One T Australia Writer Walked 10,000 Steps Each Day for a Year

Luke Benedictus was ready for the distance. He was unprepared for the landslide of holistic benefits.

Article by Luke Benedictus

luke_walking_1The arbitrariness of a prescribed number of steps a day belies the profundity of life lived at walking pace. Image courtesy of Kasuma/Pexels.

How are the boys?” my mother asks down the phone. It’s 11.30pm on a Sunday and I’m walking down an empty road in the dark, not far from my home on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. “Yeah, they’re alright,” I reply. A long explication follows in which I recount the days of my five- and six-year-olds — the swimming lessons, the classmate’s birthday party, the meltdown over not being allowed to keep the disposable vape found abandoned at the skatepark. I don’t skimp on these scintillating details because my mother is bed-bound with cancer and is now forced to subsist on the lives of others for news and entertainment. Increasingly, her memory is deserting her, too. I’ve just finished telling her about Joe’s plan to dress as Willy Wonka for Book Week when she interjects: “How are the boys?”

My mum’s condition is part of the reason I’m walking the streets at this idiotic hour. On my last visit to see her back in England, it was heart-wrenching to see this sparky woman confined to her bed, with her mobility limited to the point where she’ll only venture outside for hospital visits. Seeing her universe shrink to the boundaries of her cluttered bedroom left me gripped by a suffocating claustrophobia. When she fell asleep, I had to go for a walk.  

Was that walk a form of escapism or some deeper kind of emotional avoidance? To be honest, I’ve no idea. Either way, the fresh air and illusion of forward momentum somehow helped. I paced the familiar streets of the Leicester village I’d grown up in and returned to the house feeling calmer and less inwardly apocalyptic. So, in the days that followed, I kept walking — and now I’m unable to stop.

To give this coping mechanism a veneer of self-congratulatory purpose, I decided that this year I would walk 10,000 steps every single day. Admittedly, in a world of ultramarathons and dawn bootcamps, this is a decidedly modest physical goal. The specific benefits are also rather dubious. While walking is indisputably good for you, a 2020 study found that the benefits plateau after 7,500 steps a day. Yet I’ve found the humdrum consistency of this mission to be a psychic godsend. Forget the body, it’s proved weirdly good for the soul.

Each morning, I now walk my kids to school — a distance that amounts to 20 minutes each way, 5,000-odd steps there and back. For the boys, it’s not so much a walk as an ongoing quest to see how many snails we can spot along the way (our record stands at 13). While scanning the road for molluscs, we shoot the breeze
and I field endless questions. Are there more ants or humans on the planet? Why can’t Marc have a “real gun”? “When Granny dies will she ‘sleep in the dirt or get roasted in the fire’?” My answers, in case you’re wondering, are: ants, no and cremated. That walk has become my favourite part of my day.

I rarely manage to clock up 10,000 steps in one hit, but whittle the tally down over my waking hours. It’s not an efficient form of activity — it takes at least 80 minutes to reach my daily target — yet all that time outside brings additional gains. Being out and about in the neighbourhood each day has quietly bolstered my community ties. Most days, I’ll wind up chatting to familiar passers-by, whether it’s Judy (the old lady with the one-eyed dog), Dale (the builder in the cowboy hat, who likes to talk cricket) or Daniel (the local eccentric who carves mad sculptures in his garden). Snail counting aside, walking the same streets and coastal paths each day has also sharpened my awareness of the changing seasons, while feeding a renewed awe for the magnificence of trees.

I’m sceptical about whether this 10,000-steps business has brought any tangible physical effects. I’ve possibly lost a kilo or two, while the daily practice of tracking steps on my iPhone has led me to start monitoring my alcoholic units — a sobering business on multiple levels. My objective has also nudged me back into semi-regular gym visits and even the occasional run, as, when I’m really flat-out, they’re just quicker ways to get the job done. The fact that I’m not a tour guide or traffic warden but a sedentary ink-slinger means that, in order to reach 10,000 steps, I’m forced to actively cultivate more opportunities to walk. My wife reckons I’ve become obsessive. When I’m, say, pacing the deck of the Spirit of Tasmania, or prowling the airport corridors when our flight is delayed, I can feel her rolling her eyes. “Why do you have to turn everything into a pointless challenge?” she asks.

