far and wide

25 Famous Women on the Pleasures of Traveling

“I always take a bathing suit. Even if I’m going to Alaska.” –Martha Stewart Photo: Getty Images

Far and Wide is the Cut’s practical and fantastical series about exploring.

It’s officially summer — and the mixture of rising temperatures, heat, and humidity is the perfect recipe for some serious wanderlust. Before you jet (or drive) off to your next getaway, read through some indispensable travel tips from famous women who’ve trotted all over the globe. Below, 25 women including Iris Apfel, Roxane Gay, Joan Didion, and more share their fondest memories of traveling — from packing to takeoff. They discuss everything from special packing lists, skin-care routines to use in flight, trips that broadened their horizons, to lessons learned from traveling solo. A bonus: There’s even an unabashed admission of loving airplane food.

Iris Apfel

“I don’t pack light. That’s why I love to travel by ship … no luggage restrictions! I mean, if you have beautiful clothes you want to take them with you.” — The Telegraph, June 2017

Eva Chen

“People who follow me on Instagram know I travel with a mass skin-care supply. I basically travel with a Sephora. I think traveling is a really great time to try new skin-care products, because you’re sitting in a hotel room and you’re jet-lagged, so you’re awake in the middle of the night.
So I always travel with tons of products. There is an oil from H. Gillerman Organics called Sleep Remedy. I’m sure it’s lavender and eighteen other essential oils; I always travel with that and douse it on my pillow before I go to sleep.” — The New Potato, October 2013

Cheryl Strayed

On traveling alone: “Do it. Don’t listen to people telling you that you shouldn’t or you can’t. I think it’s an incredibly empowering experience to travel alone. And sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it’s lonely, and a lot of times it’s uncomfortable. And that’s true even for me. You do sometimes feel outside of things. But I think that the best things can rise out of that discomfort. Learn how to have fun by yourself, and make your own sense of fun. Obviously you need to be careful and take precautions and be aware of particular vulnerabilities that are real when you’re traveling alone, but I don’t think that’s the story you should listen to the hardest. The story you should listen to the hardest is the one in your own heart that says, ‘I want to do this. I want to allow myself to be a traveler of the world, and I don’t need a companion to do it.’” — Yahoo, December 2014


“Growing up we were always shown that that’s where we were from. And my mother surrounded us with African art and positive African imagery and also put us in summer camps that spent a great deal of time celebrating the diaspora and connecting those dots. And I think that I had an awakening when I started to travel there — not for work or shows, just to go. I started to feel like, Why am I paying all this money and setting up all these vacations to go to Europe or some island? Like, why am I not going to Africa when I get a break? I spent time in Rwanda and Senegal and Ghana. And South Africa — Capetown and Joburg. Every time I had a break I’d bring Julez with me, and we’d just exist there. We met and connected with incredible people there and I think that it was really important for me to always accentuate and highlight that part of myself, and my history, and my journey because it’s who I am and it’s where I came from. I love feeling connected to that, it has helped me to understand myself more.” — The Fader, September 2016

Chelsea Handler

“You grow up so much by travelling, you get to see so many things and different ways of life. It makes you want to do whatever you’re doing really well. I don’t want to waste anything. I’m lucky to know what I want to do, I’m lucky to be in control.” — Variety, January 2016

Elizabeth Gilbert

“I myself have always had great experiences traveling alone. While there are certainly dangers, I have found that the same factors that make you vulnerable as a woman also make you powerful. What I mean to say is, a woman on her own does not telegraph a threat to anyone — which means that strangers all over the world will welcome you and trust you. They will let you into their houses. They will let you play with their babies. They will tell you their stories. They will give you a place to sleep. They will offer you assistance, food, directions, affection. I feel that, as a female traveler, I have had much more intimate experiences with new people than any man could ever have. Strangers know that I’m not going to hurt them, and so they open up to me. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. That said, do be careful—or at least alert. There are places in the world that I would not travel alone. There are places in my own country I would not travel alone, for that matter. A rule of thumb: If you don’t see any women walking around alone (or at all) on the streets at night, you probably shouldn’t be there either.” — her site, May 2014

