In his book The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton writes: "If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest - in all its ardor and paradoxes - than our travels. They express, however inarticulately, an understanding of what life might be about, outside of the constraints of work and of the struggle for survival."
I am leaving for Casablanca tonight, and then the desert. It is cold here in Paris, on this first morning of April, and it is hard to imagine the radical change in location that is about to happen. Maybe it is our Icarian fears that allow us to be distracted by the pragmatics of travel (where and when and for how long) instead of facing the why of going. The enormity of our hubris, of flying so close to the sun, forces our gaze downward to the glow of the computer screen as we hunt and type for the cheapest fares and fewest connections. The magic of being rekindled is delayed as we plan for the car park. But what would happen if we were required to answer questions beyond the practical? What if Easy Jet, in addition to asking for my passport number, asked me what I was hoping for by walking off into the desert? Did I think that their orange plastic seats would help guide me to a transformation? Would they provide a refund if I returned no wiser?
But first, I have to run to class to read Life After God with my Sorbonne students and finish packing and then get my glasses fixed before buying some French wine for our nostalgic Parisian host who has moved to the medina.