Polly Vernon on Travel: Part 2
August 11, 2014
The final part of Polly's blog about her love-hate relationship with travelling for work. If you missed part 1, click here to read it
Alternatively, I travel as part of a press trip, in the company of a bunch of people I’ve never met before, who’ve never met me before. I’ll find myself temporarily thrown into the shambolic circus of touring rock bands who have come to hate each other over the proceeding months (during which, of course, they’ve been travelling for work too), and so I end up being dispatched as an unofficial envoi by their entourage, sent to broker peace between front men and bass players, backup singers and drummers. Or I get embedded deep into the ranks of an itinerant group of hacks who somehow manage to divide themselves into warring factions, conducting escalating aggressions from conjoining suites of the Hotel Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro*. (*This is not a fanciful example. This happened.)
When you travel with a group of unknowns, you spend your entire time wondering how they perceive you, whether they like you, and by extension, who you are and if you’re likable. Your own notion of self flickers and warps and re-establishes itself under the gaze of these strangers. It shouldn’t, of course. Someone completely brilliant once said ‘We would worry less what others think of us, if we realized how seldom they do’. But I forget to be profoundly reassured by this quote, whenever I travel for work.
And sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s ridiculous, and sometimes you forge an amazing friendship with a columnist from the Telegraph newspaper who’s determined not to let you get away with not playing cards with her in Virgin Premium Economy at 30,000 feet (as the two of you fly to Los Angeles to interview Justin Timberlake); and even though you keep telling her you just really want to sleep, she will not give up… And 10 years later, you’re very glad, because you’re still friends.
But it is also weird.
It’s weird because your sense of who you are gets tossed about like flotsam; it shimmers and dissipates like dusk. And it’s weird because it can get profoundly lonely. Lonely when you’re travelling on your own. Lonely when you’re travelling with people you don’t know.
Loneliness is the thing I’m most afraid of. Being disregarded, excluded, left out, ignored. Isolated, avoided, rejected, rebuffed. Having no one around to help me out when the desperate, dark thoughts crash my brain like thuggish, uninvited party guests.
Loneliness is the thing I’ve constructed much of my life to defend against. It’s the reason I compulsively collect friends, overpromise myself socially, oversubscribe myself professionally, send so many bloody text messages. Loneliness-evasion is my central MO.
Well: it ITALwas. Less so now. Much less. Because it turns out that, of all the different ways meditation helps, its capacity to diffuse loneliness – to make being alone a lot sweeter and a lot less threatening; to greet the thuggish uninvited dark-thought party guests at the door, with some Twiglets and a glass of fizz and the suggestion they lighten up a little before proceeding any further– has got to be one of the most useful.
If you're planning a trip away, make sure you are following the #MindfulTraveller. All summer long he’ll be undergoing the trials and tribulations of travel, while doing his very best to stay mindful. Catch him over on our Facebook and Twitter pages, along with recommendations from Andy, podcasts and guest blog posts.