T+L's 50 Most Notable People in Travel: 2021
When Travel + Leisure launched five decades ago in 1971, we had put a man on the moon only two years before. Pan Am had recently launched the first commercial Boeing 747. Smoking on board was standard (as was ample legroom and champagne, even in coach.) Now, squeezing into basic economy and paying for a carry-on is par for the course, but we’re also on the brink of space tourism, we have apps that predict hotel and flight deals at our fingertips, and with a passport and a little patience, most corners of the globe are reachable. And, at long last, after a year when the world stayed home, we’re starting to get back out there.
Behind every change the travel world has seen in the past year — and in the past 50 — there are people. That’s why we’re marking our 50th anniversary by celebrating the travelers who have changed our world for the better.
Some people on this list are industry veterans and famous firsts; others are adventurers and athletes, writers and photographers, chefs and conservationists, filmmakers and designers, historical icons and modern heroes. Some are no longer with us; others are beloved fictional characters who encouraged us to dream. All of them have done their part to elevate the travel experience, simplify it, make it more inclusive, or just inspire us to continue exploring. These are T+L’s 50 Notable People in Travel.
The first person outside the Marriott family to lead the company, Sorenson began in 1996 as associate general counsel at the behest of Bill Marriott. He rose to become president and CEO, a role he remained in until his death on February 15, 2021 at age 62. Known for his commitment to the environment, human rights, and diversity in addition to his business acumen and vision, Sorenson believed that corporations should be good community citizens. His major achievement was the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, making Marriott the world’s largest hotel operator with more than 30 brands and over 7,500 properties and creating the customer loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy. Several months before his death, Sorenson posted on his LinkedIn blog “A Love Letter to Travel,” describing the importance of travel in both his life and career. “The places we go stretch us,” he wrote. “They literally open our horizons, broaden our perspectives about life and give us memories that bring us back again and again.”
Since his first trip to Europe as a teenager in the late 1960s, Steves has been a dedicated traveler, documenting his adventures on postcards and journals, and later sharing his experiences in guidebooks, memoirs, radio and television shows, and through his tour company. As America’s leading expert on European travel, his advice and encouragement have made travel accessible to millions. To Steves, the essence of travel is connecting with people, and he counsels his readers and viewers to get out and meet the people of the world—not just in major cities, but in small towns, local markets, and homey lodgings. His recent book, For the Love of Europe: My Favorite Places, People, and Stories, is a collection of 100 of his best memories.
Sir David Frederick Attenborough’s voice is familiar to fans of his award-winning television programs, including The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Our Planet, and his 2020 documentary, A Life on Our Planet. Through more than 60 years of travel, Attenbourough has been to every continent on the globe, bringing his love of wildlife and the natural world to our living rooms. Attenborough’s early interest in wildlife and anthropology led him to travel to some of the most remote places on earth, inspiring his audience’s appreciation of nature as well as interest in preserving it for future generations.
Brown is one of the most recognizable and long lasting travel TV hosts of our lifetime. Since 1999, she’s hosted nine popular Travel Channel programs, and for the last four years she has produced and hosted her own Places to Love on PBS, which won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Travel/Adventure Program (Brown herself won for Outstanding Host.) Her informal, approachable style, eagerness to speak to strangers, and ability to get off the beaten path is what keeps fans tuned in year after year.
Born in Spain, José Ramón Andrés Puerta moved to New York at age 21 to cook in a popular Spanish restaurant. Thirty years later, the man who is credited with popularizing tapas-style dining in the U.S. owns more than 25 restaurants, representing a variety of global cuisines and cultures. But for Andrés, travel is for both culinary and humanitarian purposes: he founded World Central Kitchen in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the organization’s work has continued, serving nearly 20 million meals in more than a dozen countries affected by natural disasters and food crises, including during the Covid-19 pandemic. Among his many honors, Andrés was awarded a 2015 National Humanities Medal for his work.
Stanley Tucci certainly has a loyal base of fans who adore his movies (and his soothing bartending videos during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.) With his new six-part food and travel documentary series Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, the Emmy and Golden Globe award winner has found a new audience. Tucci guides his viewers through the country of his ancestors, focusing on regional dishes, with a backdrop of Italy’s gorgeous scenery, charming personalities, and unique culture. From classic pizza in Naples to his favorite spaghetti and zucchini dish on the Amalfi Coast, Tucci takes his audience on a food journey through home kitchens, restaurants, vineyards, and farms, adding bits of culinary history along the way. In Tuscany, he visits a lively market gathering ingredients for a dinner of bistecca alla Fiorentina and in Milan, he indulges in the traditional aperitivo and local cheese. Each episode leaves his viewers hungry for both the food and the atmosphere of Italy.
