How to Travel Well, with Yolanda Edwards
Recently, we have been thinking about travel (again) after months of not considering it at all, and one point we’re stuck on is the concept of an itinerary and what goes into it: researching, sharing, and knowing when to let go. For advice we turned to travel extraordinaire Yolanda Edwards, founder of Yolo Journal and former creative director of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine. With Yolo Journal, Edwards focuses on “how people really move through places” and what travel really means, “connecting to the feelings/wants people experience when they aren’t on their home turf,” she says. The magazine is an organic unfolding of shared places and experiences “from people who travel a lot, and have great taste.” Edwards sits right in the center of that Venn diagram. Here are her top tips on planning travel and traveling well.
ASK FRIENDS FIRST
My starting point in researching is to always ask friends who have been wherever it is that I’m going—and get them to send me their list of favorites.
GOOGLE BUT DON'T HASTAG
If I’m going in completely cold, but it’s a city that’s well-documented, I’ll do a sweep through sites I like. For hotels I look at Tablet, Mr & Mrs Smith, and iEscape. For rentals I like Le Collectionist. For food, shops, and culture, I’ll do very general searches until I find some interesting POV, which is often on page 7 or 15 of Google’s search results. It requires patience to scroll through all the ads and the drivel but it’s worth it! So many friends save their favorite ideas they see on Instagram, but I don’t do that because it would mean spending too much time on the platform and getting sucked into it in a way that doing straight research on Google doesn’t elicit.
MAP IT OUT
Once I’ve started a list, I put the addresses into a Google map, but I also have a notebook that I designate just for the trip, and start writing down notes into it. To avoid zig-zagging, backtracking, and traffic, I like to use Google maps to plan the trip out in my head—really walking through it—because who wants to waste time, and who wants to have a cranky day on a much needed break? If I’m mapping out Paris, for example, I’ll just try to stick to adjacent areas, and if the day’s scheduling is out of my control and I have to meet someone on the other side of town, I either make that part of my exercise for the day or try to discover something new in that area.
UPON ARRIVAL, ASK YOUR TAXI DRIVER
Once I get to a city, I usually talk to the taxi drivers, the hotel staff, shopkeepers—anyone who seems interesting and is willing to share!
ALLOW TIME FOR SPONTANEITY
The only way to allow for spontaneity is to plan no more than one cultural activity per day. If the stars align and you’re able to do more, that’s great. Think about how you are back home: you don’t stress out if you miss a show at the museum, or if you haven’t been to a certain monument. Why do that to yourself when you’re on holiday? It’s great to have your list, but just do some of it, and know that you can do more, but you don’t have to. The city will always be there, and making friends with strangers at a cafe is what you’ll remember more than running from here to there.
REVEL IN ROUTINE
I’m living in Rome right now, and I’m surrounded by so many things that I “should” do, but I haven’t done. Letting it go allows room to relax. I don’t stress about getting to the “right” cafe or restaurant or show, and instead, I sit back and do the same things over and over. The same run, the same morning coffee...and in experiencing the daily routines of life here, I feel like I get to see the city on a deeper level.
During the height of lockdown, weren’t we all craving human contact? Hugs, smiles, laughter, crowds, bumping into each other on the street...We weren’t missing shops for the clothes (we could order those), we missed them for the community. Sure we were desperate for restaurants and eating out, but really, being with others was a universal longing. Now that we can do/go/ see with freedom, I’m trying to hold onto that feeling.
TRAVEL FOR YOURSELF
The culture part of travel is important, but taking care of yourself is even more important. So whatever that means for you: do that. Don’t travel for someone else and their approval (or their jealousy). Travel for yourself. It’s your experience, not theirs.