A Look At Why Certain Hotels Create An Emotional Resonance With Us. Featuring The Park Hyatt Tokyo, The Fairmont San Francisco.

This article originally appeared at Veritrope.com

GARY LEFF, author of the popular travel blog “View from the Wing”, recently posted “How The Jesus and Mary Chain Influence My Hotel Choices” – his take on why some hotels create a deeper emotional response in us than others.1

He looked at two which are among my own sentimental favorites: The Park Hyatt Tokyo and the Fairmont San Francisco. I’ve noticed that, even though the staff of great hotels like these may change over the years, an essence endures. People can identify it and, often times, identify with it. Something more than just institutional memory, it seems like what the Romans called the genius loci — the spirit of a place.

Hotels, stadiums, stores, neighborhoods, cities, even whole countries can have it. The spirit of certain places — and the people we meet there — captures our attention. It can stir our imaginations. It can make us feel a sense of belonging. After a time, you begin to feel that you know it in the comfortable, familiar way that you know an old friend.

Finding these places is why I love getting on airplanes.
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  1. I’m a big fan of Gary’s blog and any item whose title so felicitously combines “travel” and  “80’s music” references engenders an almost irresistible, Pavlov-quick click-through from me. []

A Review of One Year of AFAR Magazine

This article originally appeared at Veritrope.com

AFAR Magazine

Today’s mail included a copy of AFAR Magazine with one of those “THIS IS YOUR LAST ISSUE!” flyers attached to the cover. These days, with more of my reading material arriving digitally, I almost always let the print subscription lapse — but I’m renewing this one.

If you like to read more about the people and the culture of the places you go, then AFAR is probably the magazine you’ve been looking for all these years.

One Year of AFAR Magazine

In a happy moment of travel-related serendipity, I found out about AFAR while on a trip last summer. We were staying at a place in Dubai’s Bastakiya neighborhood and, while walking around, a nearby Hotel / Gallery caught our eye.1

The manager, an American named Harrison, was kind enough to show us around and invited us to enjoy some cool beverages in the shade afterwards. We all talked about our travels and, at some point, Harrison asked us “Have you ever heard of AFAR Magazine?”. One of its founders had just been a guest and he described it as a magazine geared toward people interested in a more engaged style of exploring the world.

It piqued my interest, and so I subscribed when we returned to New York a couple of months later.

Traveling With Your Brain Turned On

AFAR is about international, intentional travel and, with every issue that’s arrived since I subscribed, I’ve been impressed by its quality. The features, the photography, the layout, and the writing are consistently enjoyable2.

This isn’t more of the same “Aspirational Lifestyle Porn” that is often passed off as travel journalism these days (you won’t likely see “The AFAR Top 100 List of Über-Luxe Resorts / Objets Inaccessible” anytime soon). Instead, it focuses on having experiences which can help you understand a place better — irrespective of price.

You’ll find articles about people and the work they do, useful tips about how local people live, about the art and the food cultures which often give a region its unique textures and flavors, stories about volunteering and ways to get more deeply involved in the places you visit…. and, of course, plenty of photos to get you day-dreaming!

Best of Both Worlds

Even though it’s a difficult time for traditional publishing, there are still a few magazines that deliver a quality product which actually takes advantage of the strengths of the printed page. Monocle, The Economist, National Geographic, and the New York Review Of Books will always have an audience because each gives a tactile, visceral reading experience that isn’t the same as a website or an eBook. In the same way, AFAR Magazine is a pleasure to read and I’m already looking forward to thumbing through another year’s worth of issues!

But AFAR also has a digital presence… and it’s not a web-based rehash of the magazine. AFAR Connect is an online community that lets members reach out to one another, ask questions of locals, post photos, and trade travel tips and must-see places (As part of my upcoming “Tech for Travelers” Series, I’ll give you a closer look at AFAR Connect).

Both in print and digital forms, AFAR puts people and their stories at the center of their content. I think it’s a smart, engaging approach and well-worth checking out!

  1. Traveling to Dubai? Be sure to check out Bastakiya! It’s hard to grasp how much things have changed for this city without walking around this traditional neighborhood and along the nearby Dubai Creek. []
  2. I was very pleased to discover that writers like Matt Gross and Rachel Shukert were contributors []

We recently took a tour of Tom Bihn’s new Seattle factory and talked with him about making a product (and a business) that reflects your values.

This article originally appeared at Veritrope.com

Tom Bihn Tour

Tom and Lauren Discuss The Art Of Bag Construction

Lauren and I were traveling in the Pacific Northwest last week and decided to drop by Tom Bihn’s new factory / showroom to thank them in person for supporting the “Help In Your Own Way Giveaway”. We expected a quick visit but, instead, we received a full tour of the new place — personally led by Tom and by Darcy Gray, the Vice President of Tom Bihn.

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A VPN service can help you avoid having your data stolen or your internet traffic blocked. Here’s how I use VyprVPN while traveling to reduce the risk of both!

A VPN service can help you avoid having your data stolen or your internet traffic blocked. Here’s how I use VyprVPN while traveling to reduce the risk of both!

No Internet For You!

The recent proliferation of internet snooping tools like Firesheep — which allows a semi-knowledgable hacker to hijack any number of your personal accounts — highlights an under-examined need for many travelers: A secure connection to the internet.

After all, most people are just worried about how they are going to connect to the internet as they travel — not even considering how safe that connection is. A person on the same network as you can actually see the information you’re sending and receiving — or sometimes even read the files on your hard drive.

Sound alarmist? Take a moment to look your computer’s network file browser the next time you hop online in a hotel, on a plane, or at a free WiFi hotspot and you’ll probably see a number of other computers visible. Some of them even probably have their file sharing turned on, exposing all sorts of personal data, photos, etc. to theft or vandalism.

Not good.

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Around The World With One Bag (Part Three)

This article originally appeared at Veritrope.com

Tom Bihn Aeronaut
When writing a review of anything, I will always try to be upfront with you about any biases I may have about a company or product — for or against.

So before I launch into this review of the other bag we brought on our Round-the-World trip — the Tom Bihn Aeronaut — I need to disclose the following:

I really like Tom Bihn.

I really like their products. I really like the people that I’ve talked to who work there. I like their “corporate ethos”. I like their customer service. I like the little red airplane on their logo1. And based on some interviews I’ve read which featured him, I think I’d probably like Tom-Bihn-the-guy as well. (Follow Up — I recently met Tom and my instincts were right: He’s a wonderful guy!)

Now that my “bias” has been disclosed, let’s move into the heart of the matter: The Aeronaut is my favorite bag for extended travel and this review will attempt to explain why that is!2

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  1. A Farman F–121 Jabiru []
  2. Okay — maybe the little red airplane thing on their logo is also a pre-existing bias: I loves me some old-timey travel stuff! []