artists, poets and explorers, providing different and highly creative perspectives on the subject.
Personally, I found the most rewarding and instructive chapter to be, 'On eye-opening Art', using the views and paintings of Vincent van Gogh. Just as instructive, however, is the chapter, 'On Possessing Beauty', drawing on the works of the 19th century critic and writer, John Ruskin. The message from both these individuals are quite similar. One of the tasks of art, specifically painting, is to provide us, the viewer, with new perspectives in which to view the world. Vincent van Gogh's exceedingly original style and use of colour, for example, transformed, for some of us, the way we see a sunflower, a wheat field and a Cypress tree. When viewing these works of art, or any work of art, we are inspired to travel to these places where the artist created, and experience the subject of the works first-hand.
John Ruskin believed that one of our primary needs in life is beauty and its possession. He suggested that the only meaningful way to possess beauty was through understanding it: '...making ourselves conscious of the factors (psychological and visual) that are responsible for it,' (P.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on May 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I work for some very wealthy people who travel frequently. They always buy a package tour for umpteen thousands of dollars, stay at four-star hotels or on luxury cruise vessels, make no effort to read anything about the countries they're visiting because there's "not enough time," and -- other than some nice photographic trophies and a few stories about the funny things their guide said -- don't know much more about their destinations after the trip than before.

In his other books that I have read -- HOW PROUST CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE and THE CONSOLATIONS OF PHILOSOPHY -- Alain de Botton has succeeded to taking very complex material and distilling it down to a few home truths that are as enlightening as anything I have read on the subjects.

You can imagine that I was eager to see what de Botton would do with travel, about which I know something because I love it above all other things in my life. Before going on a vacation, I start a six-month reading program encompassing guidebooks, histories, biographies, and the literature of the country or countries I am visiting.

When I visited Iceland in 2001, for example, I read all the major medieval Icelandic sagas, anything I could find by Nobel Prize winner Halldor Laxness, histories, travel books by W. H. Auden, Lord Dufferin (19th century Governor General of Canada), and others. That would place me in the category of J. K. Huysmans's hero Des Esseintes -- with one major difference: I also took the journey and enjoyed it. I am doing the same prep now for an upcoming visit to Patagonia.

People travel for many reasons, but they sometimes forget that travel will not necessarily open their minds and hearts to anything. There is an old 1960s saying: "Wherever you go, there you are.
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