Insiders

Ashley Ellis, Writer + Filmmaker

Ashley Ellis is a writer, filmmaker, creative, and PhD candidate. If that doesn’t say “modern day Renaissance woman,” we don’t know what does. Having written for publications such as Gopher Illustrated, Pyragraph, Bitch Flicks, Afrobougee and more, we are pretty sure she could write this intro way better than we can – but hey. 

Though she spent years in Los Angeles, Ashley now calls Cape Town home and is currently teaching and working towards her PhD in film studies at the University of Cape Town. She has co-created films for some of the world’s most progressive institutions such as TED, XPrize, The American Heart Association and The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (just to name a few).

Constantly seeking new inspiration and subject matter for her next film, Ashley is a globe-trotter extraordinaire- and therefore we had to pick her brain. Follow her adventures @ashley.d.ellis

Name 3 favorite hotels, anywhere, off the top of your head. Also, why are they your favorites?

I have had so many wonderful international experiences with travel lodging, from backpackers to 5-star hotels, that it’s nearly impossible to answer this question.  In Los Angeles, where I lived throughout my twenties, boutique hotels are a part of the social space. The three where I’ve spent the most time hanging out are The Line Hotel, The Standard DTLA, and Chateau Marmont.  I’ve had daily work meet-ups, partied, planned a film production, and watched Trump get elected at these hotels. These places signal that I’m home.

Dream places to visit as an artist, musician, filmmaker, and why?

As a filmmaker, I’m inspired by locations that can themselves become characters. I dream about visiting and shooting in places like Timbuktu, Mali; Chefchaouen, Morocco; Lake Retba, Senegal; or the Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

The Okavango Delta in Botswana.  It’s my analog home.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

Yes, it was something that I was seeking and it took me years to set up in a way that made sense for my overall growth.  I believe that we manifest the things we set our minds on. Once I decided that travel is an important aspect of my life, I started actively looking for jobs and developing projects that would allow me the opportunity to experience new places.  Eventually, a project idea became worthy of PhD research, and that’s what brought me to Cape Town (but only because I dared to look far and wide for the right institutional home). The more I travel, the more I build relationships with people in my industry all over the world, and these connections naturally bring me more travel/work opportunities.   

How do I make traveling relaxing and fun?  I think it’s all about just embracing the place I’m in without expecting that I’ll always be comfortable in a new place or on the go.  I just breathe in the air and observe my surroundings, and soon enough I settle in or find some place or thing worth exploring. And a good book helps me to unwind in pretty much any circumstance.  

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

Lavish Lullaby – Masego

Count Your Blessings – Mizz & Rabs Vhafuwi

Ultimatum – Disclousure feat. Fatoumata Diawara

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Pretty Standard: Passport. Wallet. House keys. Laptop. Cell phone. Chargers. Adapters. A book or 2. My Belkin mini book light. Glasses. Tooth Brush. Disposable face wipes. Clean underwear! And anything & everything else that will fit, because I’m kind of crazy about having access to my stuff.

If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would you swap with?

Anna Wintour.  Her clothes and shoes wouldn’t fit, but that seems like a gamble no matter who one picks. However, she probably has some designer travel accessories that I really need in my life.  

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

Yes and yes.  It’s the perfect opportunity to spend some time in your own head and reorganize everything that’s in there.  I’m also much more likely to write, which I never seem to find time for during my life with the people I love.   

Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?

“Always travel with cash, and store small amounts in different places in your belongings.”  – My Mom

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Luggage! Everything can be sorted with a phone.

In flight cocktail – Y/N? What kind?

Yes. Red wine.  I’ll either write or sleep.

Window or Aisle?

Aisle! I hate crawling over people to pee.


Victoria Ainsworth, Marketing Director for Christy Dawn

Tori is a multidisciplinary marketer and e-commerce director. She’s spent the last 7 years working with startups, helping them develop unique brand identities and build meaningful communities. Her past clients include Negative Underwear and hot-spot hotel Maderas Village

A Toronto native, Tori found her way to LA via NYC and is now the marketing guru for cool-girl brand Christy Dawn. Though she is a bad-ass lady running all things CRM, SEO, content, and planning for some of our favorite companies – this low key babe finds herself at home on a surfboard with salt water in her hair and sun on her face. 

