The XOJET 10: Tony Chambers, Editor-in-Chief of Wallpaper* magazine
Most people love receiving the red carpet treatment everywhere they go. Not Tony Chambers, the Editor-in-Chief of luxury design/fashion/travel/lifestyle magazine Wallpaper*. When he wants to check out a new building or hotel, Tony prefers to slip in unnoticed so that he can have the same experience as any other visitor. An Englishman, a gentleman and an expert in the field, who better to discuss the state of the art of travel with the XOJET Blog. And of course we couldn’t help sharing a few choice words about Tony’s other great passion in life, when he’s not traveling the globe: the Everton Football Club.
1. Growing up, what was your first dream destination?
My ambitions were modest, to say the least. But because I had a very healthy art education, I always dreamt of visiting Italy and taking the classic grand tour to see all the paintings I’d only seen in books.
2. Tell us about the first time you flew on a plane.
I never flew until I was 19, when I was in art college in London and one of our foreign students was Kenyan. So my first flight was to Kenya. We spent several weeks there and traveled all over: Nairobi, Mombassa, Lake Naivasha and Lamu. It was an incredible adventure.
3. How many days a year do you travel now and what percentage is for business?
Roughly 170 days a year, most of which is for work.
4. When you travel for business, what’s most important to you?
Flights I don’t mind at all, once you’re ensconced and cozy. It’s the tedious getting to and fro of big-city airports that makes it so unpleasant. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to head to tiny or private airports, where you have a much smaller setup and expediency.
5. What’s the biggest difference between how you travel for leisure and how you travel for business?
Actually, very little, because when I say business travel, I don’t think of those trips as work. And I try to tack holidays on the end of a long hauls to avoid adding more flights to my schedule.
6. What was your most luxurious travel experience?
There’s been quite a few—I really get spoiled and you have to be careful not to get used to it—but what first comes to mind was my first Etihad Airways flight. The service was extraordinary, and the food and wine were some of the best I’ve ever tasted anywhere, let alone on an airplane. If flying was always like that, I’d spend even more days traveling. It was an absolute pleasure.
7. How have your attitudes about travel changed over the years?
The most disturbing thing to me now is how homogeneous things have become. In the old days, for example, one of the great pleasures of visiting Italy was enjoying the quality coffee. You just didn’t have that in the UK back then. Now everyone does great coffee. Aside from Paris—their coffee is still s**t. Today you have to work harder to find those far-flung places where you can experience a unique culture.
8. How do you spend your time in flight?
I catch up on films, because I simply don’t have the time otherwise. Now, with the quality of the technology, it’s not the true theater experience of the cinema, of course, but it’s a license to indulge in catching up on what I’ve missed.
9. What’s your dream destination now?
Marfa, Texas, has been on my list for 20 years, because I adore Donald Judd’s work. Also, Patagonia—I’ve been close a few times, but never spent time there. My first job after graduation was at The Sunday Times Magazine—where the great travel writer/author Bruce Chatwin had worked and famously left probably the briefest resignation note ever: “Have gone to Patagonia.”
10. What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you about traveling?
Travel as much as you can. The perspective travel gives you is the best way to educate yourself. And it makes you appreciate home more as well.
THE XOJET LIST
Favorite city: Rio, Marseille and Beirut. I like cities with a lot of action and tension, places that are truly alive, vibrant and have an edge to them—a port or a coast.
Favorite hotel: The Claska in Tokyo.
Favorite restaurant: La Colombe d’Or, in Saint-Paul de Vence, a little town near Nice. Really unfussy old-school French, lovely service, and the place is full of Miro, Braque and Calder pieces. Jean Nouvel lives next door, so we’ve lunched together there before.
Favorite resort: Outside St. Tropez, there’s a beautiful place that recently re-opened, La Réserve Ramatuelle. They have an amazing spa there as well.
Favorite publication(s) to read on a plane: Cliché, but The New Yorker. There’s always so much in it; light and portable, it’s the perfect travel companion.
Favorite luggage: Globe-Trotter. I really like them because they’re spacious, light and charming-looking. I have a few pieces and I always get friendly comments about them.
Favorite football club: Everton Football Club. Founded in 1878, they’re one of the oldest clubs in the world; the first and true club from Liverpool. There was a gentleman’s agreement that no team in the area would call themselves “Liverpool,” then, in the late 1890s, another club formed and those bastards cheated, reneging on the agreement. But really, Everton and their long, noble history of playing beautiful football is one of my great passions, second only to art and design.