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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel will never be the same again
Travel is one of those things that you're supposed to be born knowing how to do. After all, it looks fairly easy, doesn't it. It's just a case of buying a ticket, boarding a plane etc.
But of course, it's typical of our materialistic culture that we only ever look at the practical obstacles or means of doing things - and ignore the psychological ones. So we never ask...
Published on 14 Jun. 2002 by Angad Gupta

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not De Botton's best...
I've been a big fan of Alain De Botton ever since I read "Status Anxiety", which happens to be one of my favourite books ever. I've since been working my way through his other work and gave this a go after stumbling across it in a charity shop.

De Botton's initial intentions are clear - to unravel the mysteries that surround the human need and wish to travel...
Published on 17 May 2010 by Mr. N. EVANS


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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A guide book to achieve the full value of travel., 20 May 2002
This review is from: The Art of Travel (Hardcover)
Alain de Botton invites readers to view travel in a different way. He pursues this end by breaking down a journey into five philosophical sub-journeys. He calls them, Departure, Motives, Landscape, Art and Return.
In doing so, Alain de Botton travels to places where centuries ago, the likes of Flaubert, van Gogh and Ruskin have set a permanent mark. He attempts to relate how the thinking of these men were affected by their travels and how they have redefined the notion of travel itself. In his journey, he recreates - sometimes literally - the environment that these men were once in, to help him obtain their perceptions toward his five sub-journeys.
From the very first chapter, Alain de Botton's writing managed to toss my mind between travel in the physical and philosophical sense. Alain de Botton has certainly managed to change the way I view my past, present and future travels. Now, travel is to me, something more intimate than going places.
Those who are not accustomed to philosophical writing might however find this book languid in shaping a plot. She/He might even be disappointed in the end, to find an absence of a plot. It is afterall, a 'guide' to travel. Nevertheless, the book's simple philosophical subjects, and Alain de Botton's sense of irony will keep the reader engaged.
This book certainly milks out every drop of value in travel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The philosophy of travel, 13 May 2013
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This review is from: The Art of Travel (Paperback)
Alain de Botton never disappoints. His writing is always light as a feather, always amusing and always profound, and The art of travel is no exception. Philosophy for everyman (and woman). Buy, read, then enjoy this book - you really will.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, sharp and funny, 1 Feb. 2007
By 
HORAK (Zug, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Art of Travel (Paperback)
The author's study on the art of traveling is divided into 5 parts: departure, motives, landscape, art and return. He starts by explaining that if our life is dominated by a search for happiness our travels reveal much about the dynamics of this quest. Taking J.K. Huysmans's hero in the novel A rebours, Des Esseintes, the author shows that some people are not fit for travels because their expectations are too high and their disappointments too great. Indeed valuable elements may be easier to experience in art and in anticipation than in reality since the imagination can provide a substitute for the common experience of travel.

Then the author moves to the longing to be elsewhere taking the example of Charles Baudelaire who despised living in France and often expressed the whish to go anywhere but to stay at home. With Edward Hopper we understand why traveling is often linked with a sense of melancholy as his paintings show. With Gustave Flaubert's travels we discover that the search for the exotic abroad may be what we hunger for in vain at home. With Alexander von Humboldt we realise what it actually meant to travel to South America in the 1800s and that the geographical and meteorological discoveries he made there were quite a sensation when he reported them upon his return to Europe. With William Wordsworth we understand how Nature, in the Lake District for example, which the author took to comprise birds, streams and plants, can be a corrective to the psychological damage inflicted by life in the city. Then Mr de Botton studies the profound impact the landscapes of Provence had on the painter Vincent Van Gogh. Painters and artists are involved in an explicit process, namely to choose what aspects of reality to include and what to leave out. In that sense they have to be keen observers, a fact pointed out by the painter John Ruskin.

With the help of a selection of writers, artists and thinkers, de Botton provides a valuable insight into everything from holiday romance to minibars, from airports to sightseeing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Even a happy traveller should enjoy Art of Travel, 17 Sept. 2007
By 
Mr Ulster (Belfast, Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Art of Travel (Paperback)
Unlike De Botton, I'm seldom disappointed with my travels, but I share his curiosity about considering why we want to travel in the first place.

De Botton achieves this by reflections on the thoughts and experiences of other travellers, whether explorers, writers or other artists. What makes The Art of Travel particularly enjoyable is the realisation that many before have gone through the trials and rewards of travelling.

