Travel News

Simone Young: how I travel

The international conductor on a life of long-haul, broken sleep and perpetual motion.

By Helen Anderson
Conductor Simone Young
Just back from… Lausanne, where I'm principal guest conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne.
Next up… I'm making my début with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
I have two homes. One in Sydney, where I was born and grew up and where my mum lives. And the other in the south of England, where my husband, Greg, and my daughters and two granddaughters live. When I'm working in Europe I can often just fly home for 24 or 48 hours, but I've been working a lot in the US and so far this year, as well as the usual European travel, I've had lots of long-haul: Sydney to UK return twice, UK to LA return, and New York and San Francisco, and now I'm in Detroit. This is a bit extreme.
Greg and I love travelling; we're complete gypsies. This year's been unusual – I had a few weeks off because a project was cancelled. We took an overnight train to Scotland to visit friends. I went to Saint Petersburg to study some Russian. We don't really let the grass grow under our feet.
Visiting Uluru was quite extraordinary and transformative. I conducted the national anthem at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics, but I'm not good around crowds and I escaped with my best friend to Uluru. I was overwhelmed and humbled by it, and appalled that I was nearly 40 and I was visiting this extraordinary place for the first time. There is something very defining about that place.
I have an extremely low boredom threshold so my hand luggage is always packed with stuff to do on the trip. The longer the trip, the more books I have and scores to study. And I've taken up knitting in the past few years. I always have eye masks and I've got these fantastic little Bose in-ear headphones I can sleep with. I'm afraid I don't follow the usual good advice about no alcohol on long-haul flights. I tend to think a double whiskey is a great way to start a 24-hour flight.
I've pretty much mastered the art of living in a suitcase. I often do two-hour turnarounds, where I've come in from a month in Vienna and Berlin and I've got two hours to pack for two months in Australia before the car comes to take me to Heathrow. I've become extremely minimalist. Gone are the days of packing 10 pairs of shoes. Everything's black and navy, it all matches.
Being able to sleep is a recurring theme. I love a hotel with double doors, so it's absolutely silent. That's quite fantastic. I have to be able to sleep and I sleep at weird times – if I've got rehearsals in the morning and a concert at night I need to be able to sleep between 3 and 4 in the afternoon.
I am absolutely permanently jetlagged. I sleep in three-hour instalments. I'm actually firing on all cylinders this morning because I slept five and a half hours last night. That's unheard of. If I get six hours' sleep I'm ready to climb Everest.
Sydney is the one place in the world where as the plane comes in to land and I look out the window I start smiling. I know a big part is because it's home, but there's also the recollection, after I returned from my first European trip, of what an extraordinarily, spectacularly beautiful place it is. And there's always a terrific sense of being at home when I'm conducting the SSO in the Concert Hall.
Simone Young conducts the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's performance of Schubert and Liszt (22-24 August) and Mahler's Klagende Lied (4-7 December) as part of the Simone Young's Visions of Vienna series.
  • undefined: Helen Anderson