My relationship to travel is eccentric: I try very hard to leave at least half of me at home. You see, I spend quite protracted periods of time with my writer-self, and although we get along pretty well, I tend to see going abroad as an excellent opportunity to get some space from him for a few days. This is in some ways ironic, since writer-self tends to view my being at home as the perfect opportunity to explore foreign climes.
Much as he makes for a comparatively amiable flatmate and colleague, writer-self is not the most agreeable of travel companions. He’s too ruthless; too cold-eyed. To writer-self, a thing is beautiful only to the exact extent that it can be beautifully incorporated into what he’s writing. And that’s if he’s even made it out of the house in the first place. He’s quite the stay-at-home type. Give him a laptop and a ready supply of caffeine and he’s largely content.
Like any long-term relationship, my marriage to writer-self depends on each of us giving the other the right amount of space. Travel provides the perfect opportunity. I get to wander the world writer-self sometimes threatens to keep me from entirely, while writer-self gets to take a break from writing. Reconciled after a trip away, me and writer-self often seem to communicate with renewed fondness, as if after spending time apart we are once again, albeit briefly, able to share the same experiences, even think the same thoughts. There often follows a productive period, with both of us attacking whatever project we need to finish with a new collaborative vigour. At some stage, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, we will begin to drive each other slightly insane again and so a tactical separation will be required. Writer-self is, after all, rather bossy, and I’m rather lazy, so a degree of tension is essentially unavoidable.
At the Crossing Border festival, both selves will be travelling together, but they will be doing different things. I’m looking forward to seeing Antwerp and The Hague for the first time, and to catching as much music as my schedule allows. Writer-self, meanwhile, will be called upon to meet other writers and translators, and to write a daily column about his impressions. One way or another, a personal border is going to have to be, if not completely crossed, then at least carefully negotiated. Perhaps separate hotel rooms will be in order. Perhaps one of us will take the opportunity to rise slightly earlier for breakfast and thus snatch some precious time away from the other. Given that it remains unclear which of us will be in charge, one assumes a degree of bickering will ensue.
Or will it? Even the most rigid of borders can prove surprisingly porous in the right circumstances, and perhaps Crossing Border is already providing precisely the encouragement both Sams require in order to spend time in each other’s company. After all, writer-self, excitedly distracted by packing as he is, has already allowed me to write this, and I, for my part, have managed to complete it without his constant harrying.
We will have to be careful. If this carries on it will become difficult to tell us apart. People will start to think we’re the same person.
And neither of us want that.