Holly Rubenstein is a journalist, editor and host of the UK’s number one travel podcast, The Travel Diaries. Holly has talked with high profile travellers from Poppy Delevingne to Sir Ranulph Fiennes so we caught up with her to find out her favourite destination, her hopes for the future and of course, which podcasts she tunes into when she needs her own healthy dose of escapism.
Are there destinations that come up time and again when you interview your guests, that everyone seems to love?
Japan. It is nearly everyone’s all time favourite destination. I’ve never been, and I’m now dying to go.
Is there an episode that stands out for you as particularly memorable, or someone you found particularly entertaining or engaging to interview?
It’s impossible to pick. I love them all for different reasons. I’ve been particularly moved by how honest my guests have been, in particular Jo Malone and Dynamo, who have both faced life-threatening health struggles. Travel has been an intrinsic part of their healing, as it is for many of us.
What does travel mean to you? What do you love about it?
To me, travel is a form of spiritual nourishment. It’s an opportunity to evolve, to heal, to strengthen. Having faced my own health issues, travel is really something to live for. I only wish I didn’t struggle with flying quite so much!
Can we turn the tables on you and ask the first question you start with in each episode of your podcast: what is your earliest travel memory?
My most vivid travel memory has to be from when I was about four and got stung on both legs by a jelly fish while paddling in the sea in Puerto Pollensa, Mallorca. I’ve been told that I screamed like no tomorrow, and that swimmers thought there must have been a shark in the water.
And the first place you fell in love with?
I first flew across the Atlantic at 10 weeks old. Being half American, I’d regularly fly back and forth to Miami, Florida to visit my family who lived there. Now, Miami has an incredibly sentimental spot in my heart. I adore it’s art deco architecture, its weather and beaches. To me, it will always be my second home, and my home in London is basically an homage to Miami, in particular its colours, and midcentury modern design.
Where in the world are you happiest?
My most happy travel memory is in Santa Barbara, California, where my husband and I got married. We were travelling in the US for 7 weeks, and couldn’t get ‘officially’ married at our English wedding venue, so we spontaneously decided to get the formalities done on the beach, outside the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel in Montecito. It was just the two of us, and the most romantic setting we could have asked for.
What’s your favourite photograph that you’ve taken whilst travelling?
I wrote an article about the most Instagrammable pool in the world, at a small riad in Marrakech called Le Riad Yasmine. Influencers travel the world over to have their photo taken lounging by its turquoise tiles and photogenic succulents. As part of the article, I had my own go at posing like an influencer, deploying my instahusband to take photos of me from the balcony above. The end result was great – and it was a social media hit – so I guess it’s no surprise they have avid photographers queuing outside their doors and are booked up a year in advance.
Favourite European city break?
I keep going back to Barcelona, so much so that I’ve even contemplated moving there. It has it all – beauty, architecture, culture, great food, glorious weather and a beach in the city. What more can you ask for?
Favourite hotel in Europe?
It’s a toss up between Hotel Eden Roc in Ascona, Switzerland on the shores of Lake Maggiore, The Dylan in Amsterdam, and good old Babington House in Somerset. Last year I had a great time at a new hotel in Santorini called Andronis Arcadia, too.
What podcasts do you listen to? Any favourites?
I’m addicted to podcasts! Right now, I’m listening to anything that helps me to escape from the current situation – so Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin, The New Yorker Radio Hour, The Perez Hilton Podcast, S-Town, Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations, WTF with Marc Maron, THR Awards Chatter, The goop podcast. For news, my go-tos are The Daily (New York Times) and Today in Focus (The Guardian).
When we’re all free to travel again, where is the first place you’ll travel to?
I expect we’ll be able to staycation before we vacation abroad, so I’ll be heading to St Mawes, a part of Cornwall I’ve not yet explored and I’d like to do a road trip through the Scottish Highlands, too. Looking ahead, I’m hoping to be covering the opening of The One & Only Portnovi in Montenegro, which is now slated for the autumn. Montenegro is such a beautiful country, and this is one of the most exciting hotel openings of the year.
What are your hopes for the travel industry for when this current crisis is over?
It’s hard to fathom what the impact of Covid-19 will be for the travel industry, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t deeply concerned about the medium and long term repercussions. On the other hand, we have all seen the footage of how the natural world is flourishing during this time, of animal’s habitats returning to their former glory. I hope that travellers are sensitive to the changes, both positive and negative, that this strange time has highlighted, and that everyone is more mindful of their carbon footprint, and of over-tourism. Most importantly, though, I hope that we all feel safe and retain our immense will to travel again, when the time is right.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever packed in your hand luggage?
My podcast recording equipment. I packed it on a whim when I was travelling in the US last year. I’d not yet recorded any episodes, but got a call when I was out there that Sir Richard Branson was in San Francisco and happy to talk to me. We quickly changed our plans, got in the car and drove to San Fran. It was one of my first episodes, and though it was only bite-size, it really helped to get rolling for the podcast. All that kit was packed in an Antler Chelsea backpack by the way…
What do you look for in your luggage? Do you see it as a practical necessity or are you a bag lady (like us)?
For me, luggage has to be light weight, durable and stylish. Can you ever have too many bags? No. A colour to suit every mood, ideally.
Tell us about how you pack. Are you an organised traveller?
Well, Antler have single-handedly revolutionised my packing. You very kindly sent me some packing cubes, which are the greatest revelation. I now couldn’t travel without them.
Quick fire questions
Podcast or paperback? Podcast
Train or plane? Train
Cut it fine or leave plenty of time? Cut it fine.
Sightseeing or sun lounger? The best trip is a blend of both.
Early start or slowly but surely? Slowly but surely.
Plan every detail or wing it on arrival? Plan every detail. I’ve learnt that time while travelling is too precious not to have a clue about where I’m going next.
Holly’s podcast, The Travel Diaries is available here.