(Bloomberg) -- At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we’re doing it right. So we’re talking to road warriors to learn about their high-end hacks, tips and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers .
Simon Ford is a writer and cocktail consultant, as well as the founder of his namesake gin brand. It’s made with nine botanicals sourced from around the world—a nod to Simon’s love for globetrotting, along with its slogan, “the well-traveled gin.” Fords Gin just celebrated its 10-year anniversary and is now available in 28 countries.
He’s a SkyTeam loyalist rather than a single airline flier. “If I were to talk about lounges, it would be Virgin. If I was to talk about food, it would be Air France, and it’s a customer service thing for Delta,” Ford says, noting that he’s aiming for million-miler status on the latter, logging 200,000 miles in the air in this year alone.
The 50-year-old Briton lives in Nashville with his wife and daughter, aged 9. Here are his travel tips.
You can safeguard against pickpocketing with Simon’s simple method.
I tend to have a bad habit of putting my phone and my wallet on top of each other and then putting them on top of a table, and someone can sneak along and grab that. So I usually pack two wallets and split up my ID and credit cards between them in case one goes missing; I have an English driving license and a US one, too, so I split those up. One will always be on my person and one in a random part of my suitcase as backup. This came in handy when I left my wallet and phone in the back of a cab in Berlin last year. I was able to buy a new phone and figure out my onward travel. With a credit card, you can buy a flight, get out of the country and get home.
Don’t think of your digital calendar as the best way to map out a travel schedule; an analog approach can cause you to see it in a different way.
Treat trips like a chessboard, where every element is a piece you can rearrange and move. When I’m traveling to four or five different destinations, I get out a piece of paper, and map it out month to month. I’ll write in the things where I absolutely must be and then start looking at maps to see what else is close. Right now, I’ve got September through December in front of me. It’s all about being able to visualize it in one space, and I can see where I can move things around from a more logical, logistical place.
Take a souvenir from one place to gift when you arrive at your destination …
I was given some wine by the bartender at Picco, in São Paulo, that was quite rare—a sparkling Brazilian wine, Cave Geisse Terroir Nature—and the next thing I know, I found myself sitting next to a natural wine nerd in Paris at the Mary Celeste and went, “Oh, we need to open this.” It started a tradition where I usually travel with a bottle of local wine or spirit that comes from the last place I traveled to, as a gift for someone at the next destination; I might be the one traveler that you'll come across that checks a bag to do that. This is what I call taking hospitality on the road. Bartenders and wine nerds, just as a general rule, fill their suitcases with things they can't get at home. An American bartender? They can't get Havana Club because Cuban things are not available there. I am currently in Poland looking for something local to bring where I will be traveling next.
… and whether it’s alcohol or food, make sure it’s special.
I usually buy something consumable—and perishable—as a souvenir to pay it forward. I recently picked up all of these fancy condiments in Copenhagen. They were created by the chef René Redzepi; he's doing all of these experiments in this food lab in Copenhagen, for Noma Projects. There’s Smoked Mushroom Garum, Dashi RDX and Vegan XO Sauce. I bought some for a friend in London, but I also bought them for a friend in Nashville, who—I know—they're both such food nerds.
This is Ford’s essential piece of kit, whether he’s hiking on mountains or between bars.
I have climbed Kilimanjaro, and I like to do hikes in Dartmoor National Park in Britain. And I love to travel with my LARQ self-purifying water bottle; I have the 25 oz PureVis insulated version and the 32 oz Movement PureVis, which is bigger and lighter weight than the insulated one. It’s the right thing to do in this day and age; I’ve probably saved a fortune on bottled water. But having the addition of UV technology that kills bacteria—and the travel filter—makes my water taste better and can give me peace of mind when drinking different water sources. It has a water filter and a purifier. All of them come with the UV, but you can buy the filter separately that sits inside it. I bought a little rubber band to go around the top, too, which is another extra, and clips it to my bag.
The world’s best cocktail city right now? Don’t expect to find it in America or in Europe.
Right now, if I would say the best city for a cocktail is probably Singapore. The sheer amount of bars doing incredible things there—and doing them in a new, unique way—is quite beyond anything I had expected. 28 HongKong Street was how it started, and it inspired all the other bars opening there. There's the Atlas Bar, and it has a three-story marble gin tower. (No one's got a gin tower, because that usually gets reserved for whiskeys and things.) And in the basement, there’s a Champagne room with some of the oldest Champagnes in the world. At the Tippling Club, all the bottles are hanging from the ceiling and they just pull them down to pour. And there’s a zero-waste bar called Native that figured out how to use ingredients from restaurants to repurpose them into drinks, and a Japanese-style cocktail bar with hand-blown glasses called D. Bespoke.
If you’re an over packer, try this suitcase.
My big suitcase is the latest Tumi, but I’m trying out small ones. I tried Away, but the zips on them kept breaking for me. I have a Swiss Army one, and that’s been difficult to get fixed when it broke. But my latest is from Rimowa, which is my favorite suitcase so far. It has a hard metal casing, which I don’t usually do, because I want a soft suitcase to pack things into—shoehorn everything in if I bought a bunch of things. But I have chosen to go for a metal case to control my purchases on certain trips and discipline myself when I’m traveling. It just limits my ability on everything. If it doesn't fit in the suitcase, then there's nowhere for it to go. I pick specific trips to use it on.
There’s nothing better than reuniting with friends in a far-flung place to do this.
When I’m planning when to go somewhere, I might check to see what’s happening—a festival, for example, like Trinidad Carnival, or a band I really want to see. And there are certain audiences for certain bands in certain parts of the world, where the energy and atmosphere is completely different from back in England or the United States. It’s really nice to experience that in the context of a different country. I saw Metallica in Panama City, Panama, for example.
Living in Nashville, everyone comes through there, and gigs are a dime a dozen. But when a global superstar comes to fill a stadium somewhere like Panama or in Mexico City, the energy and eruption of excitement is so elevated. I remember hearing Keith Richards, when I read his biography, saying playing in Argentina right now feels like when they were at their height in the '70s, how the crowds and energy works. As a 50-year-old, it’s like finding that energy of going to a gig when you were 20. There's a weird sense of danger going into another country and seeing a concert. You don't quite know what to anticipate and expect. And when I try to get all my friends together to go on a vacation, I suggest a concert.
Head to this country in Africa for world-class hiking.
I love hiking. I don't think there is a single spot in Rwanda where the view isn't spectacular. It really is a place where the horizon is an endless view of hills and mountains; there are 374 named mountains in Rwanda, and it’s known as the Country of a Thousand Hills. I first went there through a charity, Kids Play International, which my friend Tracy Evans started. She was an Olympic freestyle skier. She brings Olympians out to inspire kids there from the USA, and the Olympians from Rwanda join in there; it’s in Gatagara, which is super remote. They're there helping the kids, and everyone wants to get some exercise in, so that’s how it started—going off on hikes and getting the locals to take us on adventures to areas that are very rural and obviously quite foreign. We did the Kamiranzovu Trail, which went through the wetlands. It hasn’t been as developed for tourism as the other side of the country.
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