Home / TRAVEL / How I Travel: Why Ann Patchett Is Her “Best Spiritual Self in an Airport” – Condé Nast Traveler

How I Travel: Why Ann Patchett Is Her “Best Spiritual Self in an Airport” – Condé Nast Traveler

Ann Patchett’s gift is the ability to construct tiny universes. Her eight novels, including the 2016 bestseller Commonwealth, tend to focus on families or groups raveling and unraveling over decades. Her latest, The Dutch House, out this week, follows two siblings on the long road of their lives as they grapple with dark moments from childhood and obsess over the home in the title.

Patchett’s own corner of the universe is Nashville, where she also operates indie bookstore Parnassus Books, though she and her husband make frequent getaways to nearby states on his boat and plane. As she gears up for a long book tour, she shared some of her travel tips with Traveler—and why she says she’s her “best spiritual self in an airport.”

What she does before every trip:
“My sister and I talk about this a lot, but we’re of that genetic makeup that says if you’re going on a trip, your kitchen drawers must be clean first. Under your sink, all the closets. I woke up in the middle of the night last night and thought, If I don’t order the Halloween candy right now, I’m not going to get the good Halloween candy. It’s really insanity. But my refrigerator is clean, my oven is clean. So my whole preparation for travel—packing—it doesn’t matter. I am a fast, light, and good packer. But the thing that really slows me up is that my home, and my papers, and everything must be left in perfect order. Because if I die, I don’t want to leave a mess. It’s like taking that thing of ‘Wear clean underwear in case you get hit by a car,’ to a factor of 110.”

Her airport routine:
“I have never in my life missed a flight for being late, and yet I am not even vaguely neurotic. I know my airport. I know how long it takes me to get there. So I am always at the gate comfortably half an hour before we board. I am my best spiritual self in an airport. I so wish that the person I was in an airport would be the person I was all the time. Because I just realize that I have no control. Of course, I never have any control. But in an airport, I completely understand that. So if somebody tells me my flight’s two hours late or canceled, I am so at peace.”

How she passes her time while traveling:
“Reading. I am not inclined toward motion sickness, which is such an important gift. So I can read just about anywhere. And the nice thing is, when you read books on paper, you don’t ever have to take glare into account, and no one ever tells you to close your book down.”

How she sleeps on planes:
“You could show me a picture of a plane, and I would fall asleep. It’s not good, though. It’s not a good thing. Because I wake up very crumpled. My neck, my back, everything will really hurt because I fall asleep. If I don’t fall asleep, I’m completely fine. And I try not to fall asleep, because I love to read on planes. That’s such sacred reading time, where nobody can bother you. God help the person next to me who tries to talk to me when I’m reading a book.”

How she dresses for the plane:
“I would not go in leggings or shorts. I am someone who is always properly covered. I went to Catholic school.”

The best vacation she ever took:
“Two and a half years ago, we took my husband’s daughter, her husband, and their two kids on a Disney cruise. I have such Disney phobia, such theme park phobia, but I was like, ‘I’m going to be brave. I’m going to do it. I’m going to take one for the team.’ It was fantastic. I always have believed that the secret to happiness is low expectations. My expectations were rock bottom. I thought I was going into an insane asylum for five days. It was so spectacular, and fun, and well done. So there you go!”

Her favorite hotel amenity:
“I really love a good hotel gym. Because although I can be spotty about exercising at home, I am relentless about it when I’m on tour. And the other thing that I’m just seeing cropping up in hotels in the last couple of years that thrills me is a tube of Marvis toothpaste. It’s so cute, and great toothpaste. And I would never just buy Marvis toothpaste. So yeah, that kind of makes me want to hop up and down and clap my hands.”

The destination she could travel to a million times:
“I would never get sick of Rome. The first time we ever went to Rome—and I’ve only been twice—I said to my husband, ‘We don’t ever have to go any place else ever again. We’ll just do this over and over forever.’ I would probably never get sick of the entire country of Italy. There’s what I think of as the sexy restful vacation, like if we’re going to Jamaica, and Italy has that, this sexy, restful, gorgeous Amalfi coast element. You could just think vacation and let your mind go. Or you could take the academic, historical, art history vacation. Or you could take the food vacation. Lots of places have all of those elements. But I feel like in Italy, every single part of it is so strong.”

The American city she thinks is underrated:
“I was blown away by Indianapolis. I love going to public libraries; they have one of the best public libraries in the country. Boy, that library is so gorgeous. And check this to see if it’s true, but I was told, and I certainly believe it, that they have more monuments than any other American city except for Washington D.C. [Editor’s note: Indianapolis has more monuments honoring veterans than any other city; only DC has more monuments dedicated to military conflicts.] It’s crazy. And I was just going in to give a talk, and I drove, and I just thought, Oh my God, where am I, Paris? Really. I was so surprised.”

Where she wants to go next:
“It’s home. That’s it. I’m getting ready to go on a 27-city book tour. Do I want to go someplace? No, I do not.”

The secret reason people come to her second home, her bookstore:
“They will find shop dogs—we have fabulous dogs who work at Parnassus Books, many of them, like my dog Sparky. But the best is my sister Heather has just started working at the bookstore, and she has a congenitally deaf Border Collie named Marlee Matlin who chases shadows. And basically now people are just coming to the store to see Marlee.”

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How I Travel: Why Ann Patchett Is Her “Best Spiritual Self in an Airport” – Condé Nast Traveler

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