The Art of Travel


Alain De Botton

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Art of Travel, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Familiar and the Foreign

In The Art of Travel, the philosophical writer Alain de Botton draws from his own experiences abroad, as well as those of distinguished artists, thinkers, and fellow-travelers throughout history, to explore the essential allure of travel. The book’s nine loosely-connected essays juxtapose his own voyages with the travels and travel-related musings of men of European literary and artistic fame. The central motivation for de Botton’s travels—and, he thinks, for most travelers’ journeys—is the desire…

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Expectations vs. Reality

Although many who travel (including the author himself) begin with high hopes for an exclusively positive or life-changing experience, de Botton laments that the actual act of travel often fails to meet these expectations. While a prospective traveler may admire the images of pristine beaches they see online or an article about intriguing cultural differences in a travel magazine, in reality such experiences form only a miniscule portion of a traveler’s experience abroad. Often this…

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Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness

As his book’s title implies, Alain de Botton is deeply concerned with travel’s relationship to art, both literary and visual, as well as aesthetic experience more broadly. Artists and writers are de Botton’s traveling companions throughout this book, because he thinks that their travels (and those of the characters they have created) can offer contemporary tourists valuable insight into the places they visit and, more importantly, the how and why of traveling. He thinks not…

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The Receptive Self

In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton argues that travel’s greatest gift to those who undertake it, the travel mind-set, centers on a receptivity to one’s environment. By engaging with foreign environments, both urban and natural, de Botton believes that travelers can gain new perspectives on the world and their individual role within it. To de Botton, a receptive attitude to the natural world can teach travelers humility and patience, which can help…

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