Now Boarding For…
Travel. For most of us these days it’s the trek from couch to kitchen or if we’re really adventurous, around the block to give the dog a break. But if there is one experience millions around the world are sharing during this period of home confinement, it is sitting within the walls of our abodes, however tight or spacious, and dreaming about where we want to go when it’s safe to get on a plane again.
O+A has many experienced travelers on staff, but no one squeezes more out of a trip than our Design Director Elizabeth Vereker. We thought it a good time to call on Elizabeth for some armchair travel tips, daydream itineraries and recollections of adventures past:
O+A: How are you doing?
EV: Ah, you know. I feel like I have a long run of good days and then I’ll have a day or two of being anxious. Working from home has been relatively painless. It’s just that I’m not used to spending so much time in my apartment. So I’m walking as much as possible, sometimes four or five hours. It’s so nice just to get out.
O+A: You’re taking long hikes around the city?
EV: Yeah, I do at least three miles a day. And then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, when I’m not at my desk I do six to eight. (Laughing) It’s the only thing that makes me feel better!
O+A: Where do you go?
EV: Every day I go to Alamo Square Park. I take Ruby there after work to run around with the other dogs. That park has a pretty good 360 view. So oftentimes I will just pick a street and walk to the end of it. I’m trying to take different routes every day. I’m really enjoying the city being quieter. The lack of traffic. You can hear the birds!
O+A: Sounds like a nice local substitute for taking a trip.
EV: I’ve been looking back at photos that I’ve taken and thinking about how grateful I am for traveling as much as I have. And I can’t wait to do it again—I’m already starting to plan for the Venice Biennale next year. This year, I’m sure it’s going to cancel or be modified, but next year it will be back and Italy will be reopened and I just can’t wait to go.
O+A: Is that the first place you want to go when you can travel again?
EV: The first thing I want to do is see my parents. This will have been the longest that I’ve gone without seeing them in a few years. So that will be the first thing. But yes, I am currently planning two trips right now. One is a road trip to some amazing destinations that are so close, but I’ve never been to. I want to go to Joshua Tree and I want to go to Antelope Canyon and I want to go to Marfa. And I am already thinking about my next great European adventure. I was planning on Switzerland this summer. That’s not going to happen, but I am hopeful I will be able to go somewhere in November or December. I haven’t decided where yet.
O+A: November or December—a holiday trip?
EV: It will be a present to myself for my (mumble, mumble) birthday, which is this Christmas. I’m trying to think where I want to go, but I’m sure it will be somewhere that features Christmas markets and lots of beautiful scenery. Perhaps Scandinavia. And then I’m thinking about next year doing the Venice Biennale again. After what’s been going on in Italy I kind of want to go there. I don’t want to slow down these once-or-twice-a-year European trips because they mean so much to me—the art and the culture and the food and everything is just so fulfilling. Then thinking about Scandinavia: you know, taking a boat through the fjords and going hiking and sitting by a fire with other people sounds… amazing! I don’t care if I know them. I don’t care if I speak their language. Just that nearness—that nearness to people and nature and art.
O+A: Are you one of those people who take the trip twice—first when you plan it and again when you go? Or are you the sort who just goes and discovers?
EV: I’m both. My approach to design is always go slow to go fast and my approach to trips is meticulously plan to wing it. I love the planning. I have so many travel books and for every trip I start with one spot like: “I want to see this!” Then I’ll pull out a map and find what is relatively near. And relatively near can be like London to Ireland or like Venice to Switzerland, you know? And I see what else is happening adjacent. Because so many times my greatest travel memories are of little festivals that wouldn’t typically be a destination.
O+A: For example?
EV: For example in Spain my mom and I went to The Festival of the Patios, which happens in Cordoba each spring. It’s in this town where all of these homes are built around courtyards. So during the festival you walk around these beautiful houses and go into everyone’s courtyard. It’s the antithesis of shelter in place. And it’s not like a home-erama or some fancy design showcase. They’re just everyday folks doing interesting things with their flowers and fountains and the home owners are sitting there sometimes with a cat and you just talk to them. You’re literally just spending the afternoon wandering through people’s homes. Things like that I think are very special because they give such great insight into a really specific regional culture and the way people live.
“My approach to design is always go slow to go fast and my approach to trips is meticulously plan to wing it.”
O+A: I know you often plan your trips to coincide with arts festivals.
EV: I do typically plan my travel around an art event. And I use that as sort of the grounding and then find other things to do before and after. I was in London at the Tate over Thanksgiving and after I got through the Olafur Eliasson exhibit there was a room set up like a lab that had his clippings from articles and magazines. I was immediately drawn to this article that talked about how for people who love art viewing it, particularly alone, is akin to falling in love. You have a different experience when you view art alone than when you view it with someone else. When you are fully immersed in art by yourself something happens chemically in your brain, and it’s the same chemical reaction that you feel when you’re falling in love with someone. That to me was like a light bulb going off. Because it was putting science and words to what I had been feeling more and more for the past handful of years.
O+A: So putting art at the center of your travel is a way of guaranteeing you are going to love the trip.
EV: Yeah. Last one, for example, was a double header. I started at the Biennale in Venice and ended at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. And I thought, well there’s a lot of stuff in between. So I took the train up to Lake Lucerne and then I went to Zurich, which exceeded all my expectations. I absolutely loved it. It was really easy to get around, incredibly clean and the architecture was phenomenal. There’s a design museum in an old Bauhaus building where they have all the flat files and curiosity cabinets for you to open. Every one of them is like a Christmas present—you don’t know what’s going to be inside. And they had all of the things that I studied in graphic design school: the great typographers and the great illustrators and the great logos. You’re opening files, and there’s Weingart and his hand drawings of his typeface with his mark-ups. And you see how like even the masters of the masters have this sketchy, rough, imperfect sketching process and it’s so humanizing. Like most designers I feel like nothing I do is ever good enough. And when you look at this you realize some of the most beautiful, lauded typefaces in the world started with a lousy sketch. It was great to see.
O+A: That’s one thing travel always does—reorients us, gives us a clearer view of where we are in relation to others.
EV: I was thinking the other day about this—how my internal energy is different when I’m traveling. I’m so carefree and curious, and I’ve had sort of a similar feeling at times during this Covid crisis. Because when I’m traveling I give myself permission to have a break from everything that is not in the moment, right? I know that I am on vacation. I am not thinking about deadlines or thinking about next year or next month. And I am not tuned in to any of the noise. Even though what we’re going through right now is very different and I’m not discovering new things and eating new foods and interacting with different people, there is a similarity in that internal energy. I don’t have to be anywhere than where I am right now. I can’t be.
O+A: So after Zurich…
EV: Well after Zurich, I went to Eindhoven for my third… or was it my fourth? Dutch Design Week. And then I went to Amsterdam.
O+A: You saved your favorite city for last.
EV: Oh wait, but I also went to…