Travel around my bedroom
(Confinement diaries #1)
Years ago, when we wouldn’t dream of corona virus, I read about an activity called “room-travel” in the end of one of my favorite books, “The Art of Travel”, by the Swiss essayist Alain de Botton. Over more than 200 pages, de Botton uses artists like Charles Baudelaire, Gustave Flaubert and Vincent Van Gogh as guides to different places in the world. After London, Barbados, Provence, Madrid and so many other locations, we find a chapter about a Frenchman called Xavier de Maistre. In the spring of 1790, he undertook a journey around his bedroom and registered this account in Journey Around my Bedroom. Eight years later, he did the expedition again at night and wrote a second volume, Nocturnal Expedition Around my Bedroom. How appropriate to remember this book over the past week!
According to “The Art of Travel”, de Maistre wanted a more practical and economical way of traveling, for people that were not brave – like the old time explorers – or not as wealthy as those who funded them. The idea was to change into his pink and blue pajamas and shake up his mind from the every day lethargy, finding different nuances on things that he saw all the time. He admires the quality of his furniture and had fresh eyes even for his dog and for his longtime servant, Joannetti.
After a few journeys within four walls, the Frenchman concludes that the pleasure coming from our journeys and pilgrimages is more related to our mindset with the travel than with the travel per se. He recommends room travel to the poor and to those afraid of storms, robberies and high cliffs. More than two centuries later I would recommend it also for those in quarantine and isolation from viruses.
Last week I started working and teaching from home. I started in the office, moved to the dining room table and now I’m occupying a long forgotten desk in one of my kids’ rooms. I’ve been talking a lot on the phone with friends whose hugs and kisses were just a plane ticket away before the pandemic. We commiserate about spending our days walking from one room to another and fear for our waistlines: too many excursions to the kitchen.
This is the only travel I can do at the moment. Looking at my old house and furniture with fresh eyes and – most important – a positive mindset, like de Maistre did so long ago, is not a bad idea. The only risk is getting too used to work in pajamas.
PS: Write a comment or e-mail me ([email protected]), sharing your thoughts about new things to do at home in confinement times.