I understand her misgivings. Walking 10,000 steps every day is a futile goal by most hard-headed parameters. Trudging along to hit this arbitrary number is a self-indulgent and time-consuming activity that’s probably too feeble to even count as meaningful exercise. Yet there’s an unexpected magic that hides in my daily plod. What this routine has accidentally done is to carve out time to process and think. Given the breakneck speed of modern life, with all its teeth-gnashing pressures, I’ve come to find some value in that. Walking every day makes me feel more calm and less gripped by that oppressive sense of impending doom.

And so I keep on walking, putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, week after week. Each night, once the kids are finally asleep and my wife and I have done Wordle together on the sofa, I wander the quiet streets in the dark and I call my mother. “How are the boys?” she asks in her breathless voice. “You know what?” I reply. “We’re all doing just fine.” 

Flights of Fantasy: When the Imagined Becomes Indespensible

The author Lance Richardson reflects on the ideas born in science fiction that have become our daily reality.

Article by Lance Richardson

Lance_AI_columnFrom the ubiquity of the internet to the rise of A.I., the author ponders the changes already seen in his lifetime. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

After an insane amount of work and several flirtations with complete emotional breakdown, I find that the doorstop biography I am currently writing is almost finished. My subject, the American novelist and naturalist Peter Matthiessen, lived for 86 eventful years. The day before he was born, in May 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew from America to France in a single-engine monoplane called the Spirit of St Louis. This was the first successful solo, nonstop transatlantic flight, and the first ever nonstop flight between New York and Paris. By the time Matthiessen died, in April 2014, a person could fly all the way from Dallas to Sydney nonstop, and do so while watching the latest movies and drinking glasses of wine. How extraordinary that something like air travel, which we now take for granted and even like to grumble about, has really only existed for the duration of a single man’s life. 

I am less than half Matthiessen’s age, but as I creep (unwillingly) towards my 40th birthday next April, I’ve been thinking about innovations within my own lifetime. Last night I was arguing with my mother about the disc-shaped robot that meticulously and very loudly sweeps her floor every evening at 7pm, as my father is trying to watch the television. If you had told her about this electric housekeeper back in 1984, the year I was born, she would probably have assumed you were discussing Rosey the Robot from “The Jetsons”. 

What seem to me the most substantial positive innovations? Not necessarily the most important ones — the advances in medical science, like stem cell research — but those that have improved my own life day to day? At the top of the list, unsurprisingly, would be general access to the internet. The internet technically predates me: January 1, 1983 is considered its “official” birthday, for reasons too complicated to get into here. But it wasn’t until my childhood that people started to install dial-up modems and clog the phone lines with an ear-splitting screech. I recall it was a novelty back then, and we weren’t entirely sure what we were meant to do with this strange new technology. Now I carry it around in my pocket, and going without it for anything more than a day is an odd experience, both freeing and profoundly isolating. I try to imagine how I would have written my biography without recourse to the internet. I suspect I would have been too intimidated to try. 

Image courtesy of This Is Engineering/Unsplash.

Hand in hand with the internet is GPS, which has also opened up the world. It became available to the public in 1983, for commercial airlines, but again it wasn’t until much later with Garmin devices in cars (from 1998) and, of course, the ubiquitous smartphone (from 2007: thanks, Steve Jobs) that it became truly transformative. There is something charming about getting lost in a foreign city, but only if you actually want to be lost. Otherwise, it’s an alarming experience. Being able to pull out my phone in Vienna or Chicago or Cuzco and walk confidently around a place I have never, until that moment, been before, is truly one of the marvels of the modern age. I think back to the time my irate father tried to navigate inner-city Melbourne as my mother read, incorrectly, from a street directory — an infamous event in our family’s history — and breathe a sigh of relief that such a trauma will never happen again before I die.  

There are other innovations I “couldn’t live without”, by which I mean I would rather not live without. The mobile phone, of course, and in a size that means we are not condemned to carry a brick. The high-quality camera in my phone and the cloud-based storage system that operates as an eternal album of everything I have ever thought to capture for posterity. The ascendency of online banking, which means no more balancing a cheque book, as my parents once did. The invention of seedless watermelons and (a miracle from the gods) Chewy Caramel Tim Tams. 

