Thoughts on “Along the Road” by Aldous Huxley

As I continue working through the books that have been on my shelf way too long, I decided to read this one, which has been on my shelf for at about 25 years.

This book is a collection of travel essays which Huxley published in 1925. From an historical perspective, it is interesting to read about what things were like in Europe in the years between World War I and World War II. Also, travelling in a time before cell phones and GPS provided fodder for interesting stories.

Early in the book, Huxley asserts that most people do not like to travel and only do travel so that they can essentially have the bragging rights of having been somewhere cool.

The fact is that very few travellers really like travelling. If they go to the trouble and expense of travelling, it is not so much from curiosity, for fun or because they like to see things beautiful and strange, as out of a kind of snobbery. People travel for the same reason they collect works of art: because the best people do it. To have been to certain spots on the earth’s surface is socially correct; and having been there, one is superior to those who have not. Moreover, travelling gives one something to talk about when one gets home.

(pp. 9 – 10)

I confess chuckling when I read this. I considered times travelling with friends when I was younger. I was eager to go out, see and do things, and often my travel companions wanted to hang around the hotel room. I never understood this. For me, the whole point of travelling is to experience something new and to broaden my perspectives.

As an avid reader, I am guilty of always bringing books with me when I travel. As Huxley points out, I am not alone in this regard.

All tourists cherish an illusion, of which no amount of experience can ever completely cure them; they imagine that they will find time, in the course of their travels, to do a lot of reading. They see themselves, at the end of a day’s sightseeing or motoring, or while they are sitting in the train, studiously turning over the pages of all the vast and serious works which, at ordinary seasons, they never find time to read.

(p. 70)

I am reminded of my travels in the Lake District of England, carrying around my volumes of works by the English Romantic writers. I did read some, but mostly it was one or two poems in the evening before falling into sleep from exhaustion. I now choose my books strategically, something that is not too heavy, and which will likely get me through most if not all of the journey. The truth is, most places have interesting local bookstores, and it is really hard for me to visit a place like Paris and not schedule a trip to the Shakespeare & Company Bookstore. I can always buy another book if needed. And for those of use who have eReaders, there is always a veritable library at the fingertips.

Overall, I liked this book. Huxley provides some great descriptions of various places he visited, as well as some in-depth analyses of artwork and architecture native to the locations. Granted, much of what is included in these essays is outdated, but I still found the book interesting.


Filed under Non-fiction

17 responses to “Thoughts on “Along the Road” by Aldous Huxley

  1. Geez Jeff I read a Huxley book back in high school. I can’t remember what it was but I will get back to you on it…lol
    Your right though why travel if you’re going to stay grounded in a hotel room.

  2. I have never read that one, though he is one of my favourite writers. Or rather was when I was much younger. Certainly, a reduction in overtourism was a positive development of the pandemic. Some people got their countries back, even if for a little while.
    Take care, Jeff

    • Hi Monika. Hope you are well. Yes, Huxley was one of my favorite writers also. “Perennial Philosophy” and “Island” both had huge impacts on me when I was younger, as of course some of his other more well-known books.

      Regarding overtourism, yeah, I know it is a problem in some places. When we toured Spain, there was a strong anti-tourist sentiment in Barcelona. I try to be respectful when I travel, as I do when I hike. Leave only footprints and take only pictures.

      Hope you have a wonderful weekend.


  3. Hi Jeff – you selected some interesting snippets. Huxley points out something that is still true today – the feeling of superiority of having traveled to a lot of places. I have to smile at that. I used to travel a lot, for work and vacations, but honestly, I didn’t like it much! I also think having four boys made me a home body – the thought of traveling with them made us sweat!

    • Ha! We conditioned our girls to be good travelers. The only thing I don’t like about travel is dealing with the airlines. I have to say, taking trains in Europe is faster and easier, and cheaper. It was like $75 to take the train from London to Paris and was about 2 hrs travel time.

  4. I haven’t read Huxley’s travel work. Like most people I have read Brave New World. I agree with the yours and Huxley’s view that a lot of people travel in order to boast about where they have been. Regarding books I have only taken one book on any trip and I have left them behind or given them to a resident of the country or in several cases to hotel staff. I’m now wondering if that is patronising. However, the look of joy on the recipients face seems to indicate that this hasn’t been the case. Have I boasted about my travel destinations? I don’t think so. I am guilty of waxing lyrical about some destinations including Ghana, Nigeria and New Orleans, especially NOLA. Huxley’s thoughts on travel appear to be relevant today. His travel notes are on my to read list.

    • Hi DQ. I do not think that the giving of a book is patronising in any way. It is thoughtful. I have never been anywhere in Africa, but I hope to some day. I have been to NOLA and loved it. Went with my wife and daughter and we attended Jazz Fest while there, which was quite an experience for a musician like myself. Now I’m waxing lyrical – lol. Thanks for the comment. Cheers.

  5. Sorry about the typos, I’m on a train approaching my destination in Scotland having travelled up from the Kent coast.

    • No worries! I once took a train from Liverpool to Edinburgh. It was lovely. I wish we had a good train system here in the US. Safe travels.

      • I travelled from New York, Penn Station to NOLA via Amtrack. It was part of my bucket list trip. I booked a cabin. The journey took 30 hours – 3 hours longer than it should have as a freight train broke down. The journey was an enjoyable experience as I met Black and White people with whom I had interesting conversations. The Black women loved it when I told them I was doing the AmTrack first class because I could. As you know even 50 years ago that would not have been possible. I kept a journal about my time in New York and Nola.

      • Wow! That must have been an amazing trip. I took a train from Penn to Toronto, and that was cool. Not nearly as long. Sadly, Amtrak has fallen into disrepair. Here in the States we have not invested in infrastructure. And considering the current political dysfunction I do not envision anything constructive getting accomplished soon.

        I love that you have kept a journal. I too am an avid journalist and have on shelf dedicated to my journals. Not sure my children will read them after I’m gone, but they will be there if they are inclined. 😀