After a long stint at GMR Marketing in Toronto, Tori picked up and made her way to Nicaragua for what was supposed to be a break-away vacation, and turned into a long term stay. She traveled around central America in search of calm and waves until making the decision to move to the states. 

Now a Venice beach resident, Tori is making LA home and getting used to the west coast life. Follow her adventures on Instagram @auntowey.

Name 3 favorite hotels, anywhere, off the top of your head. Also, why are they your favorites?

The Harmony Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica; The Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, California; The Urban Cowboy in Nashville, Tennessee. I stayed at each of those hotels at a pivotal time in my life. They remind me of embarking on a new chapter, and of unearthing new and interesting parts of myself. (And I got into the best kind of trouble at The Chateau Marmont, because that’s just what you do there!)

Photo via Urban Cowboy

What hotel room design element can you not live without?

Music. The rooms at The Chateau Marmont have vintage record players. When concierge brings you to your room, all the windows are open and there’s a jazz record on. It changes everything.

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

Crazy Love by Irene Diaz; Season by Elder Island; Pour Another by Nick Hakim. I like the moody stuff.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Oodles of chapstick and a journal.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

I’d probably go back to Costa Rica. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet – the energy is intoxicating, and you feel so connected to the Earth. (I’d also really like to go on an Alaskan cruise!)

If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would you swap with?

Someone with excellent taste in books.

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

I travel alone most of the time. Being alone has its perks – you don’t have to consult with anyone about anything, ever. You can just kind of … go. I’d really like to start a little family someday, and I imagine (and hope!) that we’ll travel together often. I try my best to take advantage of this time in my life where I can just be … all by myself.

Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?

“Don’t be such a wussy.” – an older gentleman watching me reluctantly get on a school bus in Guatemala.

Who is your dream “co-pilot” (travel partner- dead or alive), and why?

My Nana. Because she was the best woman I’ve ever met.

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it?

Panarea!

Alone or with someone else?

Alone!

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Lost luggage – we always need less than what we packed.

Window or aisle?

Window!

Louis A. W. Sheridan, Founder of Discover & Escape

Louis A. W. Sheridan is a London-based creative consultant and photographer, as well as the Creative Editor at Mr & Mrs Smith (he’s the magic behind @smithhotels – one of our favorite instagram inspirations!). His work has taken him across the globe, where he has photographed mountains, models and movie stars; interviewed shepherds, singers and psychics, and hijacked the decks at every opportunity. In and amongst all this he launched Discover & Escape – a shapeshifting creative agency hellbent on viewing everything through a travel lens.

D&E has worked with amazing brands like Matches Fashion as well as profiled artists like Theophilus London and Giles Deacon. Alongside content creation and editorial (for stunning hotels like Aman Venice and El Fenn), Louis also works with hotels on recognising, reacting to, and shaping travel trends. He is always looking for an excuse to take photos, tell stories, and hang out with horses.

We caught up with Louis on where to spot leopards in India, where to stay in Patagonia, and his tips on self discovery through travel as both a career and a (semi-accidental) lifestyle. Read on for some wisdom…

Follow Louis on instagram @louisaws

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

1. Sujan Jawai, Rajasthan, India – A tented camp in the wilds of Rajasthan where leopards roam freely.

2. Le Bristol, Paris, France – If/when I’m made King, I imagine this is how I’d live 24/7.

3. Awasi, Torres del Paine, Chile – Horses, solitude, horses, world-beating food, horses, mountains. Patagonia is hard to beat.

What hotel room design element can you not live without? 

Enough sockets to charge a battalion of camera equipment, and windows that can actually be opened.

What are your favorite “offices” while traveling?

Anywhere with 4G – often far more reliable than wifi. I also love working out of hotel libraries/lounges – they’re criminally underused by guests and are often as well designed as the rooms/restaurants/lobby etc.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Yorkshire is my reset button. Though Harbour Island has marginally better weather.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

Travel was never the aim though my work has always been about storytelling and I’ve found that the best stories present themselves if you keep moving. I can roll out cliches all day on the subject, but I genuinely believe that spending time with new people and places is one of the best ways to understand yourself and your place in the world. As for making it fun/relaxing – I’m lucky enough to travel with my partner (a travel editor herself) which makes a huge difference. It’s a constant to and fro of ensuring we’re both present while also recording anything and everything.

Do you have any favorite travel hacks (ways to score an upgrade, methods of getting your meal first on a flight, etc)?