Chrissy Teigen

“I love airplane food. I’ve always been a fan of compartmentalized food. I love things where they are in their own little area. I’ve always loved everything about it whether it’s coach, first class, business — it doesn’t matter. If things were wrapped in plastic bags I loved it. I’ve always been intrigued by it … One of my biggest dreams is to rate airplane food. I can tell you every meal on every flight … Virgin America does a chilaquile that is crazy delicious. Lunch kind of always sucks, so I try to always get dinner or breakfast on the flight. For breakfast I always get the omelet. [They do] one with red bell peppers, potatoes and herb goat cheese spread.” — Travel + Leisure, June 2017

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

On her first trip outside Nigeria: “I went to the US when I was eight. My father was a professor teaching in California, so we spent the summer with him. I imagined I was going to a snow-filled place — to me overseas meant snow — and I was initially disappointed how similar San Diego was to my hometown. Still, I felt very cool to have spent a summer in San Diego and did show off to my friends. For about a week I affected a really bad American accent.” — The Guardian, March 2005

Hillary Clinton

“After visiting more than 100 countries in the last few years, getting enough sleep is probably the hardest part of the job. Especially with extreme time zone shifts. I didn’t even know there were places 17 hours ahead of the East Coast! Luckily I am able to sleep anytime, anywhere, and I try to do so whenever possible.” — Condé Nast Traveler, August 2012

Maya Angelou

“[Travel] helps the individual liberate herself from ignorance. Sometimes, people think of ignorance as an absence of learning, or an absence of exposure. It is an absence of exposure, but that doesn’t mean the person wouldn’t like to learn. It’s just the atmosphere, the ambiance, the climate, has never been introduced to the person.” — West Jet Magazine, March 2013

Margaret Cho

“I love going to Hong Kong and going to the Buddhist temples where you can buy all these paper objects and then you burn them in an altar for the day. So I went and bought Joan Rivers a bunch of jewelry and I got her a Chihuahua and a leash and a collar and a new iPhone 6 — but it was all cardboard, and I burned them for her spirit.” — Orbitz, April 2017

Tracee Ellis Ross

“The truth is, New York is my favorite place to travel to because it used to be home and I can pretty much keep up my same routine as when I am at home in LA. I am a big lover of Europe. I love me some Italy, some Paris, some Switzerland. I’ve traveled most of my life so I am a very good traveler. I lived in Paris as a kid. I went to boarding school in Switzerland so I traveled back and forth to Europe regularly as a teenager on my own. I would love to visit Spain, Australia, and Japan. But, the truth is my ideal trip length is four nights.

… I have determined that after four nights things become a little less fun — It does limit where I can go and of course I often travel for longer than that, but, with my current work schedule (working all the time) my favorite vacations are staycations and getting to enjoy my home and be in the ‘other’ routine of my life — cooking, wandering without a schedule, and chatting with friends.” — The New Potato, May 2016

April Bloomfield

“It’s important as a chef to travel because that’s how you get to learn and pick up new things. Traveling and reading books is as important as cooking on the line. It makes you push and it makes you creative. Like for me to go to Italy and watch an Italian grandma making orecchiette; to be able to just really pay attention and fine tune your technique just by watching her hand movements, that makes it more real.” — Eater, September 2013

Yoko Ono

“I travel a lot, so when I arrive in a city, I like to go to good local bookshops and make a selection based on how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking. The book I pick usually seems to have a definite karmic connection! For instance, I recently hurt my knee because I fell on the street. But it didn’t upset me, since the fall came just after reading this book, which is about rewiring our brains to heal ourselves. I started walking, and it wasn’t difficult. Words are power.

And a book is full of words. Be careful what power you get from it. But know that you do.” — O, the Oprah Magazine, February 2011

Roxane Gay

“Travel has shown me the immensity of the world and how little I know and it has afforded me the great privilege of seeing raw, natural beauty…On a practical level I travel because I am invited to a lot of different places and I need to get there. I accept these invitations because I love discovering and finding the rhythms of new places. I meet all kinds of people. I always learn new things. I love how there are commonalities in how people live throughout the world but also ways in which we are all so different. And all of these reasons are why I won’t ever stop. This is a big, big world and I want to see as much of it as possible.” — Condé Nast Traveler, March 2017

