Thursday, 29 May 2008

alain (de botton)

Alain de Botton raises some interesting points in his beautifully written book, 'The Art of Travel.'

He starts off by talking about anticipation being all-important. In the past my travel has involved booking, jumping on a plane and seeing what's out there. Of late, my well-travelled neighbour has planned/helped me plan trips. I've been stunned by the amount of work she puts in, and also stunned at the outcome.

Clearly, thinking about which parts of a city you'll visit, which attractions you'll stop off at, what the 'must do' restaurants and venues are and thinking about the location of the accommodation all help to ensure a fun trip, but most importantly they whet your appetite. She helped us plan a trip to Bangkok. The outcome was that I hated it and loved it at the same time. Interestingly the bits I loved were the bits I'd probably never have found if I walked in with my old 'let's see what comes' attitude. My impression of the city would have been quite different. I enjoyed the planning and the anticipation, and the trip itself was greatly enhanced.

Botton also talks about two different views of travel itself, both of which ring true. One is that if you're moping around and unhappy, you won't enjoy the trip because the fact is that when you go on a trip, you bring yourself with you! The other side of that argument is that on a trip you are out of your normal environment and your old patterns. You can reinvent yourself. Both views seem to me to be true.

Another issue he raises is the romanticisation of travel. We sometimes have wildly inflated views of the thrill of what we'll experience. When the reality doesn't live up to the dream, we can pretend it did. This is the approach that the French novelist, Gustave Flaubert writer of Madame Bovary, apparently took. Or we can reflect on our expectations.

I haven't got to the end of Botton's book yet. I'm too busy planning our European extravaganza. Only 21 sleeps left. Whoo hoo!

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