Saturday, March 21, 2009

Travel Philosophy

I've recently been reading a book called "The Art of Travel" by Alain de Botton and it's been interesting. It's a set of philosophical travel essays that looks at the "how" and "why" of travel - since most of us only think about the "where" of travel.

Below are a couple quotes that I contemplated and identify with at least to some extent.

"If we are surprised by the power of one sulk to destroy an entire hotel, it is because we misunderstand what holds up our moods. We are sad at home and blame the weather and the ugliness of the buildings, but on the tropical island we learn (after an argument in a raffia bungalow under an azure sky) that the state of the skies and the appearance of our dwellings can never on their own underwrite our joy or condemn us to misery."

I have always said that happy people are happy everywhere and grumpy people are grumpy everywhere. When you travel you always meet people who are complaining about this or that: the food was not up to par, there were bugs in the bed, the monkeys outside kept them up all night, the train ride was too long... These are the people who should have just saved their money and been grumpy at home.

"If we find poetry in the service station and the motel, if we are drawn to the airport or the train carriage, it is perhaps because, despite their architectural compromises and discomforts, despite their garish colors and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinements of the ordinary, rooted world."

When people ask me what I liked so much about Africa and about traveling I am always at a slight loss for words because I don't know how to put together all the things that draw me to somewhere else. After reading this, I think this is part of it; it is the sense that it is an alternative to a style of living that I would like to shed.

"We may value foreign elements [in other countries] not only because they are new but because they seem to accord more faithfully with our identity and commitments than anything our homeland can provide... What we find exotic abroad may be what we hunger for in vain at home."

If you accept that your country helps identify who you are.... what are we as Canadians? Wealthy. Over-consumers. Individual-centered. I think you could put those up along with the more traditional pictures of peace-keepers and polite (though I don't think you'll see them on any brochures or TV ads in the near future). I think this is also partially what draws me to Africa and the so called Third World.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed The Art of Travel -- so much, I bought it! I also recommend Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts.