new york bound and travel melancholia

There’s an empty, weightless feeling to travelling. It’s a certain kind of melancholia that kicks in when you walk onto a plane. Is it the lack of certainty? The fear of insignificance? (Here you are, about to enter the conceptual vacum that is international time zones where you have no anchor, no grounding.)

Image by Ben Frost
Image by Ben Frost

Why do we do it? Why do I do it? Travel triggers all my Stuff. My anxiety around smells and sounds and the general too-closeness of humanity. It leaves me feeling lonely and anxious that I don’t have close loved ones (husband, kids) who know where I am, who look up at the sky when planes fly over and think about where in the world I might be. Who bear witness to my existence by proxy.

But I travel, I think, precisely to plunge into this particular kind of melancholy. These kind of experiences are rare ones, where we are drawn way, way, way back from our Usual Life and we have to gaze onto it and question it.

I’m in the lounge at LA airport, en route to New York. I’m heading to New York for two reasons:

1. I have an agent convinced she can sell I Quit Sugar to the Americans. I’m meeting with publishers across Manhattan and doing some press interviews.

2. I’m in lockdown in hotels to write my second I Quit Sugar print book, due out in March.

I’ll also be eating and exploring a little. Please do share any great slow food/ethical eating ideas you know in NYC below!

I’m grateful right now. I was given a First Class ticket as a thank you gift. Long story. So I’m poshing it up right now. My mate Bill told me I couldn’t take my backpack now that I was poshing it up. It had to be a suitcase. I am travelling,

however, with my Byron Bay Farmer’s Market satchel as a handbag. And I’ve been arguing with Qantas staff to stop festooning me with paper napkins every time I get a glass of water (I’ve also been begging for no bottles). I know this is weird: I wound up sleeping in Business Class last night. For some reason it felt more comfortable. I’m like our kelpie we had as kids who couldn’t cope being inside the house on the rare occasion we let her in (when it was snowing). She’d stand by the door waiting to be let out again. Jo and Bill, laugh all you like!

On the plane I finished reading Michael Pollan’s Cooked. One of the final chapters looks at cheese. Pollan asks why we are so attracted to something that also disgusts us. Cheese essentially, he says, mimicks our personal decay (washed rind…smelly toe cheese?). We gravitate to the decay that is cheese because we like to be exposed to the feeling that we can overcome our own rotting process, aka death. “A little preview of putrefaction on a cheese plate can, like a horror movie, give us the little frisson of pleasure that comes from rehearsing precisely what we fear most,” he writes.

Ditto travel melancholia. It exposes us to what we fear (second?) most: lack of relevance. Travel plunges us headlong into it and we cope somehow. In fact, we thrive. We open up and we meet new people and we see everything as it is. We are rendered choiceless and in this we find strength. We find our relevance in the irrelevance. Or we find that it’s irrelevant to be relevant. There’s nothing like walking through LA airport, passing throngs of people caught up in their own sense of self importance and finding it WEIRD and surreal (I like to listen to dreamy music while I do it; this morning it was James Blake) to get au fait with your own lack of importance.

I’m scared this trip. I’m not sure why. I think it’s the opening it’s about to afford me. This is all.

Got any great food tips for NYC? I’ll be assembling a bit of a guide…


Share this post