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Art Of Travel [Paperback]

Botton Alain De
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 29 2003
The "Art of Travel" is Alain de Botton's travel guide with a difference: an exploration of why we travel and what we learn when we do. As seen on Channel 4 Few activities seem to promise is as much happiness as going travelling: taking off for somewhere else, somewhere far from home, a place with more interesting weather, customs and landscapes. But although we are inundated with advice on where to travel to, we seldom ask why we go and how we might become more fulfilled by doing so. 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 minibars, airports to sightseeing. 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 suggest how we might be happier on our journeys. "Richly evocative, sharp and funny. De Botton proves himself to be a very fine travel writer indeed". (Sunday Telegraph"). "Delightful, profound, entertaining, I doubt if de Botton has written a dull sentence in his life". (Jan Morris). "An elegant and subtle work, unlike any other. Beguiling". (Colin Thubron, "The Times"). Alain de Botton was born in 1969 and is the author of non-fiction essays on themes ranging from love and travel to architecture and philosophy. His bestselling books include "Essays in Love"; "The Romantic Movement"; "Kiss and Tell"; "Status Anxiety"; "How Proust Can Change Your Life"; "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work"; "The Art of Travel"; "The Architecture of Happiness and Religion for Atheists". He lives in London and founded The School of Life and Living Architecture.

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From Amazon

The urge to be somewhere else is one of the abiding traits of human nature; in The Art of Travel author Alain de Botton (The Consolations of Philosophy, How Proust Can Change Your Life) sets out to discover why in his own inimitably witty and discursive way.

Of course, the proximate reasons we travel are many and various: as de Botton explains. Using the travel experiences of great writers and artists, like Van Gogh, Ruskin, Huysmans and Wordsworth (in Provence, Venice, Belgium and the Lake District respectively), de Botton shows that men will travel to see beautiful buildings, or climb beautiful mountains, or make love to beautiful (and comparatively amoral) women. But, using the same artists, de Botton also shows that there is an underlying theme to all travel: the urge for difference, for the rhapsody of change. That this is an urge more often disappointed than gratified only makes the condition more poignant. One of de Botton's best chapters, on Flaubert, amplifies this tragicomic point: the French novelist spent enervating years in genteel Normandy longing for the sensual splendours of Egypt, then, when he finally reached the pyramids, he promptly lapsed into maudlin nostalgia for rainy, bourgeois Rouen.

If there are flaws in this, de Botton's latest and perhaps most readable book, they are the usual suspects: just occasionally the author comes across as a bit long-winded and self-regarding. However, this is such a pleasant and effortless read even these flaws can be taken as endearing characteristics--like the lizards who kip in the bath in your otherwise idyllic holiday villa.--Sean Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

