The XOJET 10: Pauline Brown
Over the past 20 years, Pauline Brown’s positions have included vice president of corporate strategy and new business development for the Estee Lauder Companies, senior vice president of corporate strategy and global business development at Avon, and managing director of The Carlyle Group, where she sat on the boards of directors of two of Carlyle’s most successful buyouts: beauty brand Philosophy and Italian sportswear company Moncler. Now an independent investor and advisor, she’s also a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute, working to develop community-spirited leaders. Balancing private equity and public service and able to mix the likes of Tom Ford with Wal-Mart, Pauline Brown is worldly, passionate, candid and hilarious, in no particular order. See for yourself why we thought she was a perfect candidate for the XOJET 10.
1. Growing up, what was your first dream destination?
When I was six, I watched in awe as Mike Brady took his family on a vacation to Hawaii. Even nanny Alice went along. Tropical flowers, curling waves, Polynesian cocktails—Hawaii seemed so glamorous. Then Bobby unearthed some sort of ancient tiki, which brought about bad luck. Peter almost got bit by a tarantula, Bobby was almost killed by falling wall decorations, and Greg got wet and sandy in a surfing competition. All of a sudden, Hawaii didn’t seem so compelling. I actually have never been there.
2. Tell us about the first time you flew on a plane?
Funny enough, I can’t remember my first flight. I do remember other types of trips, though, notwithstanding their hallucinogenic effects.
3. How many days a year do you travel now, approximately, and what percentage is for business?
|Pauline with her occasional travel companions|
I’m lucky. For the first time in my life, there’s no delineation between my business life and my personal life. My family vacations tend to be in places where I have business ties, and, whenever possible, I take along my husband and kids to places where I do business. When taking on a new client or partner, I always ask myself: Is he or she based in a place I’d dare to bring my family? If not, my asking price goes way up.
As for time spent on the road, it’s highly variable. In the last two months, I’ve spent 26 days overseas. Prior to that though, I’d been home for a solid two months. Like a firefly, I guess I live in two-month life cycles. Could be worse; I’m told the lifespan of a Mayfly is 30 minutes.
4. When you travel for business, what’s most important to you?
Business travel is all about efficiency. I take the fastest route—straightest line—between two points, obsess about proximity from airport to hotel to meetings to airport, and demand high-quality Wi-Fi bandwidth at every juncture. How else could I Skype with my kids and ensure that they’re doing their homework?
5. What’s the biggest difference between how you travel for leisure and how you travel for business?
When I travel for leisure, I’m a lot more price sensitive than when I travel for business. But, ironically, I end up spending a lot more on my leisure travel than business. When I’m traveling on business, I don’t have time for a massage or any interest in fine jewelry. On the other hand, when I travel for pleasure, I make sure that all my expenditures are of good value. I negotiate hard. My husband often says, “We can’t afford to save this much!”
6. What was your most luxurious travel experience?
I spent my honeymoon at one of the Aman resorts in Bali. Never thought a rice paddy could be so luxurious. Wondering why the corn fields of Iowa don’t try to offer the same. I’d celebrate an anniversary there.
7. How have your attitudes about travel changed over the years?
I used to think that the farther I flew, the more exotic the experience. I now come across neighborhoods—particularly shopping strips—in places like Beijing that may as well be situated in the Americana Mall in Manhasset. Likewise, I’m often pleasantly surprised to find new nuggets closer to home—in places like Charleston, Seattle and Brooklyn.
8. Most important aspect of travel in terms of your business needs today?
For international travel, I do my best to bring my passport. Given the trends in the U.S., however, I may have to reconsider.
For domestic flights, I always have a credit card on hand. Stewardesses don’t accept cash for in-flight food, and I hate to arrive on an empty stomach, even if it means yet another bag of Terra Chips.
9. How do you spend your time in flight?
Wish I had it in me to be at least somewhat productive—I marvel at others toiling away—but I usually use the opportunity to surf the web. If that’s not an option, I like to watch old episodes of 30 Rock. I find Alec Baldwin especially funny at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
10. What’s your dream destination now?
I dream about the Everglades, but that’s actually my worst nightmare. There’s something about swamps—and their denizens—that keeps me awake at night and vacationing elsewhere.
I have pleasant dreams of visiting Capetown. It seems to have all the positive aspects of Hawaii, but without tarantulas or reminders of The Brady Bunch.
THE XOJET LIST
Favorite city: Paris, especially in August, when all the Parisians are away.
Favorite hotel: Evason Ma’In Hot Springs, an oasis by the Dead Sea in Jordan. The resort lies about 260 meters below sea level. I happened to be there on my birthday and was serenaded in Arabic by a caravan of Bedouin waiters. The evening was capped at an open-air theater that was showing Lawrence of Arabia. I loved everything about that film except for Peter O’Toole’s makeup. They didn’t have good bronzers back then.
Favorite restaurant: When it comes to cuisine, I’m a farm girl. I like to be close to the source, so long as I’m not asked to shuck the corn or sort the wheat from the chaff. Among farm-to-table restaurants, my top pick is Blue Hill at Stone Barns, located in Pocantico Hills, about 30 miles outside New York. All the food is grown in the surrounding fields and other local farms. Plus, the selection process is user-friendly, as there are no menus, just multi-course tastings. I like to think there are no calories too.
Favorite bar: The Icehotel’s Icebar in Copenhagen. An opportunity to visit the Arctic, but not stay for longer than a round or two of drinks. And drinks are all on the rocks, of course.
Favorite spa: I love the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa, about 40 minutes from Reykjavik. The Lagoon is fed water, rich in silica and sulfur, from a nearby power plant. It sounds a lot less appealing than it is.
Favorite museum/gallery: I am profoundly moved by Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, a living memorial to the Holocaust. A religious experience even for us atheists.
Favorite publication(s) to read on a plane: I was an English major in college, but, for some reason, I favor pictures to words. Elle Décor. Harper’s Bazaar. US Weekly. I enjoy looking through them all, but not reading any of them.
Favorite travel device: At heart, I’m an “analog gal.” I’m still attached to my Sony Walkman. It’s simple to use and allows me to leverage my enormous and beloved collection of cassettes. The sound quality is not quite as good as its alternatives, but the device is certainly more transportable than a phonograph.
Favorite luggage (maker): For heavy duty packing, I like my 29” US Traveler suitcase, which I bought a few years ago at Wal-Mart. I believe it’s the only item I’ve ever bought at Wal-Mart. It’s lightweight, tear-resistant and outright indestructible. Plus it doesn’t remotely arouse curiosity from bell hops, baggage handlers or customs officers, so my most precious jewels stay safe and all my travel purchases tariff-free.
The XOJET 10 is a Q&A series in which interesting, notable people from the worlds of business, travel and luxury products discuss their travel experiences, tips and insights.