Padma Lakshmi is the definition of a multi-hyphenate: the model, author, actress, activist, and Emmy-nominated television host has led the cooking competition show Top Chef for 17 seasons; she’s written newspaper columns, a memoir and three cookbooks; and in January 2020, she launched her own television series, Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi. Taste the Nation combines her interests in food and travel with her commitment to immigrant rights, exploring how foods from different cultures influence American cuisine. As she journeys across the country visiting various communities, Lakshmi delves into Persian foods in Los Angeles, Thai dishes in Las Vegas, Peruvian foods in Paterson, New Jersey, and Native American ingredients in Arizona. In New York City, she cooks dishes from India, reminding viewers of her own background as an immigrant. Lakshmi travels frequently with her young daughter, sharing her love of travel and the importance of learning from different cultures around the world.
Bourdain’s influence and reach is nearly impossible to catalog. Brash, outspoken, and authentic, his death in 2018 at age 61 shocked the world, and his numerous award-winning shows and bestselling books are still beloved, examples of a more intentional, curious method of seeing the world. Known for his irreverent style and his interest in the cuisines and culture of lesser known destinations, he praised the quality of other countries’ street foods, encouraging his viewers to be open-minded in their travels. Three years after his death, interest in Bourdain has not waned: Bourdian’s longtime assistant Laurie Woolever recently published World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, is a collection of essays about Bourdain as well as an introduction to some of his favorite places, which the two had begun working on shortly before his death (Woolever is also publishing Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography, this October.) Released in July of this year, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, a revealing documentary, covers his career, including interviews, footage of his travels, and comments from fellow chefs.
“The travel impulse is mental and physical curiosity. It’s a passion. And I can’t understand people who don’t want to travel,” said Theroux, an acclaimed writer whose love of travel has taken him around the world, beginning with a Peace Corps stint in Africa during the 1960s. Theroux’s prolific writings include travel memoirs as well as fictional works set in some of the many places he explored over the past 50 years. Theroux’s first best-selling travel book, The Great Railway Bazaar, described his four-month train journey through Asia, while several of his other works have been made into movies, including The Mosquito Coast, a 1986 film starring Harrison Ford and now an AppleTV+ series featuring his nephew, actor Justin Theroux. His latest novel, Under the Wave at Waimea, is set on the north shore of Oahu, his home for the last 30 years.
Amelia Earhart was a traveler, but her first love was the journey, not the destination. Born in 1897, she discovered flying while watching the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto during World War I. Earhart’s first airplane ride in 1920 stirred her passion for aviation and she soon began lessons, earning her license in December 1921. Among her many records, Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first woman to fly solo across the United States. In 1935, she became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the mainland. She championed not only aviation, but women’s rights through her example and her work; she was also one of the first people to promote commercial air travel, and served as Vice President of National Airways, later to become Northeast Airlines. Her mysterious 1937 disappearance during a flight over the Pacific Ocean has never formally been solved, and continues to intrigue people to this day..
Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert DeNiro
The friendship between a celebrated Japanese chef and restaurateur and an Academy Award-winning actor launched an empire, and helped bring Japanese-Peruvian food into the spotlight. It all started with DeNiro’s meal at Matsuhisa’s Los Angeles restaurant in 1988. Six years later, the friendship became a partnership when they opened Nobu in New York City, and today, there are nearly 50 Nobu restaurants worldwide. In 2013, they extended their brand to hotels when the first Nobu Hotel opened inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas; now there are 13 Nobu Hotel locations, including a newly-opened London outpost, and plans for locations in Marrakesh, Hamburg, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Brazil, and Toronto.
Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish
The hit Outlander television series made fans fall in love with Scotland, so much so that tourism to the country spiked and created what Visit Scotland deemed “the Outlander effect.” Two Scottish actors who appeared in the show, Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish, also found a new appreciation for their country—together they created Men in Kilts, an eight episode series that follow the charming pair as they road trip through Scotland in a camper van, exploring the nation’s food, sports, music, dance, whisky, legends, and history. They also wrote a bestselling book focused on Scotland’s culture and history, Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other, written as a prelude to filming their show. A new book is also on the way, The Clanlands Almanac: Seasonal Stories from Scotland, a practical travel guide as well as a celebration of the country’s festivals, traditions, and events.
