How do you make a travel magazine during a lockdown? By choosing a theme that is both universal and empathic: “walking”. By working with local correspondents and photographers. By aiming for a better diversity of viewpoints from all over the world. By reassessing what “travel” and “luxury” mean. By thinking contextually and holistically.
With her editorship of the 2021/22 issue of Directions magazine, Sophie Lovell brought a new, more contextual approach. She brought contributions from poets and artists in from all over the world; introduced a piggy-back system for writers and photographers to work together on a story despite being thousands of miles apart; used only local contributors; wrote a ten-point “Good Traveller” manifesto; suggested a walking app collaboration for walking routes local to Design Hotels’ 300-odd partner hotels and encouraged the team to make the entire issue without a single flight being taken for it. The result was so good, they gave it two covers.
This issue of Directions was made under extraordinary conditions in an extraordinary moment for travel, but with a great deal of care—and with hope. Our aim has been to make it a travellers’ companion, a healing, positive, timeless space. At the same time, it is the space where we push boundaries, feel our way into the future, and represent the evolution in our thinking.
With the whole world feeling out of step, it seemed natural to take walking as the anchor for this issue. Walking is an act and culture older than humanity itself, one that binds us to the land, and lets our imaginations take flight. The steady beat of putting one foot in front of the other also grounds us, connects us, and carries us forward into change. In our opening essay, the author and veteran walker Jini Reddy looks at great journeys made by foot—known and less known—and bring them in step with the times in an uplifting paean to walking.
Walking also sets loose so many new ideas. In My Own Private Odyssey, we asked 11 creatives to take and document journeys of their own from where they happened to be in the moment, and share with us their inspirations gathered along the way. The incredible gallery that resulted really blew us away, as did the wealth of multimedia material our invited artists and poets shared with us—some of which you will be able to experience on our digital platform as well.
A trip to discover the fruits of foraging and 4,000 years of farming know-how in the Andean high-altitude biospheres can bring us closer to the land and cultural practices that sustain us. But how do you do a story about the people and plants of Peru’s Sacred Valley during lockdown? Thanks to the wonders of technology, our author Carla Bragagnini was able to virtually piggyback along with photographer Antonio Sorrentino as he hiked up and down mountains and waded through fields. At one point the crew for this story was coordinating live on location from four different continents without a single flight being taken for the purpose.
This new buddy system proved so effective that we intend to use it as a model in the future as we endeavour to bring more local reporting by contributors with a genuine connection to place and culture (and also reduce our environmental footprint by doing so). This fits with our promadic view that travel should be proactive and purposeful. In that vein, with The Good Traveler, we share our new checklist of good principles for travelling: no dogma, no rules, just a work in progress, one step at a time.
There is no point in having good ideas if you don’t share them. The core of this issue of Directions has been about rediscovering the genuine joy and solace to be found in the simple act of walking. So while producing this magazine we reached out to all our 300+ member hotels and asked them to share their most picturesque, challenging, and inspiring walking routes and turned them into the brand new Design Hotels Walks, highlights of which you will find here in the Locator, and yet more online.
Finally, we cannot be sure what the coming year will bring in this great odyssey we all share, but we can be sure that when we move around our beautiful planet, the need to be more conscious of each other, of our communities and our environment is universal. So let us choose our paths together with care, with love—and with a spring in our step.