If you’re travelling long-haul as a couple and the flight’s quiet, book the window and aisle seat and leave the middle free. Only a psychopath would choose the middle seat so you’ll either get the extra space or at the very least, a close-up anthropological study.

Anxiety and burn out are big topics these days. How do you combat them, and how do you use travel to do so?

I have a first-world problem in that this can happen in reverse for me if we’re on the road too much. Spending a good amount of time in one place can feel like a luxury and if things get really intense then the antidote is always screen-free downtime. That being said, living in London – anywhere with sun helps.

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

Adapt to the mealtimes of wherever you are, even if you’re struggling with a sleep pattern, eating at set times helps tell your body what time it is. And drink obscene amounts of water.

What is your favorite travel book – for at home, or abroad- and why?

A.A. Gill is Away – Gill’s acerbic writing style speaks to me more than most. He travelled far and wide, writing about some notoriously dull and difficult places and yet always found a story, because, there always is one. Even where I don’t agree with his opinions I find his absolute conviction compelling.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

I have a penchant for M65 field jackets, equally perfect for photographing on location and getting through airport security. Strategically fill each pocket (phone, passport, jewelery etc) then put the whole jacket in the scanner and you’re through in seconds.

Beach, city, or mountain?

Is Cape Town all three? All three.

In flight wifi- good idea: yes or no?

No. The last sacred space.

Airplane food- Y/N?

Unequivocal no.


Sophia Li, Journalist + Film Director

Sophia Li is one of those friends who everyone goes to for advice – a nucleus, if you will. We witnessed this firsthand when Miranda Kerr texted her via Snapchat to ask what to wear to an event (see, “angels” need help too). From fashion (girl did work at Vogue) to travel (she’s on the road as a speaker and journalist) to food and wellness- Sophia’s got the low down on lots of lovely things.

Sophia grew up between four U.S. states and two countries as a child, and moved to NYC post college. There she was able to create the dream job for herself- as the former Entertainment Media Editor at Vogue.com, she worked on creating and launching VOGUE‘s social and digital voice. She credits timing was on her side, we credit her passion for storytelling.

After going freelance over a year ago, she now works with clients including CNN, Vogue, Refinery29, Theory, and Maybelline as a Film Director and Journalist. And travels even more than ever before. In her free time, she is also the Creative Director of HER USA: a female community empowering women and celebrating the authentic, vulnerable self through Jeffersonian-style dinners and more.

Read on for travel tips such as how to make the most of work trips (as potential mini vacations!) and where to bathe in the Kenyan bush – this Insider’s tips are not to be missed.

Follow her @sophfei on instagram.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

Cottar’s 1920 Safari Camp in Kenya: Well besides being located in one of the most magical places in the world (hello birthplace to all humanity), the Maasai Mara, this place is dedicated to preserving and conserving wildlife. It’s also one of the most sustainable certified places in the world.

Marina Bay Sands in Singapore: The sheer engineering behind this place is just mind-blowing. Spent the holidays here with my family as we watched the sunrise overlooking the skyscrapers whilst swimming in the largest and tallest infinity pool in the world. Pretty memorable, I must say.

The Dutchess in upstate NY: I go to this place at least once every year with chosen family. Every detail here is accommodated for – it’s a former equestrian training center and barn renovated into a boutique hotel meets idyllic B & B. Also two words: biodynamic farming.

What is the most unique hotel amenity you’ve ever encountered?

“Bush baths” with champagne outside of your tent at Cottar’s while wild apes roam about

What hotel room design element can you not live without?

Ideally, each hotel room would have a key card as a master key for electricity so you’re minimizing how much energy you spend when you’re not in the room.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Somewhere to surf… north shore of Oahu, Tamarindo, Puerto Escondido.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

I moved every 3-4 years while growing up and started going to China with my sister by ourselves when we were 11 and 14 respectively, so travel is very much in our veins. I usually tack 2 days on to a work trip to personally explore the place so I feel more integrated and present/less jet-lagged in the location.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

A journal, a book (currently reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way), a silk Lunya sleep-maskDottera On Guard essential oil to boost immunity, Kora Organics facial sculptorTata Harper face mist, beats headphones.

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

Yes, I travel alone all the time for work. I have also incorporated more solo personal travel in recent years to get myself out of my comfort zone/be open to talking to others who I might not have if I were with friends. Most recently, I went on a solo surf camp retreat and also spent a few days in Porto, Portugal on my own after a road trip with friends.

