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The Art of Travel Paperback – 29 May 2003
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'Lucid, fluid, uplifting' Sunday Times
'Lucid, fluid, uplifting' - "Sunday Times". With the help of a selection of writers, artists and thinkers - including Flaubert, Edward Hopper, Wordsworth and Van Gogh - Alain de Botton's bestselling "The Art of Travel" provides invaluable insights into everything from holiday romance to hotel mini-bars, airports to sight-seeing. The perfect antidote to those guides that tell us what to do when we get there, "The Art of Travel" tries to explain why we really went in the first place - and helpfully suggests how we might be happier on our journeys.See all Product description
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Thought provoking and interesting use of both characters and illustrative examples, although a little wordy on some of the descriptive parts and it reads a little as if it was originally a series of lectures or separate articles.
By way of introduction, Alain de Botton points towards the vast array of books with advice on where to travel to, whilst we seldom ask why we go and how we might become more fulfilled by doing so. In asking these questions he invites us to explore much more than the nature of travel, but what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudemonia, or human flourishing.
The book, complete with many appropriate illustrations, explores the nature of travel through the eyes of critics, writers, thinkers and travellers of all sorts, all neatly correlated to the authors personal experience. The result is a delightfully well written invitation to explore our own thinking. This process is laced with opportunities for new insights. For example the discovery that when we travel we may leave everything behind, but can't avoid being accompanied by ourselves, perhaps the very thing we most seek a break from.
I think my favourite chapter is one in which Alain explores the Provence region of France through the eyes of Vincent Van Gogh. He described how on first encountering the region he found no real charm or magic in the scenery. However having explored how Van Gogh saw and captured the region through his paintings he reveals how he was taught to see in new ways. This experience itself reveals a number of powerful insights about how we see and are able to see the world, but beyond this it revealed to me for the first time the true nature of an artist's role in creating new ways in which to see.
I highly recommend this book. The use of language is beautiful and the insights are delicately observed and delivered with humour and obvious affection.
"A few years after Van Gogh's stay in Provence, Oscar Wilde remarked that there had been no fog in London before Whistler painted it. There had surely been fewer cypresses in Provence before Van Gogh painted them."
 Rated according to Arboreal Cephalopod's standard bath time book scale.
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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