How to travel like a Condé Nast editor
Divia Thani’s on-the-go lifestyle can easily put your average jet-setter to shame. This year alone, she has travelled to Seychelles for a cover shoot, Kolkata for designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s 20th-anniversary celebrations, Maldives and Galle for hotel site visits, Kochi for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kanha National Park for a family vacation and Jaipur and New Delhi for multiple work events. But then again, this is the editor in chief of Condé Nast Traveller India we’re talking about.
Born and raised in Mumbai, the editor doesn’t remember a life without travel. Growing up, summers were spent in London and Lagos (where her father lived at the time), and trips to visit family scattered across Hong Kong, Singapore and the Caribbean were frequent. Nine years at the helm of one of India’s top travel glossies has allowed her to clock in some serious airline miles too. So is her life as glamorous as most would assume it is? ‘I won’t deny that there are glamorous moments, but they are few and far between. For the most part, it’s early morning flights, red eyes and back-to-back meetings in hotel boardrooms,’ laughs Thani, as she speaks to us from Delhi, where she’s addressing a luxury travel conference. We probe the pro to share handy takeaways from her life on the road.
Every experience counts
‘There is a global shift in people’s approach to travel. People are seeking experiences—the northern lights, cherry blossom season in Japan or culinary trails in France. Anywhere can be rich if you absorb the local culture. It’s about the mindset, not the destination. Walk everywhere you can in a new place, squeeze in an art gallery hop and explore local designers. Switch Twitter to your new destination to know what locals are talking about. Try to appreciate the native cuisine.’
Travel in the age of Instagram
‘I started posting on Instagram only a year or two ago. I’m of the opinion that photos can’t capture a moment in its entirety. A big piece of the experience feels like it is missing when you see an image in isolation. But I have come to enjoy the platform now, and it does allow for a lot of creativity. I don’t take it too seriously; I don’t feel the need to post in real time or from every trip I take. You’ve got to live in the moment, have fun and make memories that go beyond photographs.’
Travel and technology
‘The internet is great for research. Use apps obsessively: Hopper, Skyscanner, MakeMyTrip, booking.com and Yahoo Weather are my favourites. But approach internet rankings with caution. Don’t just book the first highest-rated hotel you find online. These rankings are the result of complicated algorithms. Instead, it’s more important to check the source and ensure the reviewer’s tastes align with yours.’
‘My fail-safe packing checklist includes a soft shawl, insect repellent, Panadol, Allegra, aloe vera, an adaptor, a Bluetooth speaker and music you can play without Wi-Fi. Suitcases are an investment. Buy the best you can afford and don’t assume the most expensive ones are the best choice. I still travel with Samsonite. When packing, start with shoes. Stuff socks, belts and jewellery into them. Roll up your clothes to save space. Assume that your suitcase will be lost or stolen and pack your carry-on bag accordingly.’
‘Two years ago, I made the life-changing decision to not work on flights (unless it’s imperative). Instead, I use this time to read The Economist and Time or watch Netflix and just decompress. I feel more centred when I land this way. Bose’s noise-cancelling headphones are worth the investment. I’ve slept through many takeoffs and landings because of them—sometimes my body doesn’t even realise it’s flying. My secret method to falling asleep (on a plane or not) is warm whole milk with vanilla.’
A few of her favourite things
‘I was lucky enough to travel a lot internationally when I was younger, but my first trip to Delhi was only at the age of 22. I feel there is so much to explore within India—every state is a country in itself. Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir are both equally special to me. It’s the celebration of authenticity and culture in the former that keeps me going back for more. I love hotels; they can make or break my trip. And Rajasthan has so many luxurious properties to choose from: SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace in Jaipur is one of the most Instagrammable hotels in the world and its Jackie Kennedy suite is my favourite. RAAS Jodhpur, Mihir Garh and The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur are my other go-tos.’
Take it all in
‘The next big holiday on my itinerary is a week in the US followed by a trip to Costa Rica. But I am no longer in a rush to check off my bucket list (that includes Japan, Argentina, Egypt and New Zealand). It’s more about making the most of wherever I am and enjoying beautiful places with those special to me. Travel is an amazing experience. No matter how much or how little you do it. Be grateful no matter what the delay or how bad the food or how inefficient the staff. You’re on the other side of the world or in another part of the country, and it’s all thanks to human innovation, persistence and thousands of cogs in an ever-moving wheel. It’s nothing less than a miracle. Savour it.’
Follow Divia Thani on Instagram here.