Welcome to “Travel Talk,” a new series in which we’ll discuss tips, food, favorite places, funniest experiences, and more with seasoned travel writers and editors from around the World Wide Web. First up is Kate Auletta, editor of Huffington Post Travel, who’s visited five of the seven continents and was just returning from a trip to London (her second-favorite city, after New York) when we spoke. Enjoy the interview!
Tell me about your favorite place you’ve ever visited.
I hold a special place in my heart for St. Barts, an island I’ve been going to since I was in pre-school. My family and my best friend’s family would go every spring break and rent the same house. It was a yearly tradition and I loved the familiarity of it. I’m a creature of habit and I loved that I could always go back there and feel at home. That said, I really enjoyed a family trip to Turkey. The people, the food, the culture, I learned so much while I was there. I would go back in a second.
What’s at the top of your bucket-list, and why?
Anywhere, really, in South America. Buenoes Aires in particular really intrigues me and I’d love to go to the beaches of Brazil. I’m also really into the idea of the Dalmatian Coast. That mix of history, food, and relaxation is right up my alley. Bosnia and Herzegovina, to really understand the toils of war and see innate beauty and culture of the area. Russia, too. Just finished Catherine the Great and I’m dying to see it in person.
What’s the best place you’ve ever spent the night … and the worst?
Best place is hands down La Mamounia in Marrakesh. So opulent, so rich in style. Worst place? A cot in the jungle in Costa Rica. Bugs everywhere! Enough said.
Finish this sentence: The funniest thing that’s ever happened to me while traveling is…
I have to say that animals are generally involved in every funny experience I’ve had traveling. There was the time my family rented a house when I was younger and there were turtles living there, and these were huge turtles. They would just show up around cocktail hour and hang out. There was the time I rode a camel in the desert in Morocco. There is nothing more awkwardly hilarious than that.
What’s your most practical tip for travelers?
Whenever you read anything about a place that intrigues you, rip it out of the magazine or print it out and save it for later. It can serve as inspiration down the road. I still have a honeymoon file for a trip to Italy we didn’t take three years ago (went to Sonoma instead for a mini-moon), but I know we’ll take it someday!
Your most essential carry-on item?
Hand lotion. My skin gets so dry when I fly.
What led you to seek a career as a travel editor? What kinds of experiences led you down this road as a career path?
It sort of happened by accident. I started off doing home design editorial and by chance landed a job at the Wall Street Journal, where I covered travel. In my life, though, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some really great people and go to some really interesting places. That’s only inspired me more to want to see the world.
Best meal you’ve ever had while traveling?
That’s such a hard one. There’s steak frites and red wine at a small cafe in Paris and then there’s my go-to meal at Maya’s in St. Barts whenever I’m there: Beef thai salad, grilled daurade, and flourless chocolate cake.
Your favorite book about travel?
That’s impossible. There are so many. Paul Theroux is an easy one, but there’s also Jon Krakauer, Hemingway. Mostly, though, I enjoy reading authors who aren’t necessarily known for their travel writing and seeing their take on the world.
Planned itinerary … or just wing it?
A mix of both. You have to be open to change things up should an opportunity arise. But I am a planner.
What’s a day in the life like as travel editor of the Huffington Post?
I get up at 7:00 a.m. and spend about an hour reading the news either through Google Reader or on various sites. By then, our travel blog editors have edited a selection for the morning and then I get to work on the page—organize how it looks and what stories should go in what order.
My day is a give-and-take of reading news, meetings, chatting with bloggers, and running the page. I try to read everything that comes through and am constantly finding new sites that I want to follow. I also spend time planning out what we’re going to be covering down the road—whether it’s a guide to Charlotte for the DNC or planning out our Mayan Apocalypse coverage.
My day in the office generally winds down around 6:00, I head home (or go to an event), and then head back online around 10:00 to check for any other news or time-sensitive stories. And then I do it all again the next day!