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

Intermittent fasting…. food makes you feel drowsy so try and get on the local schedule while flying.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

This season, I’ve been recently wearing Summersalt’s travelwear sets with compression socks, these Flattered snakeskin boots that you slip on and off, and this oversized camel coat that doubles as a blanket.

In flight wifi- good idea: yes or no?

Usually no unless I’m on a work deadline. It’s the best time to disconnect and everyone understands why you’re offline!

Early check-in/ late check-out?

Late check-out

Favorite travel app?

Tap to find local water fountains/at the airport so you don’t buy a plastic bottle every time while traveling!

Kimiko Ninomiya, Marketing at Soho House

Originally from California, Kimiko made the move from the west coast to Brooklyn after being swooned by the NYC magic. An Uber alum, she worked for the tech company for 6 years doing marketing and content strategy. Recently, she has made the jump to running CRM marketing for Soho House.

Long before she committed to a career in hospitality at the famed membership club, Kimiko has been traveling the world from Tokyo to Armenia. A lover of art (major fan of Kusama), food, and exploring culture – it’s no wonder Kimiko found herself in the hospitality world. 

Follow her adventures on Instagram at @kimik.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels

Aman Tokyo – The lobby is breathtaking, with amazing views (the same you’ll get from the beautifully-designed guest rooms, full gym, and world-class spa and pool). The staff and service are beyond welcoming, anticipating your needs and recognizing you by name every time you come and go. The bar serves delicious cocktails and a full menu, but feels relaxed and unstuffy compared to other hotel bars with view. Staying here almost makes you question whether you ever need to leave your hotel.

Photo via Aman

El Rey Court, Santa Fe, NM – The El Rey is a quirky, cozy, and stylish roadside motel–turned–hip boutique hotel. The property is full of southwestern charm with adobe walls, terra cotta tiles, featuring local artwork throughout. The hotel bar, La Reina, is popular with local creatives, making for a fun vibe and quality people-watching. The drinks are delicious, too!

11 Howard, New York, NY – The 11 Howard is my favorite crash pad for a long weekend in NYC. It’s beautifully designed interiors are full of thoughtful details, including a signature scent when you walk into the lobby. The rooms themselves are lovely and inviting, with with custom-designed pieces that really elevate the experience. And the Grown Alchemist products in room are definitely worth snagging. 

If you work in hospitality, what do you love most about it?

I recently moved into hospitality from tech and the focus on the customer experience is so refreshing. When you’re at a product-focused company, everyone talks about customer centricity but it feels like people in actuality are creating for their own egos. In hospitality, everyone truly lives and breathes an ethos of putting customers first and taking every opportunity to make them feel important and appreciated. I love that—it’s so important in building a brand and loyalty.

What are your favorite “offices” while traveling?

Soho House, obviously!

What is your favorite travel book, and why?

Walter de Maria’s The Lightning Field: The story itself is situated near a small cabin that was built for the purpose of experiencing The Lightning Field over a period of a day (or more) as the sky and landscape change throughout the day. You can visit alone or in a small group, and with no cell service for miles you’d better make sure it’s people you like. More importantly, it’s a magical place for introspection and appreciation of the artwork and the beautiful high desert of New Mexico.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Bose noise-canceling headphones, toiletries bag (so I can wash my face and brush my teeth), a sheet face mask, CEP compression socks (swear by them), whatever book I’m reading (currently Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou), and this cute but ridiculous pink bear eye mask that I found on a trip to Singapore that has cooling gel in it.

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

I traveled alone for a few weeks in Japan last year and, to be honest, it made going back to traveling with others feel less appealing. I loved being on my own schedule, exploring and doing everything that was important to me. Because the language is so different, I spent a ton of time in my own brain while still being out and about, which, as an introvert, was a very special experience.

Anxiety and burn out are big topics these days. How do you combat them, and how do you use travel to do so?

Everyone has their own stressors and responsibilities to manage, and I’ve done so in all sorts of ways. What I’ve found is most effective for me is that when I’m taking time off to travel, I’m 100% off. I was only able to feel truly comfortable with this after taking a 4-month sabbatical, and the reality of it is that the world does not begin and end with me and my contributions. There’s always more work to be done, and as long as I’ve done a good job preparing everyone for my absence, that means I can truly immerse myself in my travels. This makes the experience all the more rewarding, leaving me feeling refreshed and ready to return to my responsibilities (although tbh I’d be totally happy to never work another day in my life).