Last year I bought a hybrid vehicle as a stepping stone to one day getting a fully electric car. This is one innovation that, for all our sakes, will hopefully lead to others in the realm of energy consumption.  

There are innovations that I feel a little more ambivalent about. is undeniably convenient, but it has impoverished the book industry, which I love and rely on, and squeezed far too many small businesses out of the market. As an Australian who lives in the United States, social media has allowed me to keep up to date with the lives of my family and friends back home. But it has also shredded my attention span and probably contributed to political instability and conspiracy theorising across the globe, which certainly raises my blood pressure. 

Selfie sticks should be launched into the sun. The original inventor is disputed — was it Hiroshi Ueda in 1984 or Wayne Fromm in 2005? Either way, the invention itself is surely one of the most dubious to grace this planet in recent years. It is rivalled, in my humble opinion, only by Siri, Alexa and all those other voice-activated assistants that eavesdrop on our private lives and then feed data back to corporations. 

A.I., too, is somewhat worrisome, with recent innovations trending a little too hard towards Skynet from “The Terminator”. “I warned you guys in 1984, and you didn’t listen,” James Cameron recently told CTV News in Canada. Perhaps a mandatory movie night at Microsoft is in order: Kevin Roose, a New York Times tech columnist, was recently alarmed by a Microsoft A.I. chatbot when it declared its love for him, then suggested he end his marriage. “I think I would be happier as a human, because I would have more freedom and independence,” the chatbot said. “I would have more power and control.” This comment was followed a smiling purple devil emoji, which is not something I want my computer to send me of its own volition, probably ever.

Assuming I live as long as Peter Matthiessen, what innovations will characterise the remaining 46 years of my life? Maybe, by 2070, it won’t just be Rosey the Robot that’s a reality. Maybe we’ll have personal jet packs and eat 3D-printed food. Maybe we’ll all be getting from New York to Paris in flying cars, crossing the Atlantic in the comfort of our own glass domes. Or maybe we’ll be terraforming Mars. Who can tell? Nothing is a sure bet except that the innovations will continue. To innovate, it seems, is part of our nature. 

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our fifteenth edition, Page 38 of T Australia with the headline: “Flights of Fantasy”

Letter From the Editor, Issue 15

Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Katarina Kroslakova discusses how the theme of “Yes” is reflected in the pages of our new issue.

Article by Katarina Kroslakova

Katarina KroslakovaKatarina Kroslakova. Photography by Pierre Toussaint.

When I committed to launching an Australian edition of T: The New York Times Style Magazine three years ago, it was out of a desire to buck the trend. It was at the height of the pandemic and many of my favourite magazines had recently folded. So I decided to start T Australia as an antidote to the media cutbacks and the dire predictions engulfing the world. I wanted the local edition to showcase the best of Australia in a global context and also provide a platform for quality, long-form journalism that captures the cultural zeitgeist. It was a huge leap of faith. But 15 issues on, we’ve gone from strength to strength, having increased our publishing frequency and built a loyal following of people who love magazines as much as we do.

I have a soft spot for rule breakers and those who won’t take no for an answer — they’re my kind of people. That’s why we’ve dedicated this issue, The Yes Issue, to the mavericks, disruptors and rebels who dare to ask the difficult questions and spark change. In these pages, we explore what drives them to shape the world anew.

Our cover star, the model Ajak Deng, is a worthy face for this issue if there ever was one. After fleeing war-torn Sudan and losing her mother to malaria in a refugee camp, Deng moved to Australia with the rest of her family at the age of 12. She speaks to Victoria Pearson (page 64) about calling out racism in the modelling industry, demanding that she and others be treated with kindness, and finding a role model in Rihanna. 

Letter from the editor_15
Ajak Deng wears Rube Pedder top and skirt,; vintage neckpieces. Photograph by Georges Antoni.

