Sean Murphy knows how to travel in style. As Editor in Chief of Jetsetter.com, he leads a team that focuses on luxury experiences and gorgeous hotels. In fact, they’ve just released their 2015 Best of the Best hotel awards—which curates the world’s top accommodations by essential categories such as Best for Foodies, Best for Romance, Best Pool Scene, and Best-Looking Guests.
So where does Sean travel himself when he gets out of the office? We had to find out. Here, he shares his most memorable travel moment, his trick for tackling crowded tourist attractions, and the surprising thing he always packs.
Most memorable travel moment:
Years ago, at the urging of a well-traveled friend, I made a summer pilgrimage to the not-so-easy-to-get to Greek Island of Patmos. It’s a ten-hour flight from New York to Athens and another all-day ferry ride from the port of Piraeus. You arrive on island in the middle of the night and as you enter the harbor, your eye is drawn to the illuminated Fortress Monastery of St John. It stands atop one of Patmos’s highest points and dominates the landscape. The house where we were staying was just under the monastery. It had a roof lounge with views stretching to the islands east and west shores. Upon arrival I made my way up to the roof just as the monastery lights were being turned off for the night, revealing the most extraordinary sky of stars I had a ever seen. I discovered too that if you looked hard enough and long enough, you could track satellites with your naked eye as they crossed the heavens. Even though I was exhausted from my journey and certainly in need of sleep, I stayed up most of the night amazed by the simple, but spectacular show overhead and have been madly in love with that island ever since.
Most embarrassing travel moment:
Ask my team at Jetsetter. We have an All Hands meeting each week. At this meeting it is a tradition that every new hire has to reveal their most embarrassing travel story. I’ve heard some frightening, hilarious and honestly worrying tales. But once you tell it, your secret’s safe with us. Mum’s the word.
Name one thing people would be surprised to find in your travel bag:
Guide books. As an Editor in Chief of a digital travel site named Jetsetter you may think I know it all or use some digital device to arm myself with what I don’t, but I still like to carry a quality guide book, one that highlights cultural history and walks me through specifics. It helps me pass the time while on a plane, train boat, or during quiet moments when pulling out my phone seems just wrong. Plus, I don’t worry about the batteries running out and leaving me uniformed.
Touristy spot that’s actually worth it, and the trick to doing it right:
The Louvre, The Uffizi, The Prado, any well-know art museum with must-see art. I make it a point to visit these iconic museums whenever I visit a city despite the crush of tourist. The trick is to go early or late and make advanced reservations online. There is too much to see in the world to waste time in queues. Some guides (search my friends at Viator.com) offer group, after-hour tours of well-known museums for a premium price, but it can be worth it to see a Botticelli without bumping into a sea of selfie sticks.
Non-touristy spot people might not know about but should add to their must-visit list:
The desert, specifically the Sahara. I took a three-day journey into the Sahara once when visiting Morocco and discovered what Paul Bowles already knew. It is a magical place full of stillness and absolute silence. And “then there is the sky, compared to which all other skies seem fainthearted efforts.”
Name two indispensable apps you use when you travel:
I am a visual omnivore, so Instagram is an addiction. Google maps has come to my rescue more than once, especially when driving unfamiliar roads or navigating maze-like towns. And of course, I use Jetsetter’s App to book my hotels.
Choose any two travel-world bloggers and tell us the most important thing you’ve learned from each.
I am a fan of Tiny Atlas and its Travel Log. You get a true sense of place through their visual storytelling. It reminds me that one image, however iconic, should not be burdened with providing the whole picture. As well, I’m obsessed with A Hotel Life, Ben Pendole, who works for Ian Schrager’s Edition Hotels, has put together an impressive look into the world of the fabulously well-traveled. It reminds me that travel is supposed to be fun.
Whose Tweets do you find the most useful and entertaining when you see them in your feed?
I gravitate to more visual feeds and honestly peruse Instagram more than Twitter, but I do appreciate the US Interiors’ twitter feed @Interior for its spectacular imagery. It’s making me rediscover and fall in love with America. Ruth Reichl’s, (former editor in chief of Gourmet) tweets remind me of the exquisiteness of well-crafted words @ruthreichl.
Name one way the travel industry can do better.
Stop commoditizing travel. My travel choices do not always come down to just price. They are mostly driven by the expectation of an exceptional experience, one that will stay with me, transform me in some way and remind me why I love travel. Help me decide by telling me a better story and please, keep it real.
Look into the future and describe one aspect of travel that you think will be different in 20 years:
Already the Internet and especially mobile has transformed travel by putting more information in the hands of the traveler. We can dream, plan, book, navigate and share our experiences in ways that were not possible just a few years ago. When I look toward the future, I see information and experiences melding even more. Whether it’s virtual reality providing a totally immersive preview of where I want to go or information digitally displayed to me in the moment when I need it most, I think future technology will give me the confidence of knowing. I must admit, however, this future causes me just a little angst. Intel is awesome, but I will not want to lose one of the greatest delights of travel: serendipity.
Most effective thing you’ve ever said or done to get an upgrade or a special perk while traveling:
I deeply and sincerely appreciate all your efforts on my behalf. Thank you.
To make friends, I always carry:
My insatiable curiosity.
As a celebrated amenity, TVs in hotel rooms.
If you were in my car during a road trip, you’d hear me singing:
For all those involved, its better I don’t sing. That said, I have been known to hum Beethoven’s Ode to Joy while driving on the open road.
The airplane movie that, unexpectedly, made me bawl was:
Mr. Turner. Mike Leigh’s film about the life the famed British painter J.M.W Turner I watched it on a flight to London (when I should have been sleeping) and found it quietly unsentimental, but also incredibly sad and remarkably sublime. After checking into my hotel, I ran straight to the Tate so I could commune with his work and pay my respects.
When I travel, I’m not afraid of:
But I am afraid of:
Forgetting my passport.
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