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

Get up and move! I love to book fitness classes for the morning or day that I arrive in a new city. If I’m not able to make it to the gym, doing a couple 7 min workouts and getting out and walking are key. I also make a point to stay up until the time I’d normally sleep (with no naps in between), and wake up bright and early the next day (7am at the latest!).

Do you have any favorite travel hacks (ways to score an upgrade, methods of getting your meal first on a flight, etc)?

On long haul flights you can request a meal preference. I have a dairy allergy so I always opt for the vegan option (there are a ton of others, many for specific dietary restrictions). When you request a meal preference, these “special” meals are always brought out first before they bring out the carts meaning you get your food anywhere from 15–30 minutes faster than everyone else!

Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a super amazing cup of coffee. Where was the best one you’ve had?

The best cup of coffee I’ve had wasn’t the most amazing coffee but the experience was memorable because of where I was and the people I was with. I was in Yerevan, Armenia, with a big group of friends for a wedding and on this particular afternoon we sat at an outdoor patio of one of the many cafes near the Armenian Opera Theatre. It was after we’d walked down the stairs of the Cascade and we just sat for hours enjoying Armenian coffee and keeping cool in the shade through late afternoon.

If you’re going to a new place, and your friends have not been there, what do you consult for advice?

I find NY Times 36 Hours books to be perfect for anywhere in the US. They’re full of inspiration for any type of trip, including long weekends to cross-country road trips. When traveling abroad, I love Wallpaper* city guides. They curate the essentials like delicious food, shops, and hidden gems, while also focusing on architecture and design so I know I’ll find interesting cultural sites that aren’t your typical tourist traps.

Beach or City or Mountain?

City

Alone or with someone else?

Alone

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Lost luggage

Fantasy mini bar/fridge item?

Dry vermouth and cocktail olives

Stephanie Sprayregen, Founder of Spray Marketing

Though we are thoroughly impressed by Stephanie’s resume, that isn’t the first thing about this lady boss that captured our attention. Born in Kuching, Malaysia in Borneo, Stephanie moved to Vermont at 4, and then to Boston at 14 to pursue a career in competitive figure skating. Yes – that’s a fact. After she decided she didn’t want to stay on the Michelle Kwan path (though she could have…), she went into a career that has centred around hospitality.

Drawn to the type of community hotels can create and foster, Stephanie knew she wanted to be in the hospitality industry. She has spent more than half her career in hotels and tech travel at companies like Gansevoort Hotels, The William Vale, and Skipper. Most recently, she founded spray.marketing which is a lean performance marketing company without the fluff, focusing on lifestyle and hospitality.

With 16 countries in her passport (more planned for 2019!) and many, many hotel stays on her books – Stephanie is a chick we know we can count on when it comes to travel advice. Follow her adventures on IG @ssprayregen.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

Habitas Tulum, Tulum, MX – The ultimate glamping experience, but with 5-star service. Love the morning yoga sessions, outdoor rain shower and healthy, clean eats.

The William Vale, Brooklyn, USA (of course) — Only hotel in NYC with a private terrace in every guest room, which is important to me as a guest.

Ocean View Club Dunmore Town, Bahamas — Loved this hotel so much, that I got hitched there! Every room or cottage is unique with its own character. It’s a family-owned business and you can feel that in their level of service. They really make you feel welcomed and at home.

If you work in hospitality, what do you love best about your job and the industry?

I love that hotels aren’t just a ‘heads-in-bed’ establishment anymore. Hotels have become a cultural hub where art, music, food and entertainment collide into an immersive experience. It makes going to work every day fun and exciting.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Despite being in digital marketing, I love digital detoxes! An easy place for me to detox is upstate New York at Scribner’s Catskill Lodge. The lobby has a beautiful furnace fireplace and the walls are lined with books for you to read at your leisure. It’s a very peaceful and tranquil hotel in the middle of nature!

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

It’s a splurge, but I always carry an SK-II Facial Treatment Mask. I have no shame putting that mask on in the middle of a flight because I know my skin will thank me later.

Do you have any favorite travel hacks (ways to score an upgrade, methods of getting your meal first on a flight, etc)?

I buy everything with my credit card so I can build my points up!  As long as you stay diligent with paying your credit card, this is the fastest way to get upgraded seats and ‘free’ flights!