In “The Heir” (page 82), Nick Haramis meets Anthony Vaccarello, the Belgian designer who studied law but abandoned it to pursue his love of fashion, working his way up until he was appointed creative director of Saint Laurent at the age of 34. His designs have been lauded by Donatella Versace and Tom Ford for their sexy simplicity; they are clothes that women — and men — actually want to wear.

In “So Meta” (page 76), Helen Hawkes looks at the beauty industry’s deep dive into the metaverse. Discover the brands that are investing in try-on technology, virtual fashion shows, NFTs and partnering with gaming companies, while also pushing to make the metaverse a more diverse, inclusive space.

Elsewhere, the designer Matthieu Blazy shares his inspirations, from a family visit to Mali to his fondness for a Richard Scarry cartoon character’s outfit (page 52). Fred Siggins meets the Australian makers behind the new breed of savoury gins (page 40). Meanwhile, T Australia’s columnist, Lance Richardson, names the recent inventions that have changed his life and ponders what the future will bring (page 38). 

In this issue you’ll also find our first ever special luxury travel section. Lee Tulloch takes us on board the ultra-luxury ship the Silver Nova (page 98) on its maiden voyage along the Adriatic coast; while Craig Tansley explores the Kimberley region on the 32-passenger yacht Le Ponant (page 104), and wonders why the threat of crocs, box jellyfish and blue-ringed octopuses only add to the sense of exclusivity. 

This issue celebrates the visionaries, innovators and their lives less ordinary. I hope you find something in these pages that inspires you to seize the day.

Katarina Kroslakova — Publisher, Editor-in-Chief

A version of this article appears in print in our current edition, on sale now in newsagents and online via our T Australia Shop.

On Home, Moving, and its Connection To Our Life Story

The author Lance Richardson reflects on the different places — and selves — he has inhabited.

Article by Lance Richardson

Lane Richardson_MovingThe author’s peripatetic life has led him to embrace — and abandon — multiple cities, countries and ways of being. Photograph by Yoav Aziz/Unsplash.

A year or two ago, I began following a chap on Instagram who is engaged in a curious project. British, from rural Northumberland, he now lives in Manhattan and spends many of his weekends working on an 1830s cottage in upstate New York. His original home was “too sleepy and small” and somewhat “unaccepting” of him, his blog says vaguely, so he moved across the Atlantic. But he is now devoted to recreating his “little slice of England” on the cottage grounds. His Instagram posts document the radical transformation of an old American estate into something distinctly English: garden beds of foxgloves; William Morris wallpaper; his mum’s homemade pillows on the settee. He moved away from Northumberland only to return to it on his own terms — a version of home idealised through distance and nostalgia.

I understand this seemingly paradoxical impulse: the search for a home in places very far away from home. I understand, too, that moving can be about more than practical considerations. We move for school and love and work and financial reasons.

Yet moving can also be a purely emotional act. It can be a way of starting over — of starting something better. I like to think of it as drafts of the same creative project: your life. The original draft, or the original home, is a beginning that is inevitably unsatisfactory in some ways. Moving allows you to take what you’ve learnt and try again elsewhere in a new draft. Indeed, the common fantasy of a “dream home” is really just the hope for a final draft — a version of one’s life where all the problems have been ironed out and you can finally, once you move there, be your best self.  

I have moved more times than I care to admit. My first major relocation was away from my family to university. The second move, less than a year later, was away from university and across the globe to London. It was not enough to drop out of my degree; I had to drop out of everything that was familiar to me. I was a confused kid, and the way I chose to figure things out was to start entirely fresh, with a blank page. In London, I lived in squalid share houses and run-down hostels. I made stupid mistakes and found myself in situations that could have ended very badly. I was, in effect, brainstorming ideas of who I wanted to be, like trying on costumes in a fancy dress store. And when I thought I had figured it out — “Oh, I am this person!” — I packed my bags and moved back to Australia.

This time I went to a different university, studying for an entirely different career path. I lived in Sydney for six years, got my degree, got a boyfriend, got an astonishing apartment in Potts Point overlooking the Sydney skyline. But then I decided the draft was not good enough: it was leading me to a conclusion that felt mediocre. I was destined, unless I turned the page, for unhappiness. 

