The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton is a philosophical look at the activity of travelling for pleasure. The book explores the motivations behind why people travel, and how to make the most out of the experience.
De Botton draws from his own experiences abroad, as well as those of distinguished artists, thinkers, and fellow-travelers throughout history, to explore the essential allure of travel.
He argues that travel teaches people about their own character, values, and potential by exposing them to places that they may discover they prefer to home, landscapes and art that teach them about beauty and humanity’s limited perspective, and a travel mind-set that allows them to find a sense of wonder in the world.
The main themes of the book are the importance of being receptive to one’s environment while travelling, the need to explore beyond the facts and figures available online, and the idea that travel is a means, not an end. De Botton also encourages readers to document their travel experiences in order to savor them longer.
Some useful takeaways from The Art of Travel include:
- Travel is a poor means of escaping, because you’ll still be you.
- Modern travelers must learn to explore again, because we already have the facts.
- Spend more time documenting your travel experiences and you’ll savor them longer.
- Forget postcards and photographs, write letters and draw!
- Ask more philosophical questions when touring around the globe.
What I Liked
He has some really brilliant ideas about travel that go beyond tips and tactics. This book was the inspiration for me to write up every single trip I took (either for public or private) on this website. Documenting travel really is amazing.
This book was written in 2011, but the world of knowing everything in advance and having to “plan” spontaneity has only become more true in the 2020s with Uber, AirBnB, and Google Maps.
What I Did Not Like
Not a whole lot – like all of de Botton’s work, he can be a bit contemplative, melancholic, and earnest. But he’s also a clear thinker and excellent writer.