Perhaps not surprisingly, De Botton identifies more with the trials. But he is a fine writer, and even the perpetually happy traveller should read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you have ever been in an airport you should read this! Amazing!, 1 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Art of Travel (Paperback)
Alan de Botton has a rare ability to delve deep into the mundane and open a veritable positive pandoras box of possibillities. Absolutely adored this book!
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Carpe Diem meets Rough Guide, 20 July 2002
By 
jacr100 "jacr100" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Art of Travel (Hardcover)
I was reading The Art of Travel at the same time as it was declared in the newspapers that English tourists are the least wanted visitors around the world - on account of our coarse behaviour, linguistic apathy, parsimony and indifference to local culture. De Botton's work might, then, be seen as an emergency remedy to the pervasive 'Brit Abroad' attitude, a stereotype rapidly becoming truism as Ryan Air package holidays and Ibiza culture increase in popularity. Many of the major aspects of travel, such as feverish anticipation for things new, and the unnerving ease with which we become accustomed to foreign sights, are systematically re-explored by de Botton with the case histories of at least one famous thinker; a technique which works particularly well when the author tries to emulate the attitudes of those thinkers when visiting the same locations about which they had written. So, for example, we travel to Provence with Van Gogh as our guide, and see how he deliberately brought to life those aspects of the region he considered most quintessential, but which other more classical artists had ignored for stylistic reasons. We also sense Baudelaire's fascination with areas of departure - his poésie des salles d'attente, since they were symbolic of a dreamy Other, and thus much more than the functional, rather depressing places we instinctively associate with tedium.
Obviously this book has been strategically released at a time when the British public is once again scavenging for holiday literature, but one should avoid the temptation to brand it a rather shallow money-spinner, for it is more than this: as much as it is about how to get more out of an experience abroad, it is equally about how to reinvestigate domestic life through a new perspective. De Botton makes us turn back to thoughts that are rarely considered in depth despite their apparent simplicity: how much are our aesthetic dissatisfactions at home linked to a self-perpetuated monotony caused by regarding everything in the same mindset? Are photographs in a sense dangerous, since they seem to capture the essence of moments indefinitely, beguiling us into paying no more than a second's attention to things that enrapture us? Is our nationality really dictated by where we live?
If at times de Botton does seem to be playing the clownish sidekick to his chosen personalities, we should probably forgive him this: I see it less as an attempt to make the narrative comic than an unpretentious means of saying that philosophy is not all about highbrow abstraction, and genuinely does have applications in daily life (hence the author's practical experiments to sketch in the manner of Ruskin, or rediscover the aesthetic merit of his London surroundings, much like Xavier de Maistre did his bedroom). Moreover, there is much that is good about this book: the numerous paintings, photographs and sketches are necessary in evoking a sense of each place; the child-like amazement of de Botton beholding familiar things such as aircraft or mountains encourages a similar reappraisal of them in the reader; and the use of a wide variety of intellectuals - painters, writers, explorers - makes for interesting variety. This is a book, I would suggest, for those who have become accustomed to boredom despite their efforts to avoid this, or for those who have wanted to travel, but were never sure where or how to justify their going; although everyone is likely to gain at least some new perspective from it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, 24 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The Art of Travel (Paperback)
I purchased this book not on the grounds of it's philosophical side. This is something I love about the book, as Alain de Botton allows you an almost "on the fence" way of thinking of the world of travel, using his own experiences and sometimes comparing and using past writers work also.

For anyone iterested on travel and how you feel of think of or about travel should give this a go.
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29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Purple, banal and ultimately boring, 30 Mar. 2008
By 
Charles Gidley Wheeler (Kempsford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Art of Travel (Paperback)
I opened this book in pleasurable anticipation of a good read but almost from the first line became irritated by De Botton's use of similes and adjectives, many of which border on the absurd. The decline of winter is `like that of a person into old age'. Cloudless skies are likened to `signs of recovery in a patient upon whom death has passed sentence'. A steely grey sky has - of course - to be `ominous'. But not just ominous: it has to be `like one in a painting by Mantegna or Veronese, the perfect backdrop to the crucifixion of Christ or to a day beneath the bedclothes.' and so it goes on. At times I was reminded of the laboured similes in a Rowan Atkinson comedy. Page 17 is a prime example of De Botton's laboured, Victorian style and deserves a lengthy quotation:

`Awakening early on that first morning, I slipped on a dressing gown provided by the hotel and went out onto the veranda. In the dawn light the sky was a pale grey-blue and, after the rustlings of the night before, all the creatures and even the wind seemed in a deep sleep. It was as quiet as a library. Beyond the hotel room stretched a wide beach which was covered at first with coconut trees and then slipped unhindered towards the sea. I climbed over the veranda's low railing and walked across the sand. Nature was at her most benevolent. It was as if, in creating this small horseshoe bay, she had chosen to atone for her ill-temper in other regions and decided for once to display only her munificence. The trees provided shade and milk, the floor of the sea was lined with shells, the sand was powdery and the colour of sun ripened wheat, and the air - even in the shade - had an enveloping, profound warmth to it so unlike the fragility of northern European heat, always prone to cede, even in midsummer, to a more assertive, proprietary chill.
`I found a deck chair at the edge of the sea. I could hear small lapping sands beside me, as if a kindly monster taking discreet sips of water from a large goblet. A few birds were waking up and beginning to career through the air in matinal excitement. Behind me, the raffia roofs of the hotel bungalows were visible through gaps in the trees. Before me was the view that I recognized from the brochure: the beach stretched away in a gentle curve towards the tip of the bay, behind it were jungle-covered hills, and the first row of coconut trees inclined irregularly towards the turquoise sea, as though some of them were craning their necks to catch a better angle of the sun.
`Yet this description only imperfectly reflects what occurred within me that morning, for my attention was in truth far more fractured and confused than the foregoing paragraphs suggest. I may have noticed a few birds careering through the air in matinal excitement, but my awareness of them was weakened by a number of other, incongruous and unrelated elements, among these a sore throat that I had developed during the flight, a worry at not having informed a colleague that I would be away, pressure across both temples and a rising need to visit the bathroom. A momentous but until then overlooked fact was making its first appearance: that I had inadvertently brought myself with me to the island.'