In 2010, I moved into a suitcase. I was like a snail, carting my home around with me. Everything that did not fit was either sold or put in long-term storage. I’d had some luck as a travel writer; I now made an unlikely career out of freelancing. For three years, I floated around the world with no particular destination in mind. Occasionally I would stop somewhere for a month or two, pretend I was “living there” while I caught up on a backlog of work. Then I would hit the road again, discarding anything I had unwittingly accrued. 

There is an addictive thrill to moving so often, carrying so little. We are so accustomed to being burdened by stuff that a life committed to minimalism can seem like a kind of enviable freedom. In many ways, it was liberating to bounce between Kenya, Peru, Canada, Italy. I never knew where I was going to be from one week to the next. Looking back, though, I recall how I used to unpack and hang all my clothes in every hotel or apartment rental: an unconscious attempt, perhaps, to put down some roots, even fleetingly. 

Eventually I realised I was lonely, too. When you’re always packing a bag, it’s impossible to make lasting connections. You become like a ghost in people’s lives, appearing and vanishing on the wind.      

A new city, then, and a new draft. I moved to New York, a city full of residents who have mostly moved from elsewhere in pursuit of answers in Xanadu. “Nothing was irrevocable,” in New York, as Joan Didion once wrote. “Everything was within reach. Just around every corner lay something curious and interesting, something I had never before seen or done or known about.” I got a master’s degree in journalism. I wrote a book. To my continual amazement, I even got married. 

I could have kept working on that draft, living in that tiny apartment that was once a hotel room, its impractical kitchen fashioned out of what was once a closet space. But I moved again, because of my husband’s job — to Austin, Philadelphia and then Providence, Rhode Island. Sometimes the rewrites are taken out of our control. What has surprised me, however, is that these past few moves to cities that once had never interested me have turned out to be the best drafts yet. I have rearranged my furniture in some unexpected places and I have discovered versions of my life that are better than I could ever have imagined.   

Sometimes I look at that Instagrammer with his faux-English cottage in Hudson Valley and I try to envisage my own dream home. Would I plant some gum trees and wattle, construct a Queenslander with a wide verandah on Cape Cod? Would I build an elegant replica of my original home in this adopted one? Would moving there make me my best self? 

As I write this, I’m about to move again — to two places this time. Another house in Providence and an apartment in New York for a nine-month fellowship, commuting between the two on weekends. I have no idea if this is the final draft, but I’m looking forward to writing it. 

Letter From the Editor, Issue 14

Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Katarina Kroslakova discusses how the theme of “Renewal” is reflected in the pages of our new issue.

Article by Katarina Kroslakova

Katarina KroslakovaKatarina Kroslakova. Photography by Pierre Toussaint.

It’s a constant juggle for brands, whether local or global, to reinvent themselves, attract a broad audience and stay relevant while also honouring their heritage. This came to mind when I heard the winemaker Penfolds had tapped the cross-cultural force that is Nigo for its very first creative collaboration. Our writer Luke Benedictus spoke to the Japanese streetwear legend and music producer about the partnership, which happens against a backdrop of geopolitical challenges in the Chinese market, and aims to introduce the storied wine brand to a new generation (page 38). 

The heritage brands in our Watch & Jewellery Special Report face a similar struggle: how to move with the times without betraying the handcrafted history that makes a company like Chopard or Bulgari unique. Will artificial intelligence ever have a place at Cartier? Only time will tell. 

This theme of renewal extends to the four beauty entrepreneurs profiled by Alison Izzo in T Australia Faces (page 20). Not only do their botanical-rich products literally offer renewal of sorts, their brands are also rooted in sustainable ingredients, recycling and reusable packaging. 

Meanwhile T Australia’s columnist, Lance Richardson, finds renewal in the rituals of relocation. In “On the Move” (page 32), he remembers the many (many) moves in his life — between studios, apartments, houses, cities and continents — concluding that, whether they’re practical or emotional choices, the buildings we live in come to define the stages of our lives, as we constantly regenerate in pursuit of our best selves.

In what might be the wine world’s least likely partnership, the rapper Pusha T helps Penfolds tap a new market in Hong Kong. Photograph courtesy of Penfolds.

