This week in My Travel Style we interviewed Jaillan Yehia from Savoir There– a travel blog and bespoke personal trip planning service helping busy urban professionals enjoy inspiring trips without the hassle and headaches. You can follow Jai on Twitter @savoirthere or on Facebook for plenty of stylish travel tips!
How did you come up with the name, “Savoir There” and what is the aim of your blog?
I’m a word geek with a big weakness for puns so I sat around nerdishly pushing my glasses up the bridge of my nose in excitement about a few plays on words before settling on Savoir There. I felt really smug when I thought of that one, which is surely the mark of a good pun?
It also describes my style of travel quite well. Some people get it straight away and love it – and I love them. Some look really confused and I have to explain in stages, starting with the Savoir Faire, which kinda kills it.
The aim is for me to have somewhere to write without an editor pointing out how crap my puns really are – and from that point of view it is 100% successful. The serious answer is to give others like me, i.e. impatient, demanding urban types who work hard and are short of time, somewhere to look for travel information that cuts out all the irrelevant stuff and tells them the interesting, cool and exciting places to go.
What gave you the travel bug and inspired you to explore the world?
I happened to read the following in the Evening Standard tonight on the tube home and I think it sums up how travelling a lot and moving house constantly as a kid instilled the travel bug in me: ‘People who grow up in chaos seek out that same feeling of chaos later; they feel more comfortable with it.’ Travel is my comfortable chaos.
You’re a Londoner, can you suggest something unique for a tourist to do?
The geeky excitement I get about puns is nothing compared to the nerdy way I feel about London. I’d say hire a bicycle and get lost in the back streets of Islington or Camden and go for a beer in a random local pub, browse a neighbourhood shop or gallery – keep your eyes open and London will always reward you in ways you couldn’t have imagined. That is the real London, not your Leicester Squares or Piccadilly Circuses!
I’m actually starting a new blog called Travel My London which is currently a bit of a work in progress but will show people how they can ‘travel the world’ without leaving London, because I believe we’ve got everything in this city. I’d like to make it into a collaborative project because everyone knows a great little tucked away place in London where they feel like they’ve been transported to another land, whether that’s through food, dance or art.
Do you have a favourite city for shopping?
Milan for chic designer outlets, Marrakesh for fresh cow-scented leather goods, Kuala Lumpur for electronics from huge malls. But generally anywhere is better for shopping than your own city because when you get home no-one will have the same stuff as you. And who doesn’t love saying ‘What these? Oh, I picked them up at a flea market in Gothenburg’. Shopping overseas is like an international version of the early days of shopping at Primark before everyone else did, but hopefully with less sweatshop guilt.
What’s the best hotel you’ve ever stayed in?
But that’s like asking me my favourite film! I’ll try and wriggle out of it by saying ‘define best’? The best service I’ve ever experienced was at Pangkor Laut, a private island resort in Malaysia that was Pavarotti’s pet hotel. I swear they’re actual mind-readers, sensing the thirst just beginning to take hold in your throat before the sensation has even made its way through the receptors to your own brain – and then turning up with a drink.
The Fairmont in Manila is probably the actual best hotel I have ever stayed in because I went just after they opened in January and everything is dreamily new and perfect. And it was my birthday and they gave me a lot of nice cake, and I can be bought very easily with cake. They also gave me cocktails and I am even easier to buy with booze.
But if you’re asking the best time I’ve ever had in a hotel, it would probably be when I hired a suite at The lovely Zetter Townhouse in London for my friend’s hen party and we had a naked butler and a private Jamaican dancehall lesson where we learned how to do the dutty wine. The staff were perfect souls of discretion.
Can you share with us any packing tips?
Yes! Or I can just give you a link that will change your life! http://www.savoirthere.com/
I’ve also fallen for that thing of thinking I’ll want to wear all my ‘best stuff’ when I’m away rather than wanting to be comfortable and wear what I would normally wear when I’m in London, which is ridiculous because why would you want to be less comfortable than normal when traipsing around a foreign city? I wrote a post about this strange habit women have of packing things we’d never normally wear and thinking we’ll do things we wouldn’t normally do, called The Important Travel Lesson You Can Learn From Russell Brand.
What is your favourite item of clothing in your suitcase?
Denim. 100%. Jeans for cold countries, cut off denim skirt and shorts for hot countries. Can’t live without either. I do also properly love a white and gold Princess Leia-worthy bikini that I got from Caprice the model (well from her website, it’s not her actual bikini as a hand-me-down, just so we’re clear) and that I was referring to as Bringing Out The Big Guns during my last trip. Every girl should have a sexy bikini in her suitcase and should pack it just in case a swimming pool or sauna presents itself. The one time you think you won’t need it, you’ll end up swimming in your bra and knickers, trust me.
Do you have any beauty essentials you love to travel with?
Palmer’s Cocoa Butter is my signature beauty product and I try to smother it over anyone in my vicinity. A cure-all for chapped lips, elbows, cuts and grazes and flyaway hair, there is no end to its abilities. I’ve carried small travel-sized pots of the stuff around since aged 14 and left them all over the world by mistake in restaurants and hotels like little chocolate-scented droppings. The greasy smears left by coco-buttered fingers and lips also can help identify your wine glass in a roomful of strangers.
What electronics do you pack for blogging on the road?
Currently I pack my new Lenovo ThinkPad Edge which is powerful enough to run Adobe Elements without making a noise like a plane is about to take off, even without the extra powerful solid state hard drive I ordered the day before my Asia trip and that turned out to not fit in the machine. Fail.
I have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft, which I guess is understandable as we’ve been together for a long time and quite frankly, they’ve changed. Windows 8 drives me a bit mad, I feel like I’m in Minority Report with things sliding in and out of the screen all the time, but I’m still trying to resist being an iSlave. I have gone over to the dark side with the iPhone and I aim to pack the charger for said iPhone back into my suitcase every time I leave a hotel, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
I bring a fantastic Fuji multi-pronged adaptor with me which transforms into so many different combinations of outputs I half expect it to turn into Megatron if I push the right combination of pins. Plus I find noise-cancelling headphones an absolute essential on a par with Cocoa Butter.
Where are you now, and do you have any upcoming travel plans?
At home in London for the first time since December which feels both weird and cold. I’ve got a very exciting year coming up with trips to Italy, Gambia, Canada, Sweden and Holland, and hopefully back to Asia at some point, because I miss the $1 beers and the constant feeling of being sweaty; it’s funny what one can get used to.
Marrakech photo by marcp_dmoz on flickr