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Trip Tailor: Tom Marchant

Co-founder, Black Tomato

The co-founder of Black Tomato, a tour operator specializing in luxury tailor made trips, reveals the things he loves most about travel, from his obsession with tapas to his most prized travel souvenir.

Let’s play spin the globe—name the one place you’ve always wanted to go.

Okinawa and the southwest islands of Japan.

What’s your spirit city? (Where do you want to return to over and over?)

Salvador, Brazil.

Do you have a travel ritual?

I always download documentaries onto my MacBook as it’s the best time to catch up on those that I’m unable to watch in my normally busy schedule.

Do you maintain any routines from home while traveling or does it all go out the window?

It’s really a question of adapting my routine. I don’t tend to change anything as I find that being abroad, in new cities and new places, makes the mundanity of (some) routines more exciting. For instance, if a hotel doesn’t have a gym, then I find a route in the city to run and don’t break that routine.

Salvador, Brazil is one of Marchant’s favorite destinations
Sorry, you only get to eat one regional cuisine for the rest of your life. What is it?

Spanish tapas. I’ve spent many summers on the east coast of Spain since I was a child, which is where my obsession for tapas began. Also, as a guy from Birmingham in the U.K., this is closely followed by Indian curry of course. 

What one piece of advice would you give to someone traveling abroad for the first time?

Ask questions. Don’t rely on your handheld screens to explore a new place. Asking questions helps you to understand what really makes a place tick. Start with the taxi driver from the airport. It doesn’t always work out but it makes you inquisitive, and you’ll find some hidden spots that you wouldn’t always find online. In 2015, we launched 20 Questions, a series of city guides that are a mixture of our insider tips and questions that guarantee to start conversations with locals. We started with Paris and New York, and next up is Copenhagen.

Describe your travel personality in three words.

Curious. Brave. Open-minded.

Are your trips very planned, or very spontaneous?

Combination really. Sadly I have limited time so sometimes it’s hard to be spontaneous to ensure I’ve spent my time well. I think of my travels as being structured spontaneity, where I have plans that still allow me to grab some unexpected moments, even if brief.

What's the one travel souvenir you'd save in a fire?

My Russian chapka hat. Living in Moscow for a few years was one of the most immersive experiences I’ve ever had, and it fueled my curiosity and drive to travel the world.

What book/movie most inspired you to travel?

On The Road, Jack Kerouac.

Who’s your ideal travel partner?

Aside from the obvious such as my girlfriend and brother, it’s the people I meet along the way. I’ve met some of my best travel partners whilst already traveling.

Which travel experience do you prefer: plugged in or unplugged?

Unplugged. I look for experiences that aren’t distracted by technology and ones that require you to really immerse in that moment so you can truly appreciate it.

What’s a custom from another culture that you’d love to implement in your life back home?

The Spanish long lunches. Some of my best business deals and favorite moments have come from them. Sadly my 24/7 schedule doesn’t allow for them, but I’ve met some of my favorite people and made some of my best personal and professional plans from them. 

What’s the first thing you seek out in a new place?


What’s the one thing you indulge in on a trip that you don’t at home?

I get to read more than I usual am able to at home. 

What’s your first travel memory?

Trips to Finland to visit my family, where we enjoyed hot summer days on beautiful lakes in the middle of pine forests.

>>NEXT: AFAR Insider Neil Jacobs