Sarah Miller, editor of the British edition of Condé Nast Traveller, who was in Mumbai last month for the Readers’ Travel Awards 2010—India special, tells Lounge about her travel adventures on the job. Edited excerpts:
What do you always carry with you on a trip?
My laptop, my BlackBerry, my phone! My chargers and adapters and all the collateral that goes with technology. On a trip like this, which is one day and one evening, I always carry a pair of flats and a pair of heels that work with any combination. And a pad of paper and a pencil, for when technology fails. I used to carry a camera around, but I’ve got my phone now. And I always have my passport on me!
On the move: Miller, who has been with Condé Nast Traveller for 13 years, in a Mumbai taxi. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
What is the most bizarre trip you’ve ever taken?
During this (Icelandic) volcano ash moment, I was at the Milan furniture fair and our flights were, obviously, cancelled. A brilliant person managed to organize a coach, which collected us from Milan and took us through Switzerland up to Zurich and then to Strasbourg, Metz, Reims and Calais. Because P&O (the ferry service) won’t allow foot passengers, they had to organize a second coach to come empty from England, cross the channel, pick us up from Calais, clear customs and take us back to England. It took 24 hours and it was so elegantly done.
What is that one ‘Miller’ thing you look for in a hotel while reviewing it?
I’m tempted to say free Wi-Fi—it’s shocking when hotels charge for that. But, yes, a smile. I know that sounds corny, but if you’re greeted with a smile it makes a big difference.
What are the top clichés in travel writing?
There are many. But the ones that bug us the most are: “It’s a land of contrasts”. Yes! Patently! There are many different things often in one place. The other cliché is: “As we banked over Rio…” or wherever, to credit the airline. They often don’t talk to enough people, and just describe things with “As the sun set over…” We try and avoid those. Also, pictures are important. We try and commission original photography (that conveys) how you would see and experience a place as opposed to brochure pictures.
Five destinations everyone must visit.
I think New York would be top of any list. As a city destination—along with London, Paris and Rome—it’s pretty amazing. Having just been on an African safari, that is an experience. I would put one of the great civilization ruins up there, it could be in Turkey, Petra or Libya. A quintessential hotel experience in the Maldives is hard to beat for luxury. I would urge anyone not frightened of heights to go see Machu Picchu.
The ugliest souvenir you have ever collected.
Plastic spaghetti from Tokyo. It was just so funny, and looked so real. Plastic sushi—I’ve seen people actually try and eat it. My children had a lot of fun with that.