The consolations of philosophy, The art as a therapy and How Proust can change your life, have been wonderful discoveries for me in 2015. Could not fault them, Alain writes beautifully balanced, erudite and refreshingly renders common sense in fashion. The art of travel though – the old edition and his documentary on the same topic have been a bit disappointing for me to say the least.
Bringing yourself with you on a holiday – is this really an issue? That to me is one of the crucial points to travelling; otherwise one could just limit the exercise to observing pictures, photos, watching documentaries or reading travel blogs. Experience first hand brings the real joy, our perceptions and impressions as temporary, biased and skewed as may be, there are the bread and butter of travelling. And yes the guidebooks do mislead in terms of what is important when travelling, but have not seen many of my contemporary traveller fellows to be bothered by the landmarks suggested by Lonely Planet or Fodors. The variety of ideas and reviews are so multiple and niche, that one could navigate gracefully around what’s relevant to them or simply just ignore all and experience with locals, friends, community or specific set up – Airbnb and people moving around with friends located in all corners of the planet and easily identifiable / locatable being a key trend of our generation.
Staying home and building a room dedicated to a place one has never been sounds to me a wonderful absurd fantasy; there is indeed some beauty and a poetic angle but not much else. Travelling inside a room or spending time with yourself also a major / interesting exercise in one’s life, but that’s not incompatible with the joys of exploring the nature, the beauty and variety of our world. And the historical constraints of travelling resemble nothing of our days. Since the travelling inside the room of Xavier de Mestre in the year 1794, there’s been a revolution towards comfort and convenience whilst travelling.
Pascal stating that ‘Mankind source of unhappiness is our inability to stay quiet/ put in a room’ does not relate much to my reasoning. I’d also add it pushes far and to absurd the more intelligent quote of ‘I think therefore exist’.
The exercise of a cruising in the Mediterranean chosen in Alain’s documentary, also seems so alien to a proper knowledgeable traveller. One could easily experience Barcelona properly from London, the flights are abundant and cheap and the myriad of low costs, rental flats, volunteering opportunities or various programs are an authentic option compared to a cruise. A bit of deviation on the topic, but Grayson Perry has a beautiful way to get to know communities and recreating social classes, cultures and sub-cultures in his tapestries, documentaries and art. To me, the art of travelling encompasses also curiosity from a similar angle – the ability to go outside your comfort zone, space or known territory to experience something different, observe and try to relate to different communities and people.
And yes, exotic has different meanings for all of us, depending on the background, education and circumstances. But the variety of exotic, nuances and experiences is endless and easily accessible to any curious mind even with modest means.
Another depicted journey in Alain’s documentary is East Germany and quite a dodgy Ollywood swingers hotel from Dresden suburbs, with a double double room new and decorated with questionable style, gherkins at 1 Euro, men butts and few ladies in questionable brief outfits. Quite a niche experience I’d say and quite at the opposite spectre of mass travel cruising. On this occasion, Alain is praising the hotel hopefully out of an English politeness for attempting to attenuate the loneliness of travelling and eluding to Hopper and Leonard Cohen. To me these remarks are dressing slightly differently his same concern for humankind unable to cope with themselves for too long and being utterly lonely. Same reservations from my side: Alain meeting Paulo Coelho and discussing therapeutic virtues of journeys would be an interesting dialogue and probably more meaningful for me in terms of conclusions.
The last subject in Alain’s documentary is a group of Japanese travellers in England and rural Cotswold; quoting John Ruskin and asking the Group rather than taking pictures to actually draw their object of admiration – a cathedral. Regardless of their actual drawing abilities, one could only properly observe when asked to sketch; it is a beautiful exercise making you aware of angles, shades and ultimately de-constructing the beauty of an object.
But despite me liking very much the idea of the drawing exercise, one thing I am very guilty of, is an addiction to pictures. My urge may be boringly common, a longing of capturing fugitive moments and the joy of a place. Pictures are wonderful ways of reconstructing one’s diary and they never read the same way. If skilfully taken, they all have a thousand stories, one just needs to have an interest, find and take the time. And that’s another art and subject to be mastered, one needs to learn and practice. It may be aspirational and amateurish but for one’s journey good pictures do bring value and joy.
Alain, I am looking forward to a New and Revised Art of Travelling !
My kind of travelling. Extracts from Travelling with a little lion, Australia 2013.
Hanson bay wildlife centre , March 2013, in here 18 weeks pregnant with Raphael
Hanson bay, Kangaroo island – my favourite Ozzie beach, March 2013 whilst 18 weeks pregnant with Raphael
The 12 apostles – after airbnbing in Melbourne, ended up in a beautiful beach house on Great Ocean Road, travelling with my highschool friend / read troublemaker. March 2013, 20 weeks pregnant with Raphael.
Life is good. My other half joined me in Sydney, March 2013. 21 weeks pregnant with Raphael. Blue mountain with friends and breathtaking landscapes.