Anxiety and burn out are big topics these days. How do you combat them, and how do you use travel to do so?

Traveling is the best way to detox from stress and anxiety. Even if it’s a weekend staycation, going someplace once a month reminds me that there is a bigger world out there and I need to live in it.

Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a super amazing cup of coffee. Where was the best one you’ve had?

Cartagena has a small hole in the wall coffee shop called Abacus Books and Coffee, where the red-brick walls are lined with a curated selection of books for you to browse for hours. It’s a great place to escape the heat and relax with a refreshing cold brew coffee, while reading a good book or taking advantage of their free WiFi.

Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?

The best travel advice I’ve received is to try to “live like a local” any place new I visit. If this means trying a new dish that I wouldn’t necessarily eat, then that’s what I’ll do.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

I think workout clothes can be chic and most importantly comfortable! You’ll usually find me in an all black workout attire with white sneakers going through security. I have Global Entry, but I still don’t want to take any chances with having to take off my shoes or a layer because something went off in the detector.

Rank the following, from most to least important to you, re: what you seek in a hotel experience: 

Architecturally intriguing, has a pool, close to things, comfortable, unique, locals hang out there, doesn’t break the bank, dope minibar

Beach or City or Mountain?

Beach

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Lost phone!

Early check-in/ late check-out?

Early check-in!

Margot Boyer-Dry, Writer + Founder of Lorem Ipsum

Margot is the witty wordsmith we all need in our 2019 reality. This Brooklyn based writer is the founder of Lorem Ipsum – a culture focused newsletter spanning music, food, tech, and beyond. As The News Stand put it, it’s “the only newsletter you need in your inbox.” Frankly, we wholeheartedly agree.

In addition to keeping up with pop culture for Lorem Ipsum, Margot has done copywriting for Facebook and Audible, and has written for publications like Curbed, New York Magazine, and The New York Times. She co-wrote the NYT column “Summer in the City,” sharing her point of view on what to do, where to eat, and who to see during the warmer months in the Big Apple. This is a lady who knows what’s up.

Follow Margot on Instagram @m.bigdeal and sign up for her newsletter

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

I can’t remember its name, but the best place I’ve ever stayed was a hotel in a former convent in Avignon. Thick stone, sweet courtyard, pure delight. After that, I remember a sweet Riad in Fes where I almost floated away after all the evening tea. And The Silo in Cape Town has a really friendly staff– find them and befriend them.

Photo via The Silo Hotel

What is the most unique hotel amenity you’ve ever encountered?

The Hoxton in Williamsburg has coffee packets– like tea bags, but for steeping coffee. Why has no one thought of this before.

What are your favorite “offices” while traveling? 

Pretty much anywhere outside will do- give me dappled sunlight and something green, and I’m good to go. All parks with WiFi are my offices in Brooklyn.

Where would you go to digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Somewhere remote and mountainous. The Himalayas. Patagonia. Upstate New York.

What is your most used travel emoji?

✌

Best Travel advise you’ve ever received, and from whom?

My cousin taught me early: never be on the main drag.

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

It’s basic, but it holds up: sleep on local time.

Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a super amazing cup of coffee. Where was the best one you’ve had?

Figure 8 in Austin (included in the recent Safara guide!), hands down. Coffee comes best with a spinning record. (And a breakfast taco never hurts.)

Rank the following, from most to least important to you, re: what you seek in a hotel experience:

Comfortable, close to things, doesn’t break the bank, unique, locals hang out there, architecturally intriguing, has a pool, dope minibar.

Beach or City or Mountain?

Mountain!

Airplane food- Y/N?

Plane food is almost uniformly disappointing, but nevertheless, absolutely.

Window or Aisle?

DEPENDS. Daytime flights pull me toward the window, but aisles are better for long trips. How many times do I anticipate having to pee?

Nicky Paul, Music Producer + Keyboardist for St. Lucia

Producer, composer, and keyboard player for indie-electro band St. Lucia, Nicky Paul has been in the music scene for a long minute. Growing up in LA, Nicky has been surrounded by creativity from a young age and continues to grow his creative circle at home in Brooklyn, NY.

Prior to joining St. Lucia, Nicky was a hired gun for projects with Tony Bennett, Britney Spears, Passion Pit, and more. He also spent a fair amount of time in the advertising music game and runs his own publishing company. Plus, his hip swinging and head bobbing makes him one of our favorite people to watch on stage and could probably qualify him as a professional dancer. 

