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Surprise Is the New Luxury

See the 2015 Travel Vanguard 

Philippe Brown, founder of Brown + Hudson—an agency that crafts extremely personalized trips—argues that where you travel isn’t really the point. 

050115vanguard.surpriseheadshotHow are you shaking up travel?
We plan trips starting with the outcome—the why you are choosing to travel—rather than the destination. Where you go might be a surprise; some people don’t even want to find out until the day before takeoff.

How do you do that?
We start with an in-depth interview that reveals your passions, motivations, needs. People tend to travel because they want something that isn’t present where they are. We discover what that is, then uncover a destination that can fulfill it. We tap our global network of locals, experts, dignitaries, and journalists, to concoct behind-the-scenes experiences and meet-ups with interesting characters. Then, we reveal the trip story in an unusual way: maybe a hardcover book delivered by courier or a message baked into a cake or a soliloquy performed during intermission of a play. Whatever fits the trip.

Why are people responding to this?
Many travelers are craving authenticity, not packaged tours. The success of Airbnb demonstrates this: You can stay where you want, not just where hotels are. People are also seeking a trusted voice to help guide them: There are a gazillion sources of travel inspiration out there, but their standards may be vastly different from yours. Our trips match the traveler.

Favorite new travel discovery?
Adventure Local connects people who have similar passions. Skateboarders can use it to locate a skateboarder in another city who will bring them to skateboard parks. They show you the world outside the mainstream.

Three favorite travel tips?
1. Leave the guidebook at home. Go out and talk to people. Find real, regular, or random things to do. Do what you do at home on a Saturday or Sunday.
2. Be positive. Be sensible and careful, but be brave. Some of the greatest experiences require trust; not everyone who offers you a lift or a drink is going to mug you.
3. Pack less. People always bring too many clothes.

What about you? What’s in your bag?
I always bring my trusty Leica Monochrom with a Noctilux lens. It’s a black and white manual-focus digital camera. It forces me to slow down, be deliberate, and focus on the scene. Also, a pair of decent

binoculars like the Swarovski 8 x 32 ED, which are big enough for big game but small enough for the opera. And, for an outdoorsy trip, a very good flashlight like the Fenix TK35. It’s like a cross between a nightclub and lighthouse. It also has a nice red filter to keep bugs away.

Header image by The Voorhes.