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You feel it when it happens to you. When you connect deeply with a place, an experience, a lifestyle. When all the sensations and elements of the journey come together, and it’s just, well, perfect.

We asked a few visionaries named to the 2016 Travel Vanguard to reveal what the perfect journey means to them. Their inspiring stories—spanning the American South, Italy, and Brazil—are a reminder of the transformative power of travel and how it defines you and your values.

While you can’t necessarily anticipate or pre-plan such meaningful moments, you can equip yourself with the right companions, mindset, and products. TUMI’s 19 Degree collection, for instance, draws on the fluid elements of nature and the precision of architectural marvels; it elevates the elemental need to bring what’s important along with you.

Read on for three personal stories about perfecting the journey.

My Perfect Journey: Edie Rodriguez, CEO of Crystal Cruises

If you were to ask me what place had the biggest impact on me or inspires me, it would absolutely be Italy. When I am in that country, it transcends me. It takes me back to a simpler way of life where everything is casual and about food and wine. I just love all things Italian, the lifestyle, the people, the air—so much so that I bought a home in Tuscany.

It’s in this beautiful 800-year-old village called Castelfalfi, with a UNESCO World Heritage castle. I love wandering the cobblestone streets, having a cappuccino in the morning, and not being so rushed in my typical “Speedy Edie” fashion. Here, my day has no agenda; I can just go with my own flow however I feel that day and relax.

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My home is the last one at the end of the village, and I wanted the outdoor space to be as breathtaking as the indoor. We are on top of a mountain, and on a clear day you can see the sea. It’s magnificent and all of that land and all of those views can really never be touched because the Italian government has it protected. It’s my little piece of paradise on Earth.

The Travel Vanguard: Edie Rodriguez from AFAR Media on Vimeo.


My Perfect Journey: Ben Weprin, CEO and founder of AJ Capital Partners

About 11 years ago, one of my closest friends invited me to the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi, that he and his family have been going to for 125 years. It’s designed so that people live in cabins on the fair grounds for a week each July. It’s communal and layered with history, character, and charm. I fell in love.

We hang out, tell stories, drink beer, eat chicken on a stick, and go to horseraces. There’s this sense of nostalgia and purpose. I have no business being in Philadelphia, Mississippi, but everybody there has welcomed me such with open arms. Three years ago I bought the cabin next door to my friend’s and started taking my three daughters.

The whole atmosphere, the colors, the people—you won’t never get unless you go and experience it, and once you do you’re hooked. My kids are obsessed; they think it’s like Disney World. It’s a really wonderful, magical spot.

My Perfect Journey: Jonathan Mildenhall, Chief Marketing Officer of Airbnb

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The most profound travel experience that I’ve ever had was when I first went to Salvador in the northern states of Brazil. My partner was sleepy, so I said, well, I’m going to get out of bed and go wandering. It was about seven-thirty, and the town was just beginning to wake up. Shopkeepers were putting out their wares; the street artists were warming up; and Brazilian women in African-inspired clothes were preparing breakfast for tourists.

I turned into this main town square, and it was so colorful with beautiful, crumbling buildings. And I had a realization that I’ve actually lived before, and I knew that I’d been in that square before, and I’d eaten that food, and I’d spoken that language, and it was such a profound experience that I burst into tears. Not tears of sadness, but just tears of being overwhelmed. I realized that my life that I’m living right now is not the first life that I’ve ever had.

It’s just one example of the profound experiences that people can have when they travel, and it was a beautiful experience, one that I genuinely like to remember. A couple of years ago, I went back to the same place and I had the same sensation, not to the same profound extent, but it really was proof to me that I’ve lived here before, and that Salvador was a place that I want to call my home.