Jan 19, 2005

The value of travel

Natalie and I are headed to Mexico for six days starting Thursday. We’re going to stay in the little town of Sayulita, located about 30 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. Some of you may remember that we took a trip there 2 years ago.

As luck would have it, recently I’ve been reading “The Art of Travel” by Alain de Botton. If you’re not familiar with him (I think it’s pronounced “duh botton” like “cotton”), check him out. I’m not sure how to classify him—intellectual, philosopher, social critic—but he applies his vast knowledge of classical philosophy, art and literature to modern life in the most unusual, amusing ways. In this particular volume he turns his attention to many aspects of travel, including its benefits, its role in helping us to discover new environs and how it can mirror important aspects of our own characters.

Anyway, as anyone acquainted with my better half knows, she loves to travel, and I’m a most willing disciple. From my two years in France, I’ve learned the value of being somewhere else, how the physical and psychological distance from home can allow us to penetrate ever deeper into our most familiar surroundings, our minds, and come to important and unimportant conclusions at our leisure.

That’s one of the reasons why I love travel so much. It allows me to get out of my own way and to shed the constrictions of the clock, my in box and the gym. It’s more than just forced idleness. Having to subtly adjust to language, customs and architecture acts as a positive distraction, putting your upfront consciousness to work so the background can ponder other, weightier matters.

Or as De Botton puts it, travel provides “an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.”

Really, you gotta check this guy out. And with that, I’m off to sit in the sun.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of links. I haven't yet figured out how to do that.

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