I went to the travel section of Foyles on Charing Cross Road and looked at Alain de Botton’s book ‘The Art of Travel’. The headings, like all journeys, start with ‘Departure’. The book ends, like some journeys, with a return. It’s at this point that de Maistre is mentioned.
He’s the 18th century French adventurer who explored his own bedroom in his travelling outfit of pink and blue pyjamas and wrote, ‘Voyage autour de ma chambre‘ (A Journey Around My Room). It wasn’t his only trip, he also made it to the Caucusus as a soldier.
The point de Botton makes is that travel is a state of mind. He steps out into his local west London streets ready to be filled with wonderment and it works. The everyday is transformed by his willingness to look again and to see it afresh.
The Latin-American writer Jorge Luis Borges says this:
A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.
(from El hacedor)
It may be that he is seeing his own reflection or it could be that all he has seen is now, or already was, part of him.
Or as my friend’s mum puts it, ‘Wherever you go, there you are’.