What we find exotic abroad may be what we hunger for in vain at home.~Alain de Botton
Five years ago I picked up a book by Alain de Botton titled The Art of Travel. Before purchasing the book I read several reviews on its brilliance and being someone who cherishes the importance of travel, I thought this book should be a perfect fit. Four different times over the years I picked up the book, yet never could I become entranced with the words. Sitting next to my beside atop the stack of books, The Art of Travel has been starring at me asking for another chance.
Last week I opened the book for a fifth time. We were headed to Amsterdam, Belgium and France. I thought, let me try reading Botton’s work while actually traveling. Viola, the magical state of mind that occurs when staring out the window of a plane or train unlocked the gate that before had been blocking Botton’s creative depiction of travel. The marvelous comparisons that Botton makes between how we experience travel and how travel effected the art of Baudelaire, Hopper, Maistre and Flaubert streamed so easily through my conscious.
Getting lost in the art of travel is something we just don’t allow ourselves to do as often as we should. You know, the type of travel that is long enough, and exotic enough to alter your normal state of mind. Days seem longer, the disconnection to your phone and internet is serene and daily responsibilities fade. The clarity at which I could understand the points that Botton was making on what makes a place exotic, the challenge of possessing beauty of a place, and finally the appreciation for just being in a place, confirmed my own inner thoughts. It was normal for me to day dream as I watched the city goers. Gazing at them as if they are in a snow globe and I am peering in on them from outside. It’s interesting to study people as they move about their everyday routine, viewing them as something exotic because they use a bike for primary transportation, or live in tilted apartments that seem so curious, or because they work in a cafe with only 6 table tops. This is the beauty of travel. A moment afforded to the traveler to observe, listen and absorb even the simplest of things that emerge as exotic.
If you are headed to a far away place or are looking to appreciate more of that which is your everyday life, pick up Botton’s book. There can be an art to everything that we do. Take time to possess the beauty that lay in the details of a place, celebrate that which is exotic, and appreciate the moments that make up your everyday life.
Lastly, never give up on a thought, a goal, a challenge. You never know when your mind and the location you find yourself in will unlock the perfect moment to see and understand something that you’ve never before been able to comprehend.