De Botton never loses an opportunity to demonstrate how much he or his quasi-anonymous companion `M' has read. While a single cloud hangs `shyly' above the bay, the mysterious `M' (is she head of MI6?) puts on her headphones and begins annotating Emile Durkheim's On Suicide. She would.

The author's idea of travel seems to consist in boarding planes, catching trains, filling up at gas stations and hiring cars. He seems to have a horror of engaging with the real world of people and chatter and tears and sweat, as opposed to the worlds of art and literature and posy criticism. His is the infuriating voice of the tour guide that gets between you and a work of art, the voice that tells you what to think, the voice that prevents you making up your own mind about the works of Hopper or Van Gogh or Wordsworth or Ruskin.

The book is little more than a hotch-potch of regurgitated university lecture notes interspersed by some very amateurish attempts at descriptive writing. `A black-eared wheatear is looking pensive on a conifer branch ... humans and sheep stare at one another in wonder. After a moment the sheep sits down and takes a lazy mouthful of grass, chewing from the side of her mouth as though it was gum ... Another sheep approaches and lies next to her companion, wool-to-wool, and for a second they exchange what appears to be a knowing, mildly amused glance.'

Here's some more, and I promise that this will be the last example of the purple slush you will have to wade through when (or if) you read this book:

`The rain, which continued to fall confidently despite the promises of the landlord, gave us a sense of the mass of the oaks. From under their damp canopy, rain could be heard falling on 40,000 leaves, creating a harmonious pitter-patter, varying in pitch according to where the water dripped on to a large or a small leaf, a high or a low one, one loaded with accumulated water or not...'

De Botton does not teach us how to travel so much as how not to travel. He stops the hire car to look at an olive orchard but he can't be bothered to get out of the car and walk through it. He reads a brochure in a Madrid hotel, but is too timid to go out and rub shoulders with the locals in one of that city's many wonderful restaurants, preferring to dine on a bag of crisps in his bedroom, flicking over the pages of travel brochures.

In his section on Ruskin, De Botton demonstrates a fundamental misconception about art, which he seems to think can be reduced to words on paper. As a graduate of the University of Cambridge he seems to have a pretty impoverished knowledge of aesthetics. Has he never read Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation? Has he never read Isaiah Berlin's The Roots of Romanticism? Has he never attended to Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations or appreciated that abstracts (like `beauty') cannot be objectivised, let alone searched for?

De Botton is not a traveller; he is a package tourist, and not a very adventurous or imaginative one. He's the guy who asks the tour guide the question to which he already knows the answer. Can you imagine Bruce Chatwin describing clouds as seen from an aircraft window? That's what De Botton does. Can you imagine T.E. Lawrence comparing a view of the desert with what he saw in a travel guide? Can you imagine Hilaire Belloc sitting in his hotel room eating a bag of crisps instead of mixing with the locals? Or Turner staying inside because there was a nasty storm outside and he didn't want to get wet?

There were moments when I felt so impatient with the banalities of The Art of Travel that I felt like flinging the book across the room. The impression I came away with was that De Botton sees art not as an end in itself but as a means to an end. Through art, he can become an `expert', and as an expert he will be able to publish books, figure in television documentaries, become a celebrity and make lots of money. Art for art's sake? Travel to travel sake? Forget it: anything and everything De Botton sees he has to analyse to death.

But it is not only the banality, the purple patches and neo-Victorian writing that mar The Art of Travel: it lacks direction and unity. To the last page, I could never make up my mind whether it was about art or travel. Lifting pictures of art works from the Internet and printing them in black and white - or in this case grey and grey - simply didn't work for me. I looked at them, but only because I felt I had to. I felt they were an insult to the great artists who painted the originals.

De Botton has achieved what I would previously have thought impossible: he has managed to make art and nature boring. Even from a purely academic point of view, the book is pretty well useless as it has no bibliography. That's unforgivable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 'The journey is better than the arrival', 1 Oct. 2011
By 
DSS (Turnipshire England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Art of Travel (Paperback)
Fascinating book taking a philisophical look at why we like to travel or why we think we like to travel ,and in some cases why the anticipation of travel is often more pleasing than the experience itself ,well worth a read if you want to take the pleasure out of your holidays [joke].
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4.0 out of 5 stars ... everyday life so that the commonplace becomes new and wonderful each day - seeing your surroundings as you would ..., 20 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: The Art of Travel (Kindle Edition)
A most enlightening book pointing the way to mindfulness in everyday life so that the commonplace becomes new and wonderful each day - seeing your surroundings as you would see them from the point of view of a traveller with a 'holiday'mindset.
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The Art of Travel
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton (Paperback - 29 May 2003)
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