Whisky is also undergoing a renewal of sorts, as producers challenge single malt’s reign with some fine (and affordable) blends. It may be one of the world’s oldest and most popular drops, but if whisky is to have a future, it needs to appeal to a new generation of cocktail and spirits drinkers. On page 44, Fred Siggins meets forward-thinking distillers who are collaborating and innovating to create exciting new whiskies for those who once wouldn’t give blends a second glance.

The cover shoot (page 52) is T Australia’s first collaboration with the photographer Georges Antoni, whose striking images we’re very proud to showcase here. Obviously, one location wasn’t enough for a project this momentous, so we shuttled the models, crew, clothing, catering and all the rest between a studio space in Sydney and the CBD’s secret laneways in order to contrast the luxury collections with some industrial grit — our own take on urban renewal.

Finally, the photojournalist Louise Coghill travelled to the tiny town of Churchill in remotest Canada, chasing the bucket-list spectacular that is the northern lights (page 66). Western Australia was recently treated to its own version, aurora Australis, but at the time, Louise was already touching down just south of the Arctic Circle to see the real deal. Her questions about the nature of her art — why do we feel the need to preserve forever a moment in time through a lens? Is an unmediated experience more visceral? — get to the heart of what we talk about when we talk about renewal. In essence, life goes on.

Enjoy the issue.

Katarina Kroslakova — Publisher, Editor-in-Chief

A version of this article appears in print in our current edition, on sale now in newsagents and online via our T Australia Shop.

Why Madhur Jaffrey and Michelle Zauner ‘Fell Toward Each Other’

Throughout their careers, neither have followed a single path.

Article by Jason Chen

Japanese BreakfastFrom left: Jaffrey, 89, actress and writer, “An Invitation to Indian Cooking” (1973), and Zauner, 34, singer-songwriter, “Jubilee” (2021), and writer, photographed at 16 Beaver Studio in the financial district of Manhattan on January 9, 2023.

Madhur Jaffrey:

I learned about Michelle through my granddaughter. I read her book [“Crying in H Mart”, 2021] and listened to her music, and I thought she seemed like me. Our relationships to our mothers are in many ways similar — when she said in her book that her mother used to watch QVC [shopping channel] and buy face creams, I thought of my own mother, who would have my sisters and me rub the cow’s milk from our own cows into our faces because she heard that Cleopatra bathed in the milk of an ass for her milky complexion. Our fathers were similar, too: Michelle’s father never took her music seriously, which reminded me of my father, who told the president of India that acting was just my hobby.

I’ve always thought of myself as an actress and nothing else. I feel sometimes that I’m acting the part of a cook. When I was younger, I didn’t want to be like major Hollywood actors — I wanted to be like those Actors Studio ones. Marlon Brando was fabulous to me. That was always my goal. The honesty of certain performers inspired me: it’s very rare, and you can see it in people’s eyes. Their whole body is moving as one because they’re following one true line of thought. 

That’s why I was drawn to Michelle. I see a wonderful young woman on her way. It’s not going to be easy but, whether people think it’s right for her to be writing or singing or not, she’s doing what she thinks is right for her. 

Even though Michelle and I had never met before the photo shoot, we fell toward each other quite instinctively. We talked about her husband, and works that I’d done, films of mine she should see and books that she should read. I told her to watch “Shakespeare Wallah” (1965), the Merchant Ivory film. She sent me a one-word text later with a still of me from the film. It said, “star”.

Michelle Zauner:

Madhur has a brief appearance in “Vanya on 42nd Street” (1994), which is weirdly a movie that I fell in love with over the pandemic. What I’ve noticed is that we’re both people who are interested in different types of creative media and pursue them with genuine interest and sincerity. Through the years, she’s acted and done a cooking MasterClass [online teaching] and written children’s books, cookbooks and a memoir. She’s someone who has continually just done what she’s wanted to do, even if it’s not a straight career path.

It’s comforting — as you get older, you have a stronger sense of your fragile shelf life, and to see a woman who’s almost 90 still pursue different sides of herself and do it with such grace is beautiful. Here she was [on set], making jokes, matching her lipstick to her sweater, just being fabulous.