In addition to in-studio production, he has toured live with St. Lucia and other artist. Touring has taken Nicky to Europe, Asia, South America, and back home to the U.S. This guy is no stranger to spending long stretches of time on the road, so we take his travel tips pretty seriously.

Follow Nicky on Instagram @nicky_paul and his band St. Lucia @stlucia.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

Amangiri, Utah, USA –  simple, chic, concrete design in a desert. Dystopian modern luxury at its best.

La Casa Que Canta, Zihuatanejo, MX – Mexico + Beach + Great Hotel = perfect

Soho House Farmhouse, Oxfordshire, UK – English Countryside with a modern twist, brilliant. Glamping also available.

What are your favorite “offices” while traveling?

NY: Dumbo House

LA: Chateau Marmont or Griffith Park

Berlin: Berlin Soho House

London: Electric Cinema (Shoreditch)

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

Yosemite (high tuolumne meadows) or Santa Cruz Island (channel islands).

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

Get ahead of the game by falling asleep or staying awake on the plane, depending on the destination/time zone you’re going to.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Headphones 

What is your favorite travel book – for at home, or abroad- and why? 

It’s actually the New Yorker magazine. I don’t have a favorite book, so if I’m not deep into one at the time this is always my go to.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

Sneakers, Sweats, Sweatshirt, Shirt… the 4 S’s. All Gucci, all the time. Sometimes Chanel.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

I’ve always wanted to play and make music and I’ve always wanted to see the world. I’ve been lucky enough that both have come to fruition through what I love doing. I think the most essential point to making travel both fun and relaxing is to do things in moderation. Don’t plan too much, but don’t plan too little. Leave room for spontaneity but also have a clue of what you want to do. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do ALL the things… just book enough time (days/weeks) that you can do them without feeling like you’re in 5pm NY rush hour traffic. Also, it helps if you’re doing it with someone or people you enjoy. Things tend to just fall into place in my experience. 

Beach or City or Mountain?

Mountain

Favorite subscription service you’ll never delete?

The New Yorker (print edition) and girls scout chocolate mint cookies.

In flight cocktail – Y/N? What kind?

Bloody Mary or just tomato juice with a side of lemon and ice.

Michael Clarke, Director + Photographer

Technically, Michael Clarke’s occupation reads as “Director and Photographer,” working for some of the biggest brands out there. This includes shooting commercials for Samsung, capturing photos for athliesure brand Outdoor Voices, and developing videos for Equinox. Speaking more liberally, you could add former professional skier, co-founder of soon-to-be luxury travel company Open Air, and dog handler to his dream co-pilot/pup, Walter (more on that below).

Born and raised in Lake Placid, NY, winter sports were second nature to Michael. He has not only traveled the globe capturing content for today’s largest companies, but frequently jumps on a plane (or into a helicopter) to find the world’s best slopes. Recently, he took a trip to Switzerland and Austria to strap on his skis and do research for Open Air’s first one-of-a-kind excursion, happening this March.

We caught up with Michael Clarke in-between trips to get his travel tips and learn about his favorite places to visit. Check out his interview below, and follow his adventures on IG @heyguysitsclarke. 

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

Baldface Lodge — A nice, remote mountain lodge with good food, decent lodging, and some great skiing and snowboarding for just about any ability. Plus, you get to take a helicopter in, which is always fun.

Dunton Hot Springs — I had a reservation here for a week a couple of years ago that I had to cancel last-second. Looking forward to spending some time here in the not-so-distant future.

Hotel Almhof Schneider — Admittedly, I haven’t been here yet, but I’m scheduled for a week-long trip with Open Air in late March. The Arlberg Valley has some of my favorite skiing in the world.

Lake Placid Lodge — Had to give an additional one here. I grew up in Lake Placid, and while this place has gone a bit downhill in recent years, it’s a special one. A beautiful central lodge with individual cabins right on Lake Placid is hard to beat.

What are your favorite “offices” while traveling?

Two summers ago I spent some time boat camping on a Norwegian tugboat, island-hopping through the San Juan Islands in Washington. During that time I frequently worked on my computer from my tent, pitching on a couple of different film projects.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

The Adirondacks (but not in the Spring).