Born in Nepal in 1973 into a family of Mount Everest expedition guides, Sherpa began working as a porter at the age of 15, transporting equipment for tourists. Her dream was to reach the mountaintop, and she achieved that goal in 2000, becoming the first woman to successfully summit Mount Everest. Since then, Sherpa has reached the summit of Everest nine times, earning her the Guinness World Record. She has made the two-month journey in windstorms, whiteouts, and while two months pregnant, overcoming mental and physical challenges that few can imagine. Yet, she has received surprisingly little recognition for her accomplishments compared to other (typically white, male climbers.) Today, she lives in the United States, supporting herself and kids as a single mother of three. Sherpa maintains her hope to return to Mount Everest for a tenth expedition.
The outdoor enthusiast has spent most of her life as an avid mountain climber, biker, hiker, and landscape photographer. A member of the Navajo Tribe in New Mexico, Jaylyn Gough noticed the absence of women of color, specifically Native American women, in mainstream advertising campaigns for outdoor and travel media. As the founder of the Native Women’s Wilderness, she created a community that not only increases indigenous representation, but also provides Native American women with a space to share their stories, support each other, and educate others about their ancestral lands and their people. Gough and her non-profit organization inspire women to get outside and reconnect with nature. Gough told Hoka One One during a 2019 interview on women reconnecting to the wilderness, “Our history may be broken. Too many spirits, hearts and lives are broken. The land is crying. But I believe that the only way to reimagine what can be, the only way to heal, is to revisit and connect with the land that connects us all.”
Pablo Segarra, Esq.
More than 62 million Latinx people live in the United States, and this population represents one of the fastest-growing markets in the country, according to New York-based entrepreneur Pablo Segarra, Esq. After working as a police officer in Washington Heights, an immigration lawyer, and traveling to nearly 30 countries, Pablo Segarra, Esq. merged his passions to become the CEO of the Latinx Travel Club, a platform to share the Latin American experience through various means including heritage travel. The organization will host its first annual Latinx Travel Summit in Miami to “bring together industry and thought leaders to push the culture forward.” He remembers his first trip to Puerto Rico after hearing his grandparents’ stories about his ancestral homeland. It’s an opportunity he wants to offer to Latinx youth. A portion of the Summit’s proceeds will go to local community organizations and also provide scholarships to Latinx youth to encourage them to travel around the world.
For more than three years, Ashley Smith and her business partner Trevor Claiborn have been culture preservationists—keeping the storied past, present, and future of the Black farmer in Kentucky alive. Smith oversees the daily operations, strategic partnership, and planning of Black Soil KY, the only statewide agritourism company with a mission to reconnect Black Kentuckians to their heritage and legacy in agriculture. Black Soil features intimate year-round events, including customized farm tours, farm-to-table dinners, and off-season workshops, where visitors can connect with Kentucky’s Black farmers, growers, and producerS—only 1.4 percent of the farm operators in the state. In addition to providing this unique cultural experience, Smith’s mission is to ensure that more Black farmers and producers excel to claim a larger piece of the consumer market looking for healthy food options.
Latoya Allison and Mariana Güereque have cut down the amount of screen time children spend on electronic gadgets, especially during long family trips. The two Austin-based moms invented the waterproof TernPaks backpack that comes prepacked with a variety of fun items, including dry-erase mazes, watercolor gel crayons, magnetic cubes, an art folio, and a travel journal. “We wrote a journal that allows kids to reflect on the experience they’re having,” Allison says in a Travel + Leisure article. The journal asks specific questions about travel such as, ‘What is your favorite place in the whole world?’ ‘What is your favorite memory?’ and ‘Do you like long trips or short trips?’ Before new TernPaks products are available to the consumers, Allison has them tested to ensure they keep kids entertained and engaged while parents focus on getting the entire family to their final destination.
