Spontaneity is a wonderful thing — but a few well-planned tricks will help you squeeze the most out of that precious time off, whether you're with a friend, a fling, or after some precious time on your own.
How you roll when you travel is a little like how you carry off fashion — it takes one heck of a lot of effort to look effortlessly fabulous.
Here’s the compromise: do your travel prep in advance. That way, your escape will be as easy and breezy as can be. As any fellow Type A-er who suffers from FOMO will agree, going with the flow on holiday is a romantic thought, but not timetabling everything could mean you rocking up and missing out on whatever it was you were determined to experience… So there's no harm in doing your homework, kiddos. Make like a nerd, just don't act like one.
My preference is for low-key eateries/hostelries high on style, without huge extravagance. If you choose somewhere that’s pushing it price wise, and you may not feel as relaxed as you hoped. If it’s too fancy and formal, or you’re being fussed over sometimes it’s anything but relaxing. My personal preference is to crowd-source tips from people I trust and those in the know.
To those who call me neurotic for planning, I say this: neuroscientists reckon there’s as much pleasure derived from the dopamine-stimulating anticipation as much as the event itself.
Packing with panache
Less is more — I’m lucky enough to have the ultimate easy, elegant capsule wardrobe by Katrina Phillips from her beautiful interiors shop on Portobello Road. I could shove any item of her washable-stretch-silk numbers into my Chiltern backpack and they’d still emerge uncannily un-creased. Cut on the bias, I have beautiful black trousers, camisole, layered tops and big floaty dresses so that I can look perfectly smart one second, and totally informal the next. Also, it's made by a tailor – not mass-produced by a multinational – so you can polish your sustainability halo there, too. Talking of which; avoid carting anything with plastic wrapping to far-flung paradises – there are trillions of polymers floating around our oceans, and many destinations don't have reliable recycling or refuse services. Say no to water bottles while you’re on the road — reach for a Dalston-designed refillable Stay Sixty (£29.95) and keep refilling that with filtered water.
Be sure to buy a sun cream free of coral-killing oxybenzone, the ubiquitous UV-filtering chemical. Use a biodegradable sunblock such as The Organic Pharmacy’s SPF50(£38.95), and check out Kypris rose oil beauty elixir for a tiny bottle of heaven. Perfect for keeping skin plumped and hydrated at 30,000ft, soothing if you're silly and get sun burn, and with a scent that lift the spirits especially when you're jetlagged. Take a pump spray of Better You Magnesium to keep your mineral levels in check which will help you sleep well while you're away.
The Chiltern Backpack in Black Fabric
Pledge to unplug
Do put on that out of office message which explains you are NOT ANSWERING EMAILS. Limit your phone usage to ensure a digital detox. Talk to people you meet along the way.
…except when it comes to plugging in the perfect playlist
Rob Da Bank once recommended Serge Gainsbourg’s Aux Armes Et Caetera for listening to on the beach, as he rightly put it: 'it's an incredible album with Sly and Robbie and Bob’s wife Rita Marley singing on it! Hypnotic dub with Serge’s classic vocal and humour make this a sublime sunny, beachy nod-a-long.' Alternatively, my friend recently sent me to a Gilles Peterson playlist on Spotify which has 48 hours of tunes.
Have a positive perspective
Be curious, open-minded, go with the flow. In the words of GK Chesterton: “The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” Be ready to surrender to serendipity; don’t get so locked into a schedule that you can’t be taken on a tangent — I just make sure I’m always armed with the right intel along the way.
People regularly ask me for practical packing tips — what I’d urge everyone to take is the right state of mind and be open to altering your outlook. Keep eyes, ears, and hearts wide open. Always be up for altering your outlook, and don’t worry when things don’t quite go to plan – just smile and look around. Take pleasure in not knowing what’s around the corner.
Real travel is a burning curiosity.