The Art of Travel

Alexander von Humboldt Character Analysis

A German polymath (an expert in many subjects) who traveled in South America from 1799 until 1804 and wrote thirty volumes about the broad range of scientific discoveries he made there. From an early age, Humboldt was captivated by massive questions about the human and natural worlds—for instance, he was curious about why different things grew in different places, and he spent much of the rest of his life paying close attention to where certain species could be found. For de Botton, the curiosity about the unknown that drove Humboldt’s trip to South America is largely unavailable to contemporary travelers, who generally travel to destinations where there is nothing more to be discovered. But Humboldt’s tireless efforts to improve science demonstrate both travelers’ timeless fascination with nature and how the things they become curious about during travel often reflect their underlying commitments, character, and sense of personal purpose.

Alexander von Humboldt Quotes in The Art of Travel

The The Art of Travel quotes below are all either spoken by Alexander von Humboldt or refer to Alexander von Humboldt. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Art of Travel published in 2002.
Chapter 4 Quotes

The guidebook might have added, “and where there must be something wrong with the traveller who cannot agree.”

111

Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Art of Travel quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 9 Quotes

In an autobiographical note written in 1801 in South America, Alexander von Humboldt specified his motive for traveling: “I was spurred on by an uncertain longing to be transported from a boring daily life to a marvellous world.” It was this very dichotomy, “boring daily life” pitted against “marvellous world,” that de Maistre had tried to redraw with greater subtlety.

1111

Page Number: 248
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire The Art of Travel LitChart as a printable PDF.
The art of travel.pdf.medium

Alexander von Humboldt Character Timeline in The Art of Travel

The timeline below shows where the character Alexander von Humboldt appears in The Art of Travel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4: On Curiosity
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
The German Alexander von Humboldt sailed from Spain to South America in 1799. Well-educated in the sciences and history, Humboldt... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
When Humboldt set out for South America, Europeans knew little about the continent. Humboldt collected hundreds of... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
...anxiously wonders, “What am I supposed to do here? What am I supposed to think?” Humboldt, on the other hand, undertook an “unambiguous” quest to learn as much as possible and... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
...are useful, so others take an interest when a traveler learns them for the first time—Humboldt was “besieged and feted by interested parties” when he returned to Europe, and he gave... (full context)
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
...as well have added, “there must be something wrong with the traveler who cannot agree.” Humboldt never had to deal with this kind of pretension, for nobody told him what mattered... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
...Mount Chimborazo in Peru, which at the time Europeans thought was the world’s highest peak, Humboldt noticed seemingly minute features of the landscape, like the heights where he found lichens, moss,... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
...people start to care about smaller ones, like how high on mountains flies can live. Humboldt’s big question was “Why don’t the same things grow everywhere?” and he had investigated it... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
Humboldt’s example demonstrates “the importance of having the right question to ask in the world”—but most... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
Later in his life, Humboldt lamented that people complained he was “curious about too many things.” De Botton lauds this... (full context)
Chapter 9: On Habit
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Nine years before Alexander von Humboldt set out for South America in 1799, the French writer Xavier de Maistre published a... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
...he thinks, people might find their home places just as interesting as exotic destinations like Humboldt’s South America. (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
...traveller in the classic sense”—he fought military campaigns in Italy and Russia. Whereas Alexander von Humboldt traveled to escape his “boring daily life” and discover a “marvellous world” overseas, de Maistre... (full context)