In 2018, the eco-explorer and author embarked on an epic two-year journey across Africa. He made the 7,456-mile trek from Cape Town to Cairo entirely by foot and kayak. During his adventure, Mario Rigby was able to bridge the gap between humanity by connecting with all people and communities along the way in an effort to also share their stories. He is an advocate for the inclusion of diversity in the outdoor travel industry and encourages adventurers to explore the world through sustainable travel. A former track and field athlete, Rigby continues to travel the world and give back to local communities. Born in Turks & Caicos, he traversed the Caribbean nation’s eight main islands in five days, for the Caicos Challenge, a fundraiser for local charities, including the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund. No word on where he’s heading next, but you can bet he’ll give back to the local communities on his next grand journey.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, to Ugandan parents, Jessica Nabongo says her first international trip was to London and Uganda when she was 6 years old. Nabongo is the first documented Black woman to visit every country in the world—a total of 195 countries. Some of those destinations included visits to her favorite beaches, such as West Bay Beach in Roatan, Honduras, and Nungwi Beach in Zanzibar. She shares her most recent travel adventures on multiple platforms, including her website Catch Me If You Can. Nabongo also created Jet Black, a boutique luxury travel company that hosts group trips, curating itineraries to countries in Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. And at the core of this world traveler is her desire to share immersive travel stories and captivating photography to educate and inspire others to travel and experience the world around them.
The award-winning filmmaker and photographer is known for taking jaw-dropping snapshots from high-risk vantage points. A true adrenaline-rush adventurer, Chin has become one of a few people to ski off the summit of Mount Everest. His talent and world-renowned work have scored him numerous photography awards from reputable organizations, including the American Society of Magazine Editors. Chin’s expertise in adventure travel and extreme sports gifted him with an authentic perspective to create films such as Meru, and more recently, Free Solo, a documentary that follows rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to conquer the first free solo climb of El Capitan at Yosemite National Park. The film garnered several accolades, including seven Emmys and an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2019. Chin’s wife, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, was also a director of the film. We’re eager to see what’s next for the daring storyteller and traveler.
After spending a year traveling the world, Robert Sharp launched Out Adventures, an LGBTQ travel company that provides small-group escapes and customized tours to a variety of destinations around the globe, including New Zealand, Egypt, Nepal, Peru, Iceland, and Italy. Sharp’s global network has allowed his company to evolve into a team of queer-savvy tour guides, in more than 100 countries, who know how to navigate local customs and attitudes as well as seek out airlines, hotels, resorts, and restaurants that genuinely welcome the LGBTQ+ community. Sharp uses his platform to not only give back to the local LGBTQ+ community in Toronto, homebase for Out Adventures, but he also supports international organizations, such as Rainbow Railroad, a nonprofit organization that helps resettle LGBTQ+ refugees fleeing state-sponsored violence. Rainbow Road receives a $50 donation for each guest scheduled on an Out Adventures group tour.
A transgender Welsh historian, author, and travel writer, Jan Morris worked as a correspondent at The Times to cover the first ascent of Mount Everest with New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary. She’s also known for penning The Pax Britannica Trilogy, a series of books about the history of the British Empire. ‘James Morris’ was her name prior to gender reassignment surgery in Morocco in 1972, and the trans pioneer writes about her life-changing evolution in her 1974 memoir Conundrum. In addition to self-reflective autobiographies, Morris had a flair for writing descriptive portraits of cities, such as Oxford, Venice, Hong Kong, New York, and Trieste. In Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, she eloquently describes the moodiness of the history-drenched city. Although she never liked to be described as a travel writer, her undeniable talent was to pen prose that continues to inspire travelers and writers around the world.
In 1949, Rodgers Travel Agency opened its doors for business in Philadelphia, and today, it is the oldest Black-owned travel agency in the U.S. Norma Pratt started out as a travel agent, and in 1980, replaced her father Fred Russell, co-owner of the agency, as CEO. Under her leadership, she enrolled Rodgers Travel, Inc. into the Small Business Administration’s development program, and secured a $10 million yearly contract with Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois in 1991. It was the travel agency’s first federal government contract. She expanded the agency—now headquartered in Wayne, Pennsylvania—to serve leisure, corporate, and government travelers in the U.S., which transformed it into a multi-million-dollar travel business. Pratt received accolades for her leadership of Rodgers Travel, including the Eastern Pennsylvania Minority Small Business Person of the Year Award. In a post-pandemic world, she continues to valiantly lead the agency through unforeseeable obstacles to keep her family’s legacy alive.
