Meet the King of Glamping

AFAR sits down with Larry Lipson, owner of Montana’s rough-luxe Resort at Paws Up

Meet the King of Glamping

Larry Lipson, right, is the owner of the Resort at Paws up in Montana.

Photo courtesy of Larry Lipson

More than anything else, luxury is defined by extraordinary experiences, according to Larry Lipson, the owner of the Resort at Paws Up, the rough-luxe retreat set on a cattle ranch outside Missoula, Montana that helped coin the term “glamping.” This spring, Lipson is expanding his rustic-chic ranch accommodations with a new camp on the 37,000-acre grounds—which he says is the largest tented retreat in North America. Built for traveling groups, the North Bank Camp is set along the serene Blackfoot River and will offer six two and three-bedroom tents with furnished decks and en-suite bathrooms. We caught up with Lipson recently and asked him how his wanderlust inspires him.

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

I have two: I’d love to hike to the foot of Everest to truly appreciate the scale and magnitude of such a large rock. I’m guessing there’s some inspiration that comes with that view. I’d also like to go to Tokyo to experience my own version of Lost in Translation.

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

Probably New York: I’ve been traveling to New York on business for the last twenty years. I’ve never lived in the city; however, I seem to know it better than most folks who have lived there for ten or fifteen years. It’s cliché, but the street buzz is second to none. London is a close second. It has street buzz with an extra dose of cool style and design.

Do you have a travel ritual?

Use transcontinental flights to send a tsunami of emails. The amount of work you can get done on a six-hour flight outpaces six hours of office work every time. Also…I’m fully unpacked with everything hung and put away within the first ten minutes of getting to a hotel room. It’s probably one part OCD and two parts being a Virgo.

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

Home or away, my routine is usually a final flurry of evening emails before I take off, followed by the New Yorker or a good film on the iPad.

Sorry, you only get to eat one regional cuisine for the rest of your life. What is it

Japanese. But if they run out of fish I’m going Italian.

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

Have a loose schedule. This way you’ll do some of the things you had planned, but you’ll also have plenty of time to go rogue. I’m pretty happy exploring freestyle through a city, finding stuff as I come upon it.

Describe your travel personality in three words.

Insatiable cultural curiosity.

Are your trips very planned, or very spontaneous?

See answer number six.

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

It’s not a thing. My favorite travel souvenir is to hear my daughter reminisce about our family trips. It’s physically impossible not to have a $%&*-eating grin on your face listening to one of these accounts.

What book/movie most inspired you to travel?

I should probably have some intellectual answer here. However, James Bond movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. I’ve always been seduced by all the exotic places 007 visits. Lost in Translation fueled my infatuation with the cultural and visual uniqueness of Tokyo.

Who’s your ideal travel partner?

My wife and daughter. We have good travel mojo as a family. We’re relaxed. We all enjoy about the same level of spontaneity versus planned stuff. Although, if we don’t hit the hotel pool at least once a day, there’s hell to pay with my six-year-old.

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

It’s unfortunate, but when you own your own business it’s virtually impossible to ever fully unplug. I’ve been known to go into the fetal position when WiFi is down.

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

I’d like to be more influenced by cultures that have mastered the art of slowing down.

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

My bearings. I love to walk around cities. Or take public transit. You don’t get the vibe of a city sitting behind a cab driver. I once walked from Chambers to 72nd Street in Manhattan. The change of neighborhoods was remarkable.

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

Hang out and do nothing with my family. It’s tough to find time for this in the hustle and bustle of home life. I also like to write stories. Traveling seems to be a tonic that gets these flowing. Lastly, I like to photograph the textures of a city. Not all the iconic stuff. But rather the little details that we always walk past without noticing when it’s our own city.

What’s your first travel memory?

I lived in London when I was very little. We’d go on family ski trips to Zermatt, Switzerland. There was a restaurant at the very top of the mountain that was supposedly on the Italy side. You had to take a treacherous Poma lift up a sheet of ice and through a frigid wind tunnel to get there. As I recall, the view and the hot chocolate was worth the agony. And the schuss down adjacent to the Matterhorn left an indelible image.

The Blackfoot River, which flows through the Resort at Paws Up in Montana.

The Blackfoot River, which flows through the Resort at Paws Up in Montana.

Photo courtesy of the Resort at Paws Up

Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of Afar.
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