We're talking to globe-trotters in all of our luxury fields to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.
If Wes Anderson could have scripted someone's life, it would be Jack Carlson's. The 35-year-old grew up between Boston and London and pursued a passion for rowing on both sides of the Atlantic. He was the coxswain of the US national rowing team, and was also a member of the Boat Club at Oxford University, where he earned a PhD in archaeology.
Rather than working in academia, though, Carlson opted for the rag trade and is the founder of the six-year-old preppy outfitter Rowing Blazers, which he named after the book he wrote on oarsmen's classic style. The brand produces clothing for many rowing clubs and teams and has become a cult favorite with offerings such as a reissue of Princess Diana's famous "black sheep" sweater.
Start with Troy - the flashiest name on this list in literary terms, but for me the least impressive site to visit - then hit Hamaxitus to see the Temple of Apollon Smintheion, Pergamum and Ephesus, then head inland to see Laodicea ad Lycum and Aphrodisias.
Carlson logs about 150,000 miles in the air each year and is unimpressed by most commercial flights. "They all suck," he says, before granting a rare exemption to Cape Air and Nantucket Airlines. "You can have the window open when you're flying, and in the past, I was somehow exactly the right weight that they would always stick me in the co-pilot seat."
It's the supersonic age, though, rather than puddle jumpers that get Carlson excited: "I only flew Concorde once, on one of the last flights before they stopped, and I have this rose-tinted view of the past, but it set the bar high for a flying experience. I love having my Concorde luggage label on my bag." Here are his travel tips.
The one thing you should always eat, anywhere, on the road:
No matter where I'm going, I try to find Neapolitan pizza. It may not be good at all, but more often than not, it's this fallback for me. I love the art and science of making it. They have this guild, the AVPN, or Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, so that no matter where they're making it - Japan, South Africa, Italy - it certifies them as making authentic Neapolitan pizza. They have inspectors and a website where you can go and see, country by country, city by city, who is certified. I've been doing that for 10 years. I'm fascinated by it, and it's almost a mini community.
Don't assume the best Roman ruins are in Italy:
In university, I was spending my summers doing archaeological digs, basically. And some of the best, most well-preserved Roman archaeology in the world is in Turkey. I did a great father-son trip with my dad, where we drove down from Istanbul, down the coast and went to dozens of Roman sites.
Start with Troy - the flashiest name on this list in literary terms, but for me the least impressive site to visit - then hit Hamaxitus to see the Temple of Apollon Smintheion, Pergamum and Ephesus, then head inland to see Laodicea ad Lycum and Aphrodisias. My supervisor at Oxford was the site director there, so I'm a bit biased, but there's this spectacular monumental sculpture there that you don't even get in Italy, for the most part. The most important thing is to end up back on the coast in Turkbuku; stay at the Macakizi there.
When trekking in Antarctica, Carlson suggests erring on the side of a heavier backpack:
I was going to Antarctica with my brother-in-law, my sister, my dad - he's a 72-year-old meteorologist, and it's been a childhood dream for him to go to the South Pole - along with one of the most accomplished living polar explorers of our time, Vincent Colliard, who thinks about this a lot differently than you or I might. People do really intense things to save extra weight, like breaking their toothbrush in half or ripping all the labels out of the necks of their clothing.
When we were packing, I threw a couple of rolls of toilet paper into my sleeping bag, which is how you carry everything, basically. He said, "You're not going to want to pull all that weight. Just rip off two squares for each day we're there - 10 days, that's 20 squares." I listened to him, and I absolutely wish I had not. My brother-in-law, who was happy to be carrying more weight than anyone else. Everyone was borrowing toilet paper and wipes from him.
Carlson says this ancient site in Asia is the greatest wonder of the world:
I studied both Roman and Chinese archaeology, so I love Pompeii and all the triumphal arches and the Forum and so on, but the biggest archaeological site I can recommend is in Xi'an: the Terracotta Army. It's one of those things everyone has heard of, but I can't think of anyone who isn't in archaeology that has made the trip. People will go to Shanghai and Beijing, but this is just a quick trip from there. Truly, when you think about the wonders of the world, this has got to be No. 1. It's the sheer scale of the army, the rows and rows of soldiers in this building that's the size of an airport.
Wherever you're going, always pack this one item:
I went to school in the UK when I was a little kid, and so I had to wear a blazer every day, and I just kind of got used to it. I always pack a navy blazer, no matter where I'm going, even if it's skiing to the South Pole or climbing a mountain. My own family mocks me occasionally, but you never know when a navy blazer will prove useful.
You can wear a navy blazer in almost any context: if the dress code is formal wear, you could just about get away with it instead of a tuxedo. At a baseball game, you won't look out of place. It's a passport to all these different kinds of experiences, and it's such a simple thing to pack with you. I discovered that the Explorers Club in New York has a reciprocal club in Punta Arenas on my recent trip, too, and of course I had to check it out - and that's when a navy blazer, and a tie, come in handy.
Fed up with the crowds in Lake Como? Consider this alternative:
I was sent to Slovenia when I was the cox on the US rowing team. The world championships are held in different place each year, often very beautiful places, but the rowing community will tell you how nice Bled is - it's like an international fellowship, the people who've raced there.
Get the tchotchkes, the trinkets, the woven patches, the vinyl stickers, and the magnets, the lapel pins, the little flags, the bottle openers.
Lake Bled is like a much smaller, more fairytale-like Lake Como. It almost looks not real, something you could imagine AI coming up with. This stunning crystal-blue lake, surrounded by the Julian Alps. And there are no motorboats allowed. There's a little island with a church, and you can either take rowing boats out there or you can swim - that was a magical experience, and you just have to be in okay shape to do it. We stayed at the Hotel Park, which was by far and away the nicest sort of team accommodation we had.
When it comes to souvenirs, follow the two-buck rule - never spend more than that on anything:
Get the tchotchkes, the trinkets, the woven patches, the vinyl stickers, and the magnets, the lapel pins, the little flags, the bottle openers. They don't weigh a lot in your bag when you're taking them home. In the tourist shop or the bazaar, look for things from the 1970s or from the 1920s, the classics. These are the myriad things that "spark joy" in my home and they cost [little] - in some cases, literally - nothing.
There's an art to sprinkling them throughout one's home and one's life in a tasteful way. An ashtray or two, discreetly placed, is a sign of a happy home. Little things that first appear mundane, cheap and corny in the fluorescent light of a tourist kiosk in Cannes or Bodrum or Angkor Wat often prove themselves years later to be among my most cherished treasures. I have a crazy jacket that's just patches all over that I've picked up on my travels, which makes it a walking reflection of where I've been.