«Anywhere! anywhere! so long as it is out of the world!» (ALAIN DE BOTTON)

«Anywhere! anywhere! so long as it is out of the world!» (ALAIN DE BOTTON)

Charles Baudelaire was born in Paris in 1821. From an early age, he felt uncomfortable at home. His father died when he was five, and a year later his mother married a man her son disliked. He was sent to a succession of boarding schools from which he was repeatedly expelled for insubordination. As an adult, he could find no place in bourgeois society. He quarrelled with his mother and stepfather, wore theatrical black capes and hung reproductions of Delacroix’s Hamlet lithographs around his bedroom. In his diary, he complained of suffering from ‘that appalling disease: the Horror of Home’ and from a ‘feeling of loneliness, from earliest childhood. Despite the family—and with school friends especially—a feeling of being destined to lead an eternally solitary life.’
The result was a lifelong ambivalence towards travel. In Le Voyage, he sarcastically imagined the accounts of travellers returned from afar:
We saw stars
And waves; we saw sands, too; And despite many
crises and unforeseen disasters,
We were often bored, just as we are here.
And yet he remained sympathetic to the wish to travel and observed its tenacious hold on him. No sooner had he returned to Paris from his Mauritian trip than he began to dream once again of going somewhere else. Noting, ‘Life is a hospital in which every patient is obsessed with changing beds: this one wants to suffer in front of the radiator, and that one thinks he’d get better if he was by the window,’ he was nevertheless unashamed to count himself among the patients: ‘It always seems to me that I’ll be well where I am not, and this question of moving is one that I’m forever entertaining with my soul.’ Sometimes Baudelaire dreamt of going to Lisbon. It would be warm there, and he would, like a lizard, gain strength from stretching himself out in the sun. It was a city of water, marble and light, conducive to thought and calm. But almost from the moment he conceived this Portuguese fantasy, he would start to wonder if he might not be happier in Holland. Then again, why not Java or the Baltic or even the North Pole, where he could bathe in shadows and watch comets fly across the Arctic skies? The destination was not really the point. The true desire was to get away—to go, as he concluded, ‘anywhere! anywhere! so long as it is out of the world!’

 

 

 

THE ART OF TRAVEL
Alain de Botton



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