My life in travel: Donna Karan, fashion designer
'Bali is my favourite place in the world'
Saturday 05 March 2011
First holiday memory?
I was 16 years old and my mother took me to Miami Beach. That's when and where I met my first husband, Mark Karan.
Bali and Africa. I've been back to both many times. Bali is where the mind, body and spirit truly connect. And the countries of Africa are a never-ending discovery of land, people and cultures. Most people go to Africa for safari, and I did that for my first trip, too. But then I started meeting tribal people and everything changed for me. I quickly realised that my true calling – or at least one of them – was to help preserve these cultures and bring their artistry and traditions to the world.
What have you learnt from your travels?
How important it is to preserve cultures in the modern world. Visit an ancient culture and you experience the wisdom and the traditions handed down from generation to generation. We can't let advancing technology and globalisation take that away. We have to embrace where we come from, really understand and appreciate our individuality.
For two years, I have been involved with a multi-media creative collaboration called Nomad Two Worlds, founded by the fashion photographer Russell James. He has been working with aboriginal tribes in his native country, Australia. I travelled with him to the Outback last November; to experience the spirit of the people, to see and feel the craft and wisdom of their traditions, was to understand why we must bring their artistry to the world.
Ideal travelling companion?
Someone who wants to share the nomadic journey and has the same passion and curiosity for discovering other culture and ways of life. Russell is a great travelling companion, so is my good friend Calvin Klein. Calvin and I went to Ethiopia together, and more recently to Bali. Like me, Calvin is up for anything.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
All of the above and preferably in the same place because I don't want to have to choose one. You can have all three in Bali, Africa and in Australia's Outback.
Greatest travel luxury?
Travelling on private planes and boats.
I tend not to read as much as write. I take a journal to capture what I'm living at that moment.
Where has seduced you?
Bali, Burma, Israel, Ethiopia and India. In all these places, I had an almost spiritual connection to the people and their land. The colours, the tradition, the elders and the children – I could go on and on about children I've met. I always travel with a Polaroid camera so I can take photos and give them to the kids. Some of them have never seen a photo of themselves and are mesmerised by it.
Better to travel or arrive?
Once you arrive, the journey begins.
The Como Shambhala Estate in Bali. It is truly my home away from home. Bali is my favourite place in the world, as well as my spiritual refuge. Como Shambhala is owned by my dear friend Christina Ong, who also owns Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos, and I was in Bali with her when she was conceptualising it all those years ago.
Everything is perfection – the décor, the landscaping, the amazing treatments. When I go there, I am like a little child – all my senses are awakened.
I love walking in the mountains in Arizona. I first discovered it years ago at Canyon Ranch, where I would go after every collection to relax and rejuvenate. There's something at once invigorating and healing about walking in the mountains, especially early in the morning.
My favourite swim is in Parrot Cay, where I have a house. I love the clear turquoise waters that meld with the sky. And my favourite ride would be motorcycling with my late husband Stephan in the Hamptons. To feel that sea-air blowing on your face and through your hair is heaven.
Best meal abroad?
Anything at Como Shambhala; the raw food cuisine is divine.
A boat trip, starting in Indonesia and then travelling around the world. Ideally, I would have all the time in the world and be able to stop wherever and whenever I wanted – and to stay as long as I'd like.
Paris, for the light.
Tibet, Mongolia, China, Papua New Guinea – all the places I've yet to discover. They're all on my list, though not firmly on my calendar yet. The best travelling is spontaneous, just taking the opportunity whenever it presents itself.
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