My favorite author, Alain de Botton, hooked me good with his book: On love. With the second one I read, The art of travel, I was a fan for life. He’s a sharp observer who mixes his academic specialty of philosophy into everyday life with such a light, witty hand that I’ve learned to go anywhere with him. I’ve read probably 10 of his books and loved, or at least liked, them all.
So I grabbed up The art of travel for a second read on my way to the airport. This trip is different than any I’ve taken and as usual, I want to understand the differences by reading and writing. I didn’t plan to take along a spirit guide, but a few pages in I know he’s just who I needed. I find my favorite line: “We are inundated with advice on where to travel, but we hear little of why and how we should go, even though the art of travel seems to sustain a number of questions neither so simple nor so trivial.”
We all can see good reasons these days to ask ourselves why and how we should travel: Television images of people dragged unconscious off of airplanes because they refused to be bumped. Fist fights among passengers. Planes that turned around and came back to their starting point with crew members and passengers on stretchers after a patch of clear-air turbulence. Airports full of blanket-wrapped misery, people spending their holidays on plastic chairs instead of on the beaches they dreamed about for months. At least as bad: freeways backed up for miles after a storm, a crash, ice on the road, heat conditions, nothing moving in any direction for hours. (My question always: how are the hundreds of people trapped in their cars going to the bathroom?) Put it together and surely I need to think carefully about why I would leave my own bed and dog behind.
I don’t think about that when I make the plane reservations, but I think about it plenty in Hour 6 of 8 on this airplane, when my bad hip is screaming – SCREAMING – that it cannot stay in this position for another 10 minutes, let alone two more hours. After those two hours will come a long, limping walk through what will seem like miles of concourse, jostling other glass-eyed people, some with cranky babies and some who don’t smell good, to show my passport to a British customs officer. Beyond her businesslike questions lies another flight, a struggle with heavy luggage, and I can’t think any further than that.
But her questions are in an accent that I drink up like milky tea.
“On to Belfast, then? Home after that or another destination?”
After that, Spain, for some holiday. (Usually I say vacation, not holiday, but this is Britain)
“Well first the dull weather then the fine, right?”
I smile back.
“Enjoy yourself then.”
I take my passport and limp on.Commenting is not available in this channel entry.