An experienced traveler and the author of five books, including How Proust Can Change Your Life, De Botton here offers nine essays concerning the art of travel. Divided into five sections "Departure," "Motives," "Landscape," "Art," and "Return" the essays start with one of the author's travel experiences, meander through artists or writers related to it, and then intertwine the two. De Botton's style is very thoughtful and dense; he considers events of the moment and relates them to his internal dialog, showing how experiences from the past affect the present. In "On Curiosity," for example, which describes a weekend in Madrid, De Botton compares his reliance on a very detailed guidebook to the numerous systematic measurements Alexander von Humboldt made during his 1799 travels in South America. De Botton compares Humboldt's insatiable desire for detail with his own ennui and wish that he were home. There are also details about a fight over dessert, the van Gogh trail in Provence, and Wordsworth's vision of nature. Although well written and interesting, this volume will have limited popular appeal. Recommended for larger public libraries. Alison Hopkins, Brantford P.L., ON
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel Writing at it's Best! March 3 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an extraordinary and intelligent book seamlessly blending the adventure, thrill and occasional monotony of travel with art, philosophy and historical context. How we travel and why we travel are two questions addressed in de Botton's book. Most importantly, he reminds us to pay attention, to participate when it's required and to observe throughout. A simple excursion around one's own town or city, takes on new dimensions after reading this well crafted, tightly written work.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  94 reviews
345 of 361 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for blasé travellers July 30 2002
By MartinP - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In the past, when I still regularly attended graduation parties, such parties were always teeming with graduates-to-be harbouring fanciful travel plans. Everybody seemed intent on getting away a.s.a.p., as long as possible, and to a very far away and preferably out of the way place. They wanted to become travellers, a breed not to be confused with commonplace tourists. I've never been able to detect any intrinsic motivations driving this graduate travelling habit, e.g. a deep-seated and longstanding interest in a particular country or culture. It was simply a matter of opportunity, this jumping at the a chance to be thoroughly irresponsible for a while, before entering on the responsibilities of a steady job. And of course, everybody was going and it would be very un-cool to stay at home. After these people returned from their well-organised adventures, it invariably struck me how little they had changed, and how little they had to tell about the places they had been; apart maybe from random scraps on local customs that I could as easily and more completely have found in any travel guide book. Nevertheless most of these people, even years later, would be prone to lapse into dreamy states of blissful reminiscence at the slightest cue, expressing a deep longing to go back there, preferably to stay. It got me wondering why it is that the same things we find boring or commonplace at home are suddenly deeply interesting simply because they occur 5,000 miles away.
I remember one such party where I met an acquaintance who just got her degree in philosophy. I asked her if she was planning on her more or less mandatory world trip as well. But she just gave me a weary smile, tapped the side of her head and said: `Travelling is something you do in here'.
In a nutshell that's the question and the essence of the answer in Alain de Botton's thoughtful book on travel. Why do we bother? What do we expect, and why are we so often disappointed? And then again, why do our memories of the trip rarely reflect the disappointments? And what is the clue to not being disappointed? How do you go about really experiencing the place where you are and making it part of yourself? On all such questions De Botton has interesting and often entertaining observations to make. He shows us that the exotic is not defined by long-haul flights and palm trees, but can be found literally on your doorstep if you just know how to look. He explains why a travelling Englishman can be depressed on far away and exotic Barbados and euphoric in nearby, but in many ways equally exotic Amsterdam, or even around the corner in Hammersmith where he lives. As a Dutchman I was fascinated by his detailed analysis of a sign in the arrivals hall of Amsterdam Airport, explaining its exotic nature from a British viewpoint, and the reasons you would never ever find a sign like that in the UK, just across the Channel. De Botton is a master at finding such surprising angles to elucidate his subjects. Moreover he has considerable erudition to add, resulting in an engrossing mixture of philosophical insight, personal experience, and references to artists, writers, explorers and scientists of the past. Mostly these historical figures, Flaubert in Egypt, say, or Humboldt in South America or Van Gogh in the Provence, are exemplary `artists of travel', people who knew how to make the most of their expeditions. By taking their mindset, involving energy, patience and an eye for detail, as a template, De Botton generates some useful suggestions for the modern day traveller who no longer wants to bore himself by `scoring' obligatory highlights in the guidebook star-rating order, or who refuses to be a slave to his camera any longer. He may even give you some clues as to how to deal with that greatest travelling problem of them all, the fact that wherever you go, you always have to take yourself along.
In all, an elegant, intelligent, thought-provoking, amusing and useful little book, that nobody who takes travelling seriously should miss. Don't take it with you though - it won't last you much longer than an afternoon on the beach...
99 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for the traveller Sept. 2 2002
By Jon R. Schlueter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In his chapter called "On Eye-opening Art", Alain de Botton describes his lukewarm initial reaction to the much-extolled Provence, France. Then, in a sleepless first night there, he happened to read chapters in a book about Vincent Van Gogh that focussed on Van Gogh's Arles period. Van Gogh's art opened de Botton's eyes to the beauty of the landscape, because he started to see it as that great artist had. I mention this detail in particular because what Van Gough did for de Botton, de Botton does for the reader. "The Art of Travel" introduces the reader to an attitude toward and practice of travel that allows him or her to enjoy it more fully. de Botton's suggestions and observations are surprising, of the "Huh, I never thought about that" variety.
de Botton is well read, and he draws upon his knowledge of artists, philosophers, naturalists and poets, combined with first-person narrative, to illuminate his points. If you take the author's suggestions to heart, wherever you go -- across the globe or in your own neighborhood -- you will immerse yourself in your wanderings to a greater and more satisfying degree.
Having said that, I should add that this book is not just a means to an end. The journey itself is enjoyable. de Botton's writing is as engaging as his philosophy is attractive.
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical tools for a meaningful travelling experience. Aug. 29 2002
By C. Middleton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Alain De Botton's latest publication, ~The Art of Travel~ is a philosophical investigation, simply written, on the reasons and motivations for why we travel. The book's main thesis is that our lives are dominated by a search for that illusive and fleeting emotion or state known as happiness. Travel, he proposes, is a major activity, amongst many, where we seek-out this state of mind. Travel can possibly show us what life is about outside our routine-filled day-to-day existence. The book examines our motives for travelling, our anticipations, and expectations using the writings of various artists, poets and explorers, providing different and highly creative perspectives on the subject.
Personally, I found the most rewarding and instructive chapter to be, 'On eye-opening Art', using the views and paintings of Vincent van Gogh. Just as instructive, however, is the chapter, 'On Possessing Beauty', drawing on the works of the 19th century critic and writer, John Ruskin. The message from both these individuals are quite similar. One of the tasks of art, specifically painting, is to provide us, the viewer, with new perspectives in which to view the world. Vincent van Gogh's exceedingly original style and use of colour, for example, transformed, for some of us, the way we see a sunflower, a wheat field and a Cypress tree. When viewing these works of art, or any work of art, we are inspired to travel to these places where the artist created, and experience the subject of the works first-hand.
John Ruskin believed that one of our primary needs in life is beauty and its possession. He suggested that the only meaningful way to possess beauty was through understanding it: '...making ourselves conscious of the factors (psychological and visual) that are responsible for it,' (P.220) The way to attain this understanding, he suggests, is to draw and write (word paint) those things and places we come across in our travels that strike us as beautiful. A person sitting down in front of an expansive landscape, and sketching its many features, will discover aspects about the scene that would be invisible to the casual observer. When travelling, take the time to draw and write about those places and things one sees, and the experience will be much richer as a result.
~The Art of Travel~ is a helpful philosophical guide to the budding and seasoned traveller. Where other books on the subject instruct us on where to go and what to see, Alain De Botton tells us how to approach our journeys and some useful tools on achieving a much more meaningful and rewarding experience.
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wherever You Go, There You Are May 25 2006
By James Paris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I work for some very wealthy people who travel frequently. They always buy a package tour for umpteen thousands of dollars, stay at four-star hotels or on luxury cruise vessels, make no effort to read anything about the countries they're visiting because there's "not enough time," and -- other than some nice photographic trophies and a few stories about the funny things their guide said -- don't know much more about their destinations after the trip than before.