Kellee Edwards is a tour de force when it comes to her impact on travel. She’s an award-winning travel expert and journalist, a pioneer of her own personal brand, Kellee Set Go, and she’s also a licensed pilot and certified scuba diver. Edwards is the host of Travel + Leisure‘s podcast called Let’s Go Together to highlight diversity and inclusion in the travel and adventure space. She’s also the island-hopping host on the Travel Channel TV show, Mysterious Islands. The global jetsetter has traveled to more than 60 countries, embracing new adventures such as dog sledding in Alaska, participating in a Mayan archaeological dig in Central America, and trekking Mt. Papaya, an active volcano in Guatemala. We’re not sure what’s next for the Los Angeles-based traveler but hiking and flying around in a Cessna 172 are always on her agenda.
Jeff Jenkins is a travel pioneer who created ChubbyDiaries.com, a brand, and community to represent plus-size travelers, so they don’t feel isolated. The Austin-based travel expert is focused on developing excursions that include hotels, airlines, and other suppliers that are accommodating to plus-size travelers. The body activist’s fun personality and authentic storytelling fill a void in the travel space—more than 42 percent of all Americans are obese, according to the CDC, and for that reason alone, representation is important. Jenkins offers his unique travel insight and shares body-positive experiences to inspire travelers to explore the world on their own terms. On the Let’s Go Together podcast, Plus-size Travelers on Traveling the World in a Bigger Body, he says, “People need to see more plus-size people traveling so that they can see themselves as the reflection and want to go travel more.”
To countless kids of the ’80s and early ’90s, there was never a name in travel nearly as notorious as her’s. But even as founder of the Villainous International League of Evil (VILE), the fictional master thief’s greatest legacy isn’t larceny. She instilled in us something truly charitable: a curiosity for cultures and countries beyond our own. Hot on her trail across a series of educational software games we learned of global commodities and capitals and spied a—crude, DOS-based—glimpse of what these faraway lands looked like (long before Googling images of them was an option). Eventually the slippery swindler would land on an eponymous gameshow, appearing weekday afternoons on Public Broadcasting. Thirty years later, most Millennials can’t read the title, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? without humming its theme song in their heads.
If Mickey’s connection to travel isn’t immediately obvious, here’s a hint: his spiritual home in Orlando, Florida is the most visited theme park on the planet. Boasting an average annual attendance of roughly 58 million, Walt Disney World will celebrate its 50th anniversary this October. And it’s all built around a mouse and his house—or a castle, more accurately. Magic Kingdom was the first landmark to rise up in this part of Central Florida. It was soon followed by Epcot, where guests can “walk the world” through 11 themed pavilions, each inspired by the landscapes and culture of a specific country—staffed by its respective citizens. Mickey, for his part, has hardly stayed put over the past century. As star of over 100 films, the animated icon has inspired wanderlust to locales as remote as Hawaii and the high mountaintops of Switzerland.
The Wild Thornberrys
The late ’90s were undeniably a golden age for cartoons, but for those with a passion for wildlife and conservation, nothing compares to the zany antics of the Thornberry family. While the premise of the show is pretty fascinating on its own—a girl enchanted with the ability to talk to animals travels the globe with her esteemed nature-documentarian parents—it’s the seamless blend of real-life issues pegged to protagonist Eliza’s own personal struggles that makes the series standout. From fighting mass deforestation in the Amazon to forgetting about Mother’s Day, our bookish heroine excels at battling poachers, pollution, and prejudice all while navigating life as a (not-so) average preteen girl. Add in a lovable cast of characters ranging from wild child Donnie to style icon Debbie to the ridiculously meme-worthy Nigel Thornberry, and you’ve got an enduring classic that leaves you entertained and educated all at once.
Whether at the beach or at the big game, Waldo has a befuddling way of blending into a crowd. Persistent anonymity throughout the years hasn’t stopped him, however, from winning over fans from every corner of the globe. In his native England, illustrator Martin Handford conceived the beanie-bearing bespectacled sensation as “Wally” in an eponymous puzzle book, debuting in 1987. Since then he’s gone on to assume no less than 30 different identities across the many countries in which his adventures appear. The French know him as Charlie. In Japan he’s Wōrī. No matter the name, the watchers are never far behind, eager to seek him out and never surprised by where those trademark red-and-white stripes might crop up next.
Dora the Explorer
A young girl traverses the rural countryside accompanied by her singing backpack and red-boot-clad monkey BFF, all while being pursued by a klepto-maniacal reynard. It may sound bizarre, but anyone who grew up in the early 2000s is all too familiar with the adventurous exploits of Dora the Explorer, who made her grand debut on Nickelodeon in 1999. As our plucky protagonist navigated verdant forests and troll-ridden bridges, she was also met with a monumental task—introducing young viewers to the Spanish language. Though the United States still suffers from serious monolingualism, there’s certainly a large subset of mid-20s millennials out there who remember “vamanos,” “delicioso,” or “muy bien” from their favorite exploradora—or, at the very least, can recite the entirety of “I’m The Map” from memory.
