Every month I edit an alpine newsletter - here is my introduction to February's issue
Twenty years ago, the philosopher Alain de Botton published a collection of essays titled The Art of Travel. They’re a witty and playful reflection on the pitfalls and disappointments of our urge to explore, to sightsee, to find ourselves or a putative nirvana…
If there’s a theme to his musings, it’s that the process of planning and anticipation is the chief pleasure of any adventure – thereafter, the reality invariably falls short of our idealising. Most of us, I expect, will have experienced something of the sort.
Perhaps this is why, whenever I make a trip to the mountains, I refuse to look at the weather until I arrive. To be clear, I still meticulously research what’s likely to be the case (a holiday of Scottish midges taught me that lesson) — but once the tickets are booked and we’re committed to going, I regard the forecast as nothing more than a source of potential disappointment.
My friends laugh at this eccentricity, regarding it a sort of superstition. Perhaps there’s some truth in that, but I’ve come to look forward to the element of surprise — and to making the most of whatever we encounter. This week I arrived in the Alps for some skiing, only to be greeted by biblical rain… but then again, for a kayaker, the river is running at its brim-full best.
And you know, for all I like Alain de Botton’s writing, I reckon he’s wrong that we’re doomed to disappointment. My travel memories are as much of people as they are of places; of what could never have been planned as much as what was. Last night the temperature fell by ten degrees, and we awoke to snowscape that I venture would surpass any expectation, or serve as nirvana for all but the most jaundiced or joyless of heart.
I’m glad that hills don’t dance to anyone’s tune.