In his other books that I have read -- HOW PROUST CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE and THE CONSOLATIONS OF PHILOSOPHY -- Alain de Botton has succeeded to taking very complex material and distilling it down to a few home truths that are as enlightening as anything I have read on the subjects.

You can imagine that I was eager to see what de Botton would do with travel, about which I know something because I love it above all other things in my life. Before going on a vacation, I start a six-month reading program encompassing guidebooks, histories, biographies, and the literature of the country or countries I am visiting.

When I visited Iceland in 2001, for example, I read all the major medieval Icelandic sagas, anything I could find by Nobel Prize winner Halldor Laxness, histories, travel books by W. H. Auden, Lord Dufferin (19th century Governor General of Canada), and others. That would place me in the category of J. K. Huysmans's hero Des Esseintes -- with one major difference: I also took the journey and enjoyed it. I am doing the same prep now for an upcoming visit to Patagonia.

People travel for many reasons, but they sometimes forget that travel will not necessarily open their minds and hearts to anything. There is an old 1960s saying: "Wherever you go, there you are." De Botton exposes our motives and shows that, in effect, the way to enjoy travel the most is to be prepared for and open to change, to in effect change the "you" that is travelling.

Both Pascal and Dostoyevsky have noted that man is unhappy largely because he does not know how to stay quietly in his own room. If so, man will be no happier under a palm tree in Bora Bora.

There is one scene in the first chapter, "On Anticipation," that summarizes it all for me. De Botton and his travelling companion get into a spat over who gets which portion of dessert. Despite the idyllic setting in Barbados, the day is spoiled for both of them:

"There is a contrast between the vast projects we set in motion, the construction of hotels and the dredging of bays, and the basic psychological knots that undermine them, How quickly may the advantages of civilisation be wiped out by a tantrum. The intractibility of the mental knots points to the austere, wry wisdom of those ancient philosophers who walked away from prosperity and sophistication and argued, from within a barrel or a mud hut, that the key ingredients of happiness could not be material or aesthetic but most always be stubbornly psychological..."

And there we get to the rub: This is a book about how travel can make you happy -- if you're ready for it!
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously Readable philosophy Aug. 14 2002
By Chris R. Richards - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Alain de Botton's book furthers his exploration of philosophical issues in our every day lives. Travelling for the author becomes a way to discuss our pursuit of happiness as well as they way our expectations affect how we live. While the questions that he raises are sophisticated and he draws on his background as an exquisitely trained philosopher for this book, the narrative is incredibly readable:his anecdotes are witty, the prose flows well, and seemingly a high school freshman could comprehend and digest much of what he is saying.
By no means however does this mean that it is not a challenging and enlightening read. de Botton relates a series of his journeys from comical moments of deciding to travel thousands of miles across the globe from the inspiration of a picture of palm trees to the anxiety we experience when we discover that not only does our destination have palm trees but also dirty streets, traffic, and bureacracy. His personal experiences are sprinkled with insight from other famous travellers from european colonial painters to influential french novelists. The end result is a witty, personal, and thorough exploration of travel and what it tells us about the way we live our lives.
As a side note seeing Alain de Botton read and discuss his work in Oxford displayed his depth of knowledge and comfort in his field. He is truly a philosopher who cares about communicating and discussing ideas about how we can better live our lives in an intelligent and coherent manner for any willing reader which is an admirable task. Do not pass this book up!
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