Born in Peru and ultimately named after the bustling London train station where he was adopted, Paddington has gone on to become a bear beloved by all. The marmalade sandwich enthusiast first sweetened hearts back in 1958, when British author Michael Bond penned a book with a rather on-the-nose title: A Bear Called Paddington. Today his series of children’s stories has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. As an animated character Paddington has starred in two movies. As a real-life stuffed animal he became the first item to pass through the Chunnel upon its completion in 1994. In the U.K., UNICEF now sells Paddington’s Postcards to educate English children about their counterparts in other parts of the globe, while raising money to protect young people in underserved areas. Cloaked in a peacoat, suitcase in hand, you can be sure that wherever he’s headed next, this bear is packing some serious care.
Fearless pioneer. Indefatigable adventurer. Aviation legend. There is no way to overstate the influence that Bessie Coleman continues to impart, 95 years after her tragic final flight. Born in late 19th Century Texas, Coleman lived in a time and place where BIPOC women were segregated from virtually all aspects of public life. Denied access to vote, to basic education, to railway cars, the idea of a Black woman flying a plane was nothing short of fantasy. And it’s precisely what Coleman was going to do. Her imagination was initially sparked by tales of high-flying vets returning home from World War I. She would have to make it to the Old World herself—and learn a foreign language—to find an academy willing to admit a Black woman. In 1920 she enrolled in the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and was awarded an international pilot’s license seven months later. Coleman returned to the U.S. as both the first African-American woman and also the first of Native-American woman to earn the distinction.
Victor Hugo Green
There’s Green Book—the Academy Award winning film for best picture from 2018—and then there’s The Green Book—an actual guidebook that helped inspire the movie’s plot. Between the years of 1936 and 1966, this literally lifesaving compendium catalogued the motels, hotels, gas stations, and restaurants serving Black customers. It was largely thanks to the tireless devotion of its namesake publisher, Victor Hugo Green. The postal-worker-turned-travel-writer initially started compiling data from establishments near his native Harlem, New York. Demand soon swelled for a national edition, with 15,000 copies ultimately hitting shelves each year. In the introduction Green wrote: “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published.” He died in 1960, four years before passage of the Civil Rights Act legally barred racial segregation. A poignant rallying cry for social justice lives on in the words he left behind.
Long before the days of Instagram, or even TV, Nellie Bly managed to make herself a global superstar and travel influencer just the same. As an accomplished reporter for the New York World in 1889, she set out to break a world record set by Phileas Fogg—the fictional protagonist of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Bly’s very real journey actually bested its imaginary inspiration by eight days. And although her world record lasted less than a year, her fame and reputation as a heroic explorer would continue to grow, long past her death in 1922. Today, merely the mention of her name is enough to render as absurd any intimation that women ought to avoid solo travel.
Slim Aarons offered the world more than mere photography. He gave it a vibe. In his own words, that aesthetic could best be described as, “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.” The glamour of ‘Old Hollywood’, the Golden Age of Aviation, monarchs in mansions getting martinis—he was there to capture all of it, along with the envy of anyone who desired even the narrowest glimpse into the lives of the unimaginably privileged. And for those drawing from similar mood boards to fill Instagram feeds du jour, this is the #blessed benchmark by which they all must measure. Just be forewarned: in the orbit of well-heeled travel, few could ever hope to fuse inspiration with aspiration so effortlessly.
“Brand Developer” isn’t exactly the title you expect to see on the business card of an environmental champion. But Cyrill Gutsch proudly flaunts both badges without contradiction. The German expat founded Parley for the Oceans back in 2012 with a primary focus on combating marine plastic waste. An early partnership with Adidas resulted in the world’s first sneaker fabricated entirely out of reclaimed ocean plastic. He’s worked with American Express to create credit cards out of the same. But these are just baby steps towards the ultimate goal: eradicating plastic production altogether. For a man who sees recycling as merely a climate bandage, real healing begins when innovative technologies such as bio-fabrication and green chemistry become corporate standards. An alignment between economic and ecologic is necessary to turn the tides, here.
