I have been traveling for as long as I can remember, both for work and for pleasure thanks to a career in global hospitality. I’ve always considered it a privilege — it’s a gift to meet inspiring people from different backgrounds, learn from other cultures and communities, and experience unique places around the world.
For the last five years I’ve been on an incredible journey with Design Hotels. More than a collection of unique hotels, we see ourselves as a community of visionaries in travel and hospitality, who recognize the transformative power of space and design.
Although we can’t physically travel right now, our minds can still wander and dream. This helps us stay positive during these trying times. And so, I am thrilled to share with you a list of places that changed my perspective on travel and life. Many of these places, from northern Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains to Morocco’s Agafay Desert, are difficult to reach even at the best of times, which makes them the perfect mental escape during quarantine. Read on for five life lessons from around the world—without the jet lag.
Georgia — Caucasus Mountains
I truly felt this place as a spiritual gateway between the past and the present. I have not witnessed anywhere in the world such a generous mountain hospitality.
I have been to Georgia a dozen of times over the last decade and have witnessed the incredible transformation of this country from the post-Soviet Union era to a prosperous independent nation, by embracing new technologies and new way of thinking.
Georgia was in conflict with Russia until few years ago. Driven from instability and crisis, they stood up as a country and society and designed programmable places to invite travelers seeking for culture, arts and beyond. The forward thinking of this rich mixed culture should be a blueprint for our fast-paced society. Images by Anka Gujabidze & Ani Gabashvili for Design Hotels.
Brazil — Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
The actual journey to a destination is in my opinion an indivisible component from the travel transformation. This is the case with traveling to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in Northeastern Brazil.
Don’t rush your stay here, distances and travel times are long in Brazil. The village of Atins is on the edge of a sprawling 370,000 acres area of dunes that recently earned its status as a national park. The goodness of nature is at the heart of La Ferme de Georges’ concept. This eco-retreat invites us to get back to the nature and to become explorers again.
La Ferme de Georges beckons those who crave slowed down culinary indulgence, locally inspired design intertwined with stunning natural landscape. The restaurant is dedicated to serving fresh Brazilian cuisine that has been sourced from the property’s organic gardens.
Marfa, Texas — Desert of Chihuahua
The drive to Marfa through the high desert of Chihuahua feels like a pilgrimage—and is the first of many transformational experiences you’ll have at this art mecca. I had the distinct pleasure to work with the community of Marfa on a collaborative art project for Further, our initiative by Design Hotels.
Many people choose Marfa as an ideal backdrop for their projects and once if they come to Marfa they try to get something out of it for their own interest. We were working with a group of artists, and exploring the concept of borderlands, in particular to contribute something to Marfa. It’s a great example of a place where you need to integrate yourself into the local community.
In Marfa, allow yourself time to work on something which has an impact. Collaborators have to work only with the resources the desert provides, which thrives them to be creative and innovative. The rethinking of the supply chain has become such a critical topic these days and we can learn from destinations like Marfa how to be more conscious about the supplies we have and limited resources can be the great starting point of bigger output. Images by Arnaud Montagard for Design Hotels.
Marrakesh, Morocco — Agafay Desert
During my recent trip to Marrakesh for the I-54 Contemporary Art Fair, I discovered the surroundings of the Agafay Desert. The dramatic landscapes allow you to refocus and sharpen your senses. Silence automatically becomes a gift for your mind, body and spirit.
I stayed at La Pause – a dilapidated desert house turned Saharan sanctuary that’s run by a family and supports the local community. The name “La Pause” says it all providing us with a new form of elevated escapism – if you are seeking for peace and simplicity as a contrast to our over-connectivity and noise in urban life, you appreciate sharing one electricity outlet in the entire estate; you appreciate the light of candles and the cool wind in the night.
Tokyo, Japan — Kagurazaka
I certainly can say that Tokyo would be my home of choice. The simplicity, the focus on essentials, and the sustainable well-balanced lifestyle, which Japan offers, have a huge impact on one’s quality of life. I not only had the privilege to live and work there, but to learn from the rich culture and how to incorporate its concepts into the philosophy of our modern lives.
Even in the metro cities you will find modern urban sanctuaries with unusually intimate atmosphere to escape from the crowded mainstream. Probably Tokyo’s most immersive private hotel that recently opened, bringing peacefulness into the urban landscape, is the Trunk House. This neighborhood hotel was previously a high-class traditional Ryotei restaurant and geisha practice room has become a private one-suite residence in a traditional wooden building.
The interplay between tradition and nature helps you to refocus your mind. Trunk House is a portal to the central, storied Kagurazaka neighborhood. Images by Design Hotels.