Padma Lakshmi

“Travel to me means freedom, escape, the extinguishing of ignorance and prejudice, and the exchange not only of cultures and language but ideas. And hopefully greater understanding among people in different parts of the world. It is the single most important thing that I think a young person should do before they are 25. Earlier in fact. I am sure that the vast amount of miles I covered before the age of 17, crossing different continents, better prepared me for the life I have now.” – Condé Nast Traveler, March 2017

Martha Stewart

“I always take a bathing suit. Even if I’m going to Alaska, I’ll take it. Just in case I get some free time in the hotel pool.” — Fodor’s Travel, October 2013

Mindy Kaling

“There’s no way in hell I’m ever siphoning my products into travel-sized containers and labeling them and making sure everything’s packed snug and tight so nothing spills. What am I, addicted to boredom like some OCD goddess? I’m not doing any of that! So when I travel, I like to have things that can play double-duty. One bra can last a week. (Sorry, it’s gross but it’s true.) Socks sometimes get worn inside out. A tiny blot of Chanel Shanhai Red lipstick serves as a great blush. And I usually only take one eyeshadow, and it has to be a palette.” — Questions I Ask When I Want to Talk About Myself, April 2013

Diane von Furstenberg

On her ideal travel companion: “First and foremost it would be myself, because it’s easier. Otherwise I love travelling with my husband on our boat; and Christian Louboutin is great fun to travel with — I enjoy travelling with people who are curious about life.” — The Independent, June 2010

Carrie Brownstein

On what she wears on planes: “On a plane, I like the cap for anonymity. I don’t mean in the way of being recognized; I mean something to cover my face when I fall asleep so no one has to watch me drool.” — The New York Times, March 2017

Kate Winslet

“I love travel, I love adventure; I’m always wanting to go somewhere new. I’ve always wanted to go to the Fjords in Norway and I so far haven’t been — so that’s definitely on my bucket list.
 Also, when I was shooting The Reader we shot a lot in Czech Republic and it’s a spectacularly beautiful place. The Reader was a pivotal moment not just in my career but just in terms of adventure and the experience was very unique. There are some beautiful areas of the Czech Republic that I would happily go back to.” — Luxury Travel, autumn 2016

Joan Didion

“To Pack and Wear:
2 skirts
2 jerseys or leotards
1 pullover sweater
2 pair shoes
nightgown, robe slippers
bag with: shampoo, toothbrush and paste, Basis soap, razor, deodorant, aspirin, prescriptions, Tampax, face cream, powder, baby oil
To Carry:
mohair throw
2 legal pads and pens
house key

This is a list which was taped inside my closet door in Hollywood during those years when I was reporting more or less steadily. The list enabled me to pack, without thinking, for any piece I was likely to do. Notice the deliberate anonymity of costume: in a skirt, a leotard, and stockings, I could pass on either side of the culture. Notice the mohair throw for trunk-line flights (i.e. no blankets) and for the motel room in which the air conditioning could not be turned off. Notice the bourbon for the same motel room. Notice the typewriter for the airport, coming home: the idea was to turn in the Hertz car, check in, find an empty bench, and start typing the day’s notes.” — The White Album, 1979

Laverne Cox

“As a New Yorker, I love a quick trip to Miami because when I travel on vacation I don’t like to travel more than three hours. I’m on the road a lot for work and so being on an airplane feels like work; so I want to get on and off a plane pretty quickly. And so I’ve done a lot of quick trips to Miami. I like the warm weather, beaches, pools there … To be perfectly honest because I’m kinda famous, I have to keep it really chill and keep my favorite places private. I try to keep it low-key and go to the same places.” — Marriott Traveler

Priyanka Chopra

“[Travel]’s changed my life completely. The fact that my parents made me travel around the world since I was a kid. When I was young I used to be really upset about having to move, and [my dad] would play a game with me, saying that if you decided what you are where you were, when you go to the next place, no one is going to know you. You can be whoever you want.
So I used to plan, ‘Alright, when I’m in this new city I’m going to be dancer or sing or whatever.’ It made me very disciplined and made me be able to deal with whatever life threw at me because I could handle it.” — Condé Nast Traveler, March 2017

Donatella Versace

“All these people, they have a designer handbag, and I think: ‘So what? You have Eastpak luggage.’ Why should it get stolen? If it’s subtle, it’s not going to get stolen.” — The New York Times, March 2008

25 Famous Women on the Pleasures of Traveling