Martinique Lewis was frustrated by a lack of representation in the travel industry. She was even more disheartened by the prominent players—from hotels and airlines to tourism boards and travel conferences—unwilling to address these issues from within. So she opted to take matters into her own hands, founding the Black Travel Alliance and establishing herself as a “diversity in travel consultant.” In 2018 she published a report card on associated practices. By then, plenty of brands in the space were talking the talk regarding inclusion. Lewis became the first to assemble a methodology by which accountability could be measured. It resulted in a ‘D’ score—abysmal yet predictable. In the year that followed she consulted with major corporate entities showing them that they ought to be among the driving forces for equitable growth; pointing to stats correlating how much more likely multicultural travelers are to spend with brands actively representing them. A year later that same score came back as a ‘C-‘. There’s obviously much more room for improvement. But people like Martinique Lewis are showing us what that improvement looks like.
In the age of Instagram, virtually all travelers fancy themselves photographers to some extent. Yet so much of what we see on our feed is intended to inspire #FOMO as opposed to awe. If you want to know what the latter looks like, give @ChrisBurkard a scroll. Already among the most followed visual artists on the platform the 35-year-old nomadic lensman typically shares imagery with his 3.6 million fans several times a week. Even on the smallest of smartphone screens his content hums with movement, sings with purpose, and pierces with grandeur. If he’s snapping something you’ve seen countless times before, he’ll convey it in a way that looks altogether fresh, which, of course, takes a brilliant eye. It also helps to be in the right place at the right time—like, say, Fagradalsfjall on March 19th, 2021. Suspended in a helicopter above Iceland’s remote southwestern corner, he became the first professional photog to capture the volcano’s dramatic reawakening from an 800-year-long dormancy. “Have Camera, Will Travel,” his bio proclaims. We’ll follow. Even if it’s only on Instagram.
Carissa Moore first got on a surfboard as a five-year old in idyllic Waikiki. A Honolulu native, she describes the ocean as her happy place, and even the pandemic hasn’t been able to keep her from breaking barriers while riding waves. This summer, Moore became the first American woman to compete at the Olympics when surfing finally made its pandemic-delayed debut as an official Olympic sport. Even before the Olympics, Moore won four world championships, and became the youngest winner ever of a women’s Vans Triple Crown of Surfing event, the Reef Hawaiian Pro. She even took on the men at surfing events where she would have otherwise had no competition. Moore has been surfing professionally since 2004 and is coached by her father, a lifelong surfer himself.
If you’re stuck in a job you hate, take some inspiration from interior designer Ken Fulk and get out. He was working in a marketing job he hated in Boston when a laundry mixup led him to his future husband and a new more fulfilling life in San Francisco. There, Fulk pursued a career as an interior designer despite not having been trained or formally schooled in design. He developed a whimsical style reflective of the freedom of self he found while living there. Fulk describes himself as someone who has always seen life in a cinematic fashion. Design, he says, is his way of helping others see the world the way he does.
Julian Fellowes is a prolific actor, producer, and writer with a knack for bringing history back to life and winning awards along the way. He created, executive produced, and wrote the Downton Abbey television series and film, and wrote the screenplays for Gosford Park, Romeo and Juliet, and more. His accolades include an Academy Award for a best original screenplay award for his work on Gosford Park. Downton Abbey, a British period drama that earned a Guinness Book of World Records title for being the most critically acclaimed television show of the year in 2011, has earned enough recognition to become a Saturday Night Live parody. Fellowes next project, The Gilded Age, is an HBO series chronicling the economic transformation of New York City in the late 1800s through the eyes of an orphaned daughter of a Union general.
If you’ve seen Netflix’s High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, you know Stephen Satterfield. The Atlanta-born sommelier and media entrepreneur is best known for hosting the Netflix docu series, but the culinary anthropologist has spent his entire career using food and wine to organize, activate, and educate. After years of working in restaurants, Satterfield, in 2016, founded Whetstone Media, the first Black-owned food magazine in the U.S. Whetstone’s mission: to use food to better understand humans around the world and to create a space for Black people to tell their own stories. The idea was born when Satterfield began looking for the stories getting lost in the farm-to-table movement while working at a restaurant in the Bay Area.
