My favorite place to meet friends, say, before we head off to watch a movie or have dinner, is the bookstore. It seems the bookstore is the only place where I don’t mind waiting longer than I should for friends arriving late because of traffic, overtime work, a coup d’etat, or any one of 101 reasons.
In fact, I usually make it a point to come earlier than the meeting time so I can browse more books. And if I chance upon a really good read (which usually comes with a price tag that promptly reduces my love for reading to mere infatuation and hopeful pining), I secretly wish my friend would come much later so I could cover as many pages as possible.
On one such waiting and browsing episode, I gravitated towards the travel section. I’m quite the late bloomer, both reading- and travel-wise, so travel books have only been a recent delight. I took notice of a particular book that had for its cover a view through an airplane window; it’s titled The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton. Part of my marketing job is directing and evaluating book cover art, and so I was drawn to Botton’s book because of its cover – a strong one, I must say. The topic seemed interesting as well, and the back cover blurb hooked me:
“…Few activites seem to promise us as much happiness as going travelling: taking off for somewhere else, somewhere far from home, a place with more interesting weather, customs and landscapes. But although we are inundated with advice on where to travel to, we seldom ask why we go and how we might become more fulfilled by doing so….”
Interesting. I was battling internally whether or not to sample the book, which shouldn’t have been a struggle in the first place had all the copies not been secured in plastic wrappers; to peel or not to peel wrapper? Then my friend arrived.
The book was temporarily forgotten until I went online later that night and decided to Google an excerpt. My search landed me here. I read the excerpt, “On Anticipation,” with so much relish. Many of De Botton’s insights there gave words to some of my own nascent sentiments about traveling and art. His observations resonated with me: on how a place can be different from what you initially imagined (in his case, after seeing a breathtaking picture of it in a travel brochure); how this difference between anticipated and actual reality is fueled by art (the brochure picture) as it must oftentimes employ “simplification” and “selection” to impact us (Writes De Botton, “If we are inclined to forget how much there is in the world besides that which we anticipate, then works of art are perhaps a little to blame, for in them we find the same process of simplification or selection at work as in the imagination. Artistic accounts involve severe abbreviations of what reality will force upon us.“); and how we, after soaking in a myriad details, can naturally sift through the sights, sounds, and sentiments and linger in a select few to remember an experience by.
De Botton is a gifted essayist, to say the least. “He has never written a dull sentence,” according to an endorser of one of his books, if memory serves me right. Now that I’ve had a sampling of his prose, that may not be a too much of a stretch after all.
And so me wants the The Art of Travel. Meantime, I must content myself with putting it under “Wish List” on my Shelfari shelf and stealing moments with it during waiting times in a bookstore.