Thursday, 25 March 2010


“The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.
Pascal, Pensées

From around 1799 to 1804, Alexander von Humboldt undertook a journey around South America, later entitling the account of what he had seen Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent.

Nine years earlier, in the spring of 1790, a twenty-seven-year-old Frenchman, Xavier de Maistre, undertook a journey around his bedroom, later entitling the account of what he had seen Journey around My Bedroom. Gratified by his experiences, in 1798, De Maistre undertook a second journey. This time he traveled by night and ventured out as far as the window ledge, later entitling his account Nocturnal Expedition around My Bedroom.

Two approaches to travel: Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent, Journey around My Bedroom. The first required ten mules, thirty pieces of luggage, four interpreters, a chronomoter, a sextant, two telescopes, a Borda theodolite, a barometer, a compass, a hygrometer, letters of introduction from the King of Spain and a gun. The second, a pair of pink and blue cotton pyjamas.

…it was not Xavier’s intentions to cast aspersions on the heroic deeds of the great travelers of the past: Magellan, Drake, Anson and Cook. …it was just that (de Maestre) had discovered a way of traveling that might be infinitely more practical for those neither as brave or as wealthy as they. ‘The most indolent beings won’t have any reason to hesitate before setting off to find pleasures that will cost them neither money nor effort’. He particularly recommended room-travel to the poor and to those afraid of storms, robberies, and high cliffs.”

Alain de Botton – The Art of Travel p243-245

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a most inspiring post. As one who is trying painfully to adapt to a different way of life than that formerly pursued, and being alone in the house for most of the time, I can take inspiration from the account, and begin to travel indoors. Perhaps I shall take a sketchbook with me, as making art otherwise is impossible at present.I have a pair of pink and white cotton pyjama trousers, and very often do not shed them until the afternoon, so find myself suitably equipped..