Travel, culture and communication


“If our lives are dominated by the search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest – in all its ardour and paradoxes – than our travels. They express, however inarticulately, an understanding of what life might be about outside the constraints of work and the struggle for our survival. Yet rarely are they considered to present philosophical problems – that is, issues requiring thought beyond the practical. We are inundated with advice on where to travel to, we hear little of why and how we should go – though the art of travel seems naturally to sustain a number of questions neither so simple nor so trivial and whose study might in modest ways contribue to an understanding of what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudaimonia or human flourishing.”

de Botton, A. (2003) The Art of Travel. London: Penguin. p 9


Alain de Botton sets up an interesting dichotomy between “work” and what happens outside our “struggle for survival”. Our travels become a search for happiness, escapism perhaps, a way of learning about the world and ourselves. But is he right that most travel is in fact about airports, immigration queues, the next meal/sight/activity, avoiding mosquitoes… and as such is only a form of work displaced to somewhere else?

Post your thoughts on anything – travel, happiness, places, cultures and people that you will never forget, how we can appreciate the new….






13 Responses

  1. Travel doesn’t have to mean internationally, so he isn’t completely correct about travel as being more about airports, queues etc. But, I agree with his comments about travel being “a way of learning about the world and ourselves.”

    March 22, 2012 at 8:32 pm

  2. Rebecca Fong

    Someone once said that we (and of course photographers) are so busy looking at things through camera lenses that we don’t really appreciate what’s actually there. There seems to me an element of truth in that, but I also think I see things much more clearly when I frame them and I like to shut out all the extraneous clutter. Control freak? Romanticiser? Loner? Why is it that we enjoy the pursuit of photography?

    Here’s one of my favourite series. Bureaucratics by Jan Banning. I think he’s probably all of those things.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm

  3. Richard

    Very moving film on Eli Collins. (And I’d never seen a picture of Nazareth House, despite several years doing local history.) So thanks.


    BTW don’t much like the grey comment boxes!

    March 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm

  4. Jeanette

    ‘Travel’ for me has become ‘staying at home’ over the years. I used to go far away for most of the year (here travel was work – in all senses of the word). I’ve lived so many different places that being able to stay at home actually means a lot to me. ‘Travel’, when possible, is a stationary journey 🙂

    March 28, 2012 at 7:21 pm

  5. George

    Travel is a way which can make us more happy, but happiness always accompany with us . if we can have a grateful heart, I trust that we will find out our happiness in our life.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm

  6. Jesse

    Travel is a way to let us relex and foget the living area where is busying and noise. It can find the different culture, different people, differernt scenery in the world. there is no definite reason to traveling. sometimes travel is a way to escape, in the other place, we find the future and looking forward to the beautiful life.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:32 pm

  7. Jinny

    Hi Rebecca !
    I’m Jinny, your English student from Vietnam 😀
    Being a student in another country is a life-changing experience for me. And this is also the first time i come to UK so I  was a bit shocked as first because of the weather. It was so cold during the first week when i came here and then it’s so hot now at the second week^^ Can u tell me what will happend in next week? 😀
    Although leaving my hometown makes me homesick sometimes, but as time went by i relized that i’m having a wonderful experience here. Bristol is a beautiful city, full of culture, lots of green spaces. People living here are so kind and generous. I get the chance to meet interesting people from all over the world as well as getting to know a new culture, a quite interesting one I have to say. Anyway, i hope all of my classmates will have a nice time living here 🙂

    July 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm

  8. Tran Tran

    I have not travelled much even I had may chances to visit some places. Therefore, sometimes I felt regretful about these opportunities I missed. In my opinion, travelling is the best way that people can get to know about new things in terms of culture, language,environment and many others. Moreover, people can experience and challenge themselves in new places. Overall, travelling may bring numerous benefits so I hope I will have some trips in the future.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:20 pm

  9. Oscar

    I have been in Bristol for three weeks. The city leaves me a most good impression (fresh air, wide green spaces, clean streets). People who live here are polite and full of enthusiastic. However, it is difficult for me to fit in with the living here immediately. The weather often changes unpredictably, one moment it is raining and the next it is sunny. Besides this, I don’t get enough sleep and occasionally doze off in class because of days are longer than nights. I believe I will get used to living in Bristol as soon as possible.
    As for travel, in my opinion, it is a good way to broaden our horizons and meet people from different cultures.

    July 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm

  10. kun

    travelling is a good way to discover around us. Moreover, we will have more knowledge about culture, education, etc. However, it can be a challenge in a new place and i hope i do try my best :))

    July 29, 2012 at 8:15 pm

  11. Alice

    Studying abroad is likely a thoughtless decision to me. At first, I just wanna go somewhere to be independent and open my mind wiser. But, when I really have to leave my family for another country, it was a feeling that I could’t express by any words, not upset, not excited, may be nothing in my head.
    ‘Farewell’ is so hard to say, a smile in silence could be better for everything 🙂
    My life in Bristol is too new to me that needs friends to balance changes, luckily I got some. Sooner, I got used to living here but I feel boring now. I want to find and visit some great places, would you recommend me somewhere, Miss Rebecca?
    I would be a big hand to me,now 😀

    July 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    • It’s so interesting to read all your comments and think about how environment and climate shape us and our cultures, as well as our beliefs, values, social relationships and personal experience. When you come to a new place, it’s important to locate yourself geographically, but also to integrate yourself with the local people. Try joining a club, or talking to your neighbours, or volunteering, as well as travelling to Bath, Cardiff, Oxford, London, Birmingham, Stonehenge, Weston-Super-Mare (the local seaside!)… all easily accessible. Join BISC (Bristol International Student Centre) they will help you.

      Tomorrow… the sun will shine…..:-)

      July 31, 2012 at 7:14 am

  12. Erica

    Hi! I’m Erica Tai from Hong Kong. There are some differences between Hong Kong and Britain. In Hong Kong, people are money-mined. They care money as they want to have better live and enjoy the material comfort,like buying a house in Hong Kong. Also, they want to do all the things effectively and efficiency so we always need to work over-time to finish all the works or deal with the problems quickly. As we are stressed in work, we do not always smile. But in UK, peoples want to enjoy their life more than only work and money. They like smile to other countries people and nice too. As they do not stressed in work, they do the things very slowly and not care the work too, like the shops close very early. However. the same value between Britain and Hong Kong is we all want to enjoy democracy!

    I think travelling is very important and I like travelling very much!! It is because I can know more other countries peoples, culture and value. It sure can broaden our horizons and a good way for us to relax!!!^.^

    July 30, 2012 at 10:17 pm

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