The Interaction Of Landscape & Relationship Between People In Alan De Bottom’s “Art Of Travel”

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Composers often portray the relationship between people and landscape as a dynamic interaction. The relationship between an individual and their landscape is complex, as it is constantly evolving, often evoking emotional responses from individuals.

Alan De Bottom’s “Art of Travel” focuses on the how the relationship between people and landscape is a dynamic interaction. It focuses on the importance of curiosity; the effect landscapes have on identities and the incongruency that comes with imagined landscapes. These new experiences alter an individual’s outlook and leads to viewing the same landscapes differently. Thus, the text enables responders to generate a greater understanding of the world around them and the overall human experience. As a result, Alain De Botton portrays the relationship between people and landscape as a dynamic interaction

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De Botton explores the theme of curiosity and what an important role curiosity plays in inquiring about the world around us and gaining an appreciation of all things, even the mundane. De Botton suggests the that our connection to landscape is inevitably intertwined with our attitudes. We may be able to find new and exciting things about places of familiarity if we look hard enough and try to approach it with fresh eyes, evident as he notes “I forced myself to obey the peculiar kind of mental command: to look around me as though I had never been in this place before. And slowly my travels began to bear fruit”. The metaphor reveals that whilst deserts, exotic and foreign places have a romantic appeal, before we embark on adventures, we should take a moment to notice where we already are.

De Botton also showcases the key towards appreciating any landscapes lies within the traveller’s mindset, establishing this through the integration of de Maistre’s ‘Nocturnal Expeditions around my Bedroom’. It further emphasises on the importance of curiosity through the metaphor “admire the brilliant constellation which gleam above their heads”, where the constellation signifies the sublimity of even the most mundane landscapes. A dynamic relationship between people and landscapes may provoke conflicts with an individual’s perceived realities, challenging individuals to question their real identities. This is represented in The Art of Travel through the inclusion of Gustave Flaubert as a guide to support arguments on the exotic as “he proposed a new way of ascribing nationality.according to the places to which one is attracted.”

This idea that our identities are based on the environment we feel positively connected to rather than where we originate is further represented through the direct quotation “I don’t give a shit for Normandy or La Belle France… I think I must have been transported by the winds to this land of mud,” whereby the metaphor “land of mud” conveys dissatisfaction with one’s home country. Thus, “Flaubert insisted he was not French” since his true affections were for that of the orient. This positive relationship with the orient and negative one with France thus creates a conflict between where an individual identifies with and where they actually originate, proving that one’s relationship with the landscapes is dynamic.

People’s relationship with the landscape can be extraordinarily challenging because of an individual’s proclivities, which determines their affinity with particular places. The chapter ‘On Anticipation’ explores the idea of how imagined landscapes result in incongruity when we first encounter the real, unedited landscape. De Botton suggests that our desires to travel may be interlinked with our disenchantment with our current surroundings. The use of negative connotations such as ‘Decline’ ‘old age’ ‘relentless’ ‘sadness’ exemplifies how an individual’s psychological state can affect their relationship with their landscapes as these negative emotions establish a need for travel in ‘search for happiness’. .

However, he implies that our expectations and perceptions of particular landscapes (the allure of a white sandy beach for instance) may not match up with the actual experience of being there. Whilst such a place seems to hold promises of healing negative physiological states, de Botton suggests “it seems we may best be able to inhabit a place when we are not faced with the additional challenge of having to be there” (p.23).

This paradoxical notion highlights how change in perception and the disconnection between reality and anticipation further proves the dynamicity of one’s relationship with their landscapes. In highlighting the reciprocal relationship between people and place, he suggests that such a relationship is a dynamic one, which changes, shifts and is characterised by constant negotiation and conversation.


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