The saudade safari

Greetings from LAX. I have just been checked in for my flight to Europe — a feat that required furnishing:

  • my CDC vaccination card

  • proof of a just-done antigen test (nose-tickling, eye-watering [and not just cos it costs $80], but most importantly, negative)

  • two passenger location forms (for Switzerland and the UK)

  • a booking for a PCR test in London for two days’ time

Intercontinental travel, as you may have gathered, is a tad more complicated these days (and with tests galore, even more expensive). But, my oh my, how exhilarating it is to be in an international departure terminal — for the first time in two years.

This trip — to visit friends in Europe — comes at a good time. Much as I relish living in on Northern California rugged coast, I’ve been missing Southern Africa a lot lately. Europe isn’t Southern Africa — of course — but I’d argue that, when it comes to saudade, travel is a powerful emollient.

Yes, saudade. Because “homesickness” doesn’t seem quite the right term to describe the yearning for a place indelibly still part of you — despite you no longer living there. Voicenotes, Skype, rooibos and mint South Africa tempers this to a degree, but there are plenty of things about the region that need to be experienced in person. A non-exhaustive list of things I’m particularly pining after:

Speaking of trees, the BBC recently published a meaty feature of mine exploring the links between deforestation, supply chains and finance. This was a multi-month project, involving many research rabbit-holes, multiple drafts, vetting from the BBC’s lawyers, and a dizzying number of rights of reply.

I’m pretty stoked with the result (if I may be so immodest). Give it a read, then check out DeforestationFreeFunds to see whether your investments might be exposed to deforestation risk.

Having recently finished reading Susan Sontag’s On Photography and Regarding the Suffering of Others I’ll never look at images, photography or photojournalism in quite the same blasé way ever again.

I’ve also enjoyed Virginia Woolf’s deliciously subversive and witty Orlando and am now re-reading her Mrs Dalloway, which feels even more magical the second time around.

  • What have you been reading, listening or watching lately?

I better go: it’s time to board. Replies are always welcome — and appreciated — so do drop me a line with tales of trees, what your flavour of saudade is, pandemic travel stories, or just a simple “hello”.