Tim Rogers: how I travel

Author: Interview by Helen Anderson
Photography: Luke Henery

Just back from: New York. And Cairns. On the way home I lost two pairs of reading glasses and The Collected Short Stories by Lorrie Moore. I hope someone's enjoying them.

Next up: Geelong, Bendigo, Parramatta and then driving to Brisbane, fishing along the way, seeking snapper and transcendence. Then Buenos Aires in January to tango.

My life has been full of detours. As a kid I liked to get lost. I found solace in the challenge of finding a way home. Maybe because I'm a nervy traveller, I decided somewhere along the line I'll treat all future travel as an exercise in lost and found

My dad travelled a lot. He'd thrill us with tales of who he'd seen at airport lounges. His storytelling style was without theatrical touches. As we tucked into chops and two veg he'd ask: "You guys heard of a band called… U2?" And then share an anecdote featuring "some bloke called… Bonox?"

I try to travel light. I don't need an outfit for every occasion, but I take a notepad, a novel and a hip flask. I don't get bored easily, but I don't like to test it. I don't carry a music player. Or medicinal handwash, which preys on the occasionally obsessive. And I'm a handwasher from way back.

Before trips I ask the guys from the band to send me compilations. That's the gift we keep giving each other. And I take demos of songs I'm working on. In the absence of being able to go for a walk, godammit, I'll scribble notes and lyrics on a long flight - I've finished at least 14 records that way. And I make lists all the time of how I'm going to change my life when I land. 

I don't listen to anything through mid-air turbulence. At that moment I need to respect God as the great prankster she is.

An upgrade is as close to being beatified as I can imagine. I dress up for flights - there was that upgrade in Dublin when I turned up in a powder-blue three-piece suit and tie. But I suspect it happens only through luck and outrageous charm.

I spend a lot of time driving and listening to the radio. Local ABC because I like to listen to conversation. In great swathes of time I listen to country music - if it's done well it can make you feel like you're sitting beside the singer or songwriter. Rather than having sentient company on a road trip I'd prefer to have a ghost beside me.

A level of organisation means you can settle in quickly, find a bar and listen to stories. I don't like to rely on the kindness of strangers; I like to be delighted by it.

I've always travelled with vintage luggage. You're always asked about it, and there's always someone else's story in which you're the latest walk-on part. When my suitcase fell apart at JFK it was taken to a room and searched. The staff made note of the number of silk scarves I'd packed.

My suitcase is perennially half-packed on the bedroom floor. A life in perpetual motion can be measured by a bagful of beer coasters with scribbles on them - I drink and I write. And I'd like to think the result is empathy. You never know what someone is going through.

Tim Rogers' memoir, Detours (Fourth Estate, hbk, $35), is on sale now.







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