Scents & Smells by Jade Jackman

Travel By... Scents & Smell

@jadeshamraeff

Jade: "Smell, or our olfactory receptors, is one of our most powerful senses. It occupies the space between experience and imagination bringing about evocations without needing to move at all."

Before Covid-19, I had begun to wonder how sustainable our lifestyle was. As a filmmaker, who has family across the globe and the privilege of a British passport, I have been lucky enough to travel extensively for work and pleasure. In my childhood, I would stare out the rear window for the entire journey back to the airport. Fat tears would roll down my face as I promised myself that if I could count each frangipani tree, I’d see my grandparents again. Growing older, there’d be dreams of bottling up the midnight blue of a sky sunken with heat and the suspense of a tropical storm. Or the bizarre desire to have my nose broken by the smell of durian in the subdued English countryside. For so long, I’d understood this as a drive to see more, to experience more or to document more. And, for a couple of days, I felt a bit lost sitting in the same room. It felt like nothing was moving. But, then, I smelt my hair…

For many of us, smell is one of our most latent senses. Despite its constant presence, mine had been somewhat sidelined, as I experimented with colour, imagery and sound in pursuit of my storytelling. But, in this moment, that commands us to do things differently, my nose decided to wake up with me. The previous night, I had sprayed a scent by niche perfumer, Maya Njie, as I encircled around my room dancing to the comforting tunes of The Blaze. Waking up, I caught a hint of pineapple hanging in my hair. Previously, I had not encountered the fragrance and began to wonder what else I’d been missing.

Maya Njie, Perfumer
Maya Njie, Perfumer

While it is no secret that smell is one of the joys of travel, the scents mingling with my sweat moved me to memories of dancing on the beach or watching the sun break through the thickest of palm leaves. Smell, or our olfactory receptors, is one of our most powerful senses. It occupies the space between experience and imagination bringing about evocations without needing to move at all. When coming to process smell, our words can fail us. According to the work of academic Asifa Majid, it is partially due to British society’s belief that we are visual creatures. Whilst researching with the Jahai community in the Malay Peninsula, she learnt their language for smells is as vibrant and diverse as ours is for sight or colour.

Jahai men, Malay Peninsula

In reality, smell already orders your day; you might feel energised by the bitter tang of coffee in the morning or, like me, be lulled to sleep by Lavender. While you cannot invite new people into your home or be enticed by aromas of a foreign spice, you can explore the sensuality of smell. So, instead, we’re bringing you some suggestions on how to travel with your nose. Through conversations with members of the Trippin’ community and artisans, we bring you some suggestions on how you can journey and create new experiences with just a spray and spritz.

Look out for the first of our series of interviews, premiering this Friday.

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