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The Sweet Pursuit

Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive


The Joy of Travel

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: the proverbial pursuit, happiness, travel, anticipation, philosophy, realism, idealism, Alain de Botton, Heathrow Airport, Psychology Today, Julie Hanus,

paper airplane 

The word is airports: What comes to mind? The astonishing carbon footprint of a single flight, perhaps? Equipped with a standard guilty-liberal reflex, that’s what pops into my head—so I was sort of thrilled to encounter a little interview in Psychology Today that reminded me of another airport feeling: that of electric, transformative space.

Check it out: Last fall author/philosopher Alain de Botton became Heathrow Airport’s first “writer in residence,” spending a week stationed at a desk in a terminal writing A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary. (From the outset, it was an intriguing exercise: Heathrow paid de Botton the equivalent of an advance, while de Botton retained creative control and the rights to the resulting book.) His chat about the experience with Psychology Today doesn’t appear to be online, so here’s the snippet that tickled me:

What do you see when you live in an airport that you don’t see when you’re rushing to make a plane? 

Pure anticipation. People who are rushing to their flights imagine a future without having to live it yet. On the ground, we are more likely to admit that the future will not deliver on its ideal prospects. We may never be has happy as we are in the moments prior to takeoff on a trip.

Of course, anticipation is just that. More food for thought from de Botton:

You’ve written that we travel to find happiness but fail to get there. 

In Western culture, there’s a feeling that if you change the décor, or the landscape around you, you will easily be transformed into a calmer, happier person. But that’s a crazy, naïve, childish idea.

One problem with modern travel is that we don’t meet people. People who traveled in premodern times would pitch up in a new town with a recommendation or a letter and find themselves having dinner with six interesting people. Today most of us arrive and go to the Statue of Liberty or a museum. We don’t have any human contact.

Source: Psychology Today 

Image by Ana Santos, licensed under Creative Commons.