Cusco (at Cusco, Peru)

Cusco (at Cusco, Peru)

More snapshots from Machu Picchu.

Rooms with a view.  (at Machu Picchu, Peru)

Rooms with a view. (at Machu Picchu, Peru)

Machu Picchu’s resident supermodel.  (at Machu Picchu, Peru)

Machu Picchu’s resident supermodel. (at Machu Picchu, Peru)

Majestic Machu Picchu.  (at Machu Picchu, Peru)

Majestic Machu Picchu. (at Machu Picchu, Peru)

Making friends at Machu Picchu. (at Machu Picchu, Peru)

Making friends at Machu Picchu. (at Machu Picchu, Peru)

Reflections of Summer

I love the rugged snowcapped mountains of the Andes. They’re larger-than-life, ancient and solid. But I grew up in the ocean and salt water still courses through my veins.

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Nothing feels more like home than the smell and weight of the sea air. It hushes the relentless cacophony that clangs in the corners of my mind and anchors me to a peaceful equilibrium. The warm evening winds and soft sands of the Jersey Shore cradle me in the unconditional love of home.

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Summer is my favorite season, even more so when I am coming straight from a southern winter. Our homecoming was filled with happy reunions and warm sunshine, pastel sunsets and lingering beach days.

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There were boardwalk strolls, seafood feasts, moonlit bike rides and singing cicadas. I savored the uncomplicated joys of slurping watermelon and ocean swims, flickering fireflies and freshly baked clams. I love the smell of sea-weathered docks and suntan lotion, the feeling of sun-kissed shoulders and balmy nights, the delight of chasing a wet dog with sandy feet.

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Every time I travel home from abroad, I see it with fresh eyes, and I’m certain that this tiny stretch of eastern seashore is as beautiful as anywhere in the world. I am grateful to call it mine.

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Indian summer in Central Park.  (at Central Park)

Indian summer in Central Park. (at Central Park)

Long and lean New York City architecture.  (at New York City)

Long and lean New York City architecture. (at New York City)

Back in the big, bad city. It’s a place to miss. (at New York City)

Back in the big, bad city. It’s a place to miss. (at New York City)

Pop-up lunch at #MadSqEats @urbanspacenyc (at Madison Square Park)

Pop-up lunch at #MadSqEats @urbanspacenyc (at Madison Square Park)

AFAR Conversations

Last night I attended my first AFAR Conversations event held at the Andaz Fifth Avenue hotel, which is part of a series that brings together media, travel industry professionals and marketing execs to explore the influence of travel on culture, style and design.

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The panel was moderated by AFAR Media’s Co-founder Joe Diaz and included a diverse and good-humored panel: Fran Della Badia, President of North America Retail for Coach; Designer and Creative Consultant Gordon Thompson; and Matthias Schmid, the VP of US Sales for Emirates Airline.

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Staying relevant was a big topic, which of course spans to all industries.

“Consumers want solutions, not just a product,” said Schmid. And you need to experience the lifestyle of your customer to know what those solutions are. Many times that involves traveling to international destinations to see how people are using your product.

When Thompson worked as a designer at Nike, his team studied cheetahs in Africa and butterflies in Paraguay, which led to the development of the Nike Free sneaker.

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Thompson believes that travel inspires innovation and created a Nike Design Camp to do just that. He would take his team abroad to give them a fresh perspective, which fueled out-of-the-box creative thinking and greater synergy.

Interestingly enough, the more dependent we become on technology, the more valued the human touch is becoming. Personalization and empathy make experiences stand out, especially as it relates to travel. “I keep going back to the same guesthouse in Kyoto because they’ve learned what I like, not from a form I filled out, but by paying attention,” shared Thompson.

Schmid added, “In an era of mass customization, it’s paramount to recognize our consumers individually, because that is what they respond to.”

“At AFAR we’ve found that people want to touch and own things that artisans have made with their hands,” Diaz chimed in.

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Staying nimble and quickly integrating learnings from research and development to a product line is challenge for large companies and Della Badia thinks there should be more room to make mistakes because that’s when some of the greatest innovations and unexpected findings happen.

Once Coach designed an iPhone case that was defective for making calls. They thought it was going to be an absolute bust, but it became a best-selling item among millennials who text more than they talk.

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They text and they love pictures. “To get a millennial’s attention it’s all about visual storytelling. They want to watch the backstory unfold,” Thomspon added.

Which makes me wonder if this blog post is irrelevant since 80 million millennials are not likely to read it. You can bet I’ll be paying close attention to the demographic section of my analytics this week. 

#AfarConversations hosted by the wonderful @relaxitsmegan @ellenafar & @joediazafar at @andaz5th. Chatting about the influence of travel on culture, style & design. (at Andaz Fifth Avenue )

#AfarConversations hosted by the wonderful @relaxitsmegan @ellenafar & @joediazafar at @andaz5th. Chatting about the influence of travel on culture, style & design. (at Andaz Fifth Avenue )

Argentine chef and grillmaster Francis Mallmann heats up il Buco Alimentari with a juicy feast and 4-course menu to celebrate today’s launch of his new cookbook Mallmann on Fire.

Today we’re commemorating the 13th anniversary of 9/11 and honoring the nearly 3,000 men, women and children who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. May peace find their loved ones. 

Today we’re commemorating the 13th anniversary of 9/11 and honoring the nearly 3,000 men, women and children who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. May peace find their loved ones.