Pourquoi on a parfois l’impression de « manquer » nos voyages… et comment la culture peut nous aider

J’ai parlé, il n’y a pas longtemps, de ce qui change dans nos voyages avec l’omniprésence d’internet. Voici un passage d’un livre que j’ai lu il n’y a pas longtemps, et qui traite, lui, d’un aspect des voyages pas si récent, mais qui demeure: pourquoi, dans un endroit étranger, nous sentons-nous tellement perdus et submergés ? Au point de, parfois, perdre tout intérêt pour ce qui nous entoure, et nourrir l’envie de s’asseoir dans un café et ne rien faire, voire même rêver de rester dans notre chambre d’hôtel ? Et ce, même dans un endroit dont on sait qu’on n’y reviendra pas forcément au cours de sa vie…

Art of Travel - Alain de Botton

The Art of Travel: comment se cultiver pour mieux voyager ?

Le livre est The Art of Travel, signé par Alain de Botton, un philosophe qui, contrairement à ce que son nom laisserait croire, écrit d’abord en anglais. Parmi les expériences dans lesquelles il puise, il raconte notamment un « après-congrès » à Madrid. Lors duquel, une fois seul pour tout un week-end, il est avant tout habité par l’envie de rester dans son lit, ou même de trouver le moyen de rentrer plus tôt chez lui:

« On the desk lay several magazines offered by the hotel with information on the city and two guidebooks that I had brought from home, écrit-il. In their different ways, they conspired to suggest that an exciting and multifarious phenomenon called Madrid was wainting to be discovered outside, made up of monuments, churches, muséums, fountains, plazas and shopping streets. And yet these elements, about which I had heard so much and which I knew I was so privileged to see, merely provoked in me a combination of listlessness and self-disgust at the contrast between my own indolence and what I imagined to be the eagerness of more normal visitors. My overhwleming wish was to remain in bed and, if possible, catch an early flight home. »

Quelques pages plus loin, il analyse le pourquoi de sa réaction:

« A danger of travelling is that we we see things at the wrong time, before we have had a chance to build up the necessary receptivity and when new information is therefore as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connections chain.

The risk is compounded by geography: the way the cities contain buildings or monuments that are only a few feet apart in space, but leagues apart in terms of what would be required to appreciate them. Having made a journey to a place we may never revisit, we feel obliged to admire a sequence of things without any connection to one another besides a geographic one, a proper understanding of which would require qualities unlikely to be found in the same person.  We are asked to be curious about Gothic architecture on one street and then promptly Etruscan archaeology on the next.

The visitor to Madrid is asked to be interested in both the Palacio Real, the 18th century royal residence famed for chambers decorated with lavish rococo chinoiserie by the Neapolitan designer Gasparini, and – a few moments later – the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, a whitewashed gallery devoted to 20th century art, whose highlight is Picasso’s Guernica. Yet the natural progression for someonde deepening their apprciation of 18th century royal architecture would be to ignore the gallery and head for the royal places of Prague and St Petersburg instead.

Travel twists our curiosity according to a superficial geographical logic, as superficial as if a university course were to prescribe books according to their size rather than subject matter. »

C’est, je trouve, une piste intéressante pour comprendre ce qui nous arrive, et commencer à réfléchir sur comment voyager mieux, non ?

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