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

I don’t believe in the acronym OOO, but:

Gente Aberta by Erasmo Carlos

My Lady’s On Fire by Ty Segall

Oogum Boogum Song by Brenton Wood.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

My Sony camera with a 35mm lens (frequently many more than that one said lens, but that’s a must).

If you’re going to a new place, and your friends have not been there, what do you consult for advice?

This could come off as moderately pretentious, but I typically try and seek out interesting clothing boutiques when I’m in a foreign city and ask the person working for advice. Frequently, I’ve found that these places have pre-made lists or maps with suggestions for travelers. For example, Void in Mexico City or Bastille in Cape Town both had great suggestions. If I’m in a more remote place, Google Maps in satellite mode followed by a quick image search can go a long way. Beyond that I find apps like The Infatuation or Comingo (although this one is still very new) tend to be helpful. Also, I always respect a NYT 36 Hours story.

Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?

Two summers ago I was driving down the Algarve after a week-long project in Lisbon with my friend, Todd Martin, who suggested that we use Google Maps in satellite view to look for hidden beaches along the coast. It was one of the better travel experiences I’ve had to date and we managed to keep a Google Map starred with all of our favorite stops.

Who is your dream “co-pilot” (travel partner- dead or alive), and why?

My dog Walter, but he does make it hard to go to certain places.

What’s your go-to outfit for getting through security quickly, and still looking good?

TSA PreCheck.

Rank the following, from most to least important to you, re: what you seek in a hotel experience:

Unique, Architecturally Intriguing, Comfortable, Has a Pool, Locals Hangout There, Dope Minibar, Doesn’t Break The Bank

Beach or City or Mountain?

All of the above…but mountain.

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Lost Phone

Favorite subscription service you’ll never delete?

New York Times

Nikki Brand, Stella Spoils Curator + Graphic Designer

Born, raised, and educated in South Africa, Nikki Brand is a multi-disciplinary creative based in Los Angeles. Having lived in South Africa, Nicaragua, and New York City, Nikki is no stranger to going where the wind takes her.

For the past 10 years, Nikki has worked developing culturally and socially respected international brands. Her portfolio includes restaurants like De Maria, which won an award for the aesthetic she helped build, hotels like Maderas Village and Urban Cowboy, and large scale projects like The Platform in LA. She is also the creative force behind the Stella Spoils newsletter – which you can sign up for here! 

When she isn’t focusing on digital design, logo development, or content curation for today’s coolest companies – you can probably find this babe on a surfboard somewhere south of the US border. 

Follow Nikki’s picturesque adventures @nikkibrand and @stellaspoils.

What are 3 of your favorite hotels?

1. Tribal Hotel, Granada, Nicaragua – This is a hotel you don’t need (or want to) leave. Incredible design, hospitality + food

2. Deer Mountain Inn, Upstate New York, USA – Quintessential NY Upstate experience. In-room fireplaces and really, really good food.

3. Under Canvas Zion, Utah, USA – Located in the Zion National Park, you’re glamping, in real luxury with real beds, and misters in the summer / fireplace in the winter, under the stars.

Photo via Under Canvas

As a creative, what places do you find most inspiration for your work?

Places that are in nature. Places that are far removed (in location and familiarity) from everyday life. Places with a distinctive culture.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

I’ve shaped my work and career around the concept of freedom, and not being tied down by anything other than what’s intended. So if I want to go, I can go, and I hope that there’s a WiFi connection at the other end. Being able to work remotely has definitely encouraged more travel, and having worked the last 10 years for myself, I find it easy to rework the daily schedule however necessary to make space for the good stuff.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Wet-wipes and tea tree oil

Have you or would you travel alone? 

Yes. I have, and I will continue to do so; it let’s you take your path to the places and people that are intended for you, in an unrestricted kind of way.

Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?

Wear sunscreen, travel light, always know where your passport is (thanks, Mom).

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating the dreaded jet lag?

Get out in the sun as soon as possible – it’s a natural reset.

Travel can be about the little luxuries…like a super amazing cup of coffee. Where was the best one you’ve had?

A local breakfast bodega Nicaragua 

Rank the following, from most to least important to you, re: what you seek in a hotel experience:

Comfortable, unique, architecturally intriguing, has a pool, close to things, doesn’t break the bank, locals hang out there, dope mini bar.

Beach or City or Mountain?

Beach

Airplane food- Y/N?

No

Early check-in/ late check-out?

Early check-in

Favorite travel app?

Flight Hopper

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