Perhaps unexpected for the grandson of Jacques Cousteu, Fabien Cousteu is working to build a $165 million underwater research facility in the Florida Keys that’s meant to serve as a sort of International Space Station, but for the deep sea. The Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center is a nonprofit that aims to restore the health of the world’s water bodies through community engagement and education. The aquanaut, ocean conservationist, and documentary filmmaker launched the center in 2016, but his love affair with the water began decades earlier when his grandfather outfitted a four-year-old Cousteau in a custom made scuba suit for a first dive in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
Adrian Zecha is the man responsible for bringing the world Amangiri—the gorgeous luxury resort in the Utah desert that you’ve been seeing all over Instagram. The Indonesian founder of Aman Resorts is known for creating award-winning luxury properties and redefining some of the world’s most beautiful destinations. Zecha was a journalist before he was a hotelier, pivoting into the hotel business after turning 40. In 1988, he opened Aman Resorts first property, Amanpuri—which means place of peace—on the beach overlooking the Andaman Sea in gorgeous Phuket, Thailand. His minimalist approach ensures gorgeous resorts fall into place against natural landscapes that offer endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and so many chances to truly get away from it all.
Captain Kate McCue
A cruise to the Bahamas when she was 12 hooked Kate McCue on the sea. Twenty-five years later, she became the first American woman to captain a mega cruise ship. Nowadays, McCue is the captain of the Celebrity Edge, which recently departed Miami becoming the first ship to set sail from the U.S. since the pandemic shut down cruising. McCue’s career has taken her around the world, but it was persistence that got her there. For nine months, she fruitlessly searched for a job on a cruise ship with no luck. Then, she found her way into an entry-level position on a Disney cruise and began sailing her way into history.
Mumbai-born Floyd Cardoz was heading toward a career in medicine when he changed course, setting out on a journey that would take him from New York City line cook to global culinary icon. He elevated Indian cuisine, carving out space for himself in one of the most competitive fine dining scenes in the world. Cardoz was the first chef born and raised in India to lead a top Manhattan kitchen. He became known for creative dishes like halibut in watermelon curry and his extensive use of Indian spices. At one point, his kitchen had a separate spice room meant to preserve flavor and protect them from the heat of the kitchen. Cardoz wrote two cookbooks and was among the earliest casualties of the coronavirus. He died in New Jersey in March 2020.
Brian Kelly started using frequent flyer miles before he could drive. As a kid, his dad promised him a family vacation if he could figure out how to pay for it with miles. Kelly traded his dad’s miles for six tickets to the Grand Cayman and hasn’t looked back. As an adult working on Wall Street and earning frequent flyer miles of his own, Kelly launched The Points Guy blog in 2010 to share his tips for swapping miles for first class flights, gorgeous hotel rooms, and amazing experiences. That blog has since grown into a media empire with Kelly as its jetsetting CEO.
Evita Robinson is a nomadic explorer who built one of the earliest online communities for Black travelers. A solo backpacker whose adventures include teaching English in Japan, living abroad multiple times, and embarking on several solo backpacking trips, in 2011 Robinson set out to build the travel community she felt the world was missing. The community of travelers of color she launched with the support of about 100 Facebook friends has since grown into the Nomadness Travel Tribe, an invitation-only community for Black travelers. The group now boasts more than 22,000 members in dozens of countries and leads a handful of international trips each year to locations like Panama, India, and South Africa.
A car accident at 18 left Alvaro Silberstein with a spinal injury that would require him to use a wheelchair, but it couldn’t stop his adventurous spirit or keep him from achieving any of his dreams. A Chilean, Silberstein took on Torres del Paine in Patagonia and the University of California at Berkeley to prove that even the most difficult terrain need not be inaccessible to travelers in wheelchairs. Silberstein, who holds an MBA from Berkeley, has since opened up a new world for disabled travelers, launching tours to iconic but difficult to access sites like Torres del Paine in Patagonia and Machu Picchu in Peru. His Wheel the World travel company is the world’s first to operate tours of rugged Machu Picchu for people in wheelchairs.
Momofuku Milk Bar Pie is legendary, just like David Chang’s noodles. The Korean-American chef founded the Momofuku restaurant empire with Noodle Bar in Manhattan’s East Village in 2004. He’s since opened several more Manhattan restaurants, expanded to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Toronto, and embraced his sweet tooth with Milk Bar—the dessert chain whose products offer adventurous twists on childhood favorites. Chang has won two Michelin stars for Ko, a high-end Manhattan restaurant with an epic tasting menu that includes unique dishes like uni with hummus and olive oil and a Mandarin Tarte Tatin. Chang also has become a regular in many people’s homes through a line of home cooking products and as the star of the Netflix series Ugly Delicious.
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