Saturday, June 20, 2009

Well-read Weekend #10

Most travel books adress the big W travel questions like Where? When? What? I doubt that the well-fed tourist cruise ship passenger or the stag-party attendee in Prague stops to ask Why?

It's a question worth asking I think. Why are there folks like Nomadic Matt that travel for years on end or endless websites detailing how to live life on the road? Why do we spend hundreds on luggage and havea whole genre of 'travel lit'?

I feel there's a whole load of tourists who fit into one of two categories: the travel to 'get away from it all' and the travel 'to see it all.' Neither strikes me as particularly good. If I wanted to get away from it all, all I'd need do is yank my internet cord out of the wall, turn off the cell phone and go lay in the park. Same rest, lots less money. Seeing it all means that you pack so much into your days, that yes, you might have seen the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa and a can-can show, but what do you know of Paris?

Rick Steves aims to make folks' travel political. Alain de Botton takes a look at why travel is good for the soul in The Art of Travel.

Mr. de Botton is a philosopher at heart. His other books: Status Anxiety, The Consolations of Philosophy, The Arcitecture of Happiness. The Art of Travel is a delicate weaving of philosophy, yes, but also personal narrative, history and art.

His essays take delve into all the feelings we go through when we travel, from the anticipation of departure to the sublime views of nature's grandeur. He looks at topics through a few lenses--first his own travels, then of great travelers throughout history, through art or poetry and then brings things back to apply to our own lives.

For anyone who is more interested in the experience in traveling and less in the checklist of sights or the amount of sun one can absorb, this book is for you.

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