Holiday Gift Guide
The non-gear wish list
–FOR THE WORLD TRAVELER IN ALL OF US
This year I logged just under 100,000 miles flying this year…that’s not award points but actual in seat miles. Between projects, shoots, and workshops a good portion of every month has been spent living with a select number of pieces which keep me sound while I am abroad. Traveling will bring out the best and worst in people and the the things you carry along the way. The art of travel is very much about economy, not economy in dollars, but carrying a few things that are reliable, high quality, and dare I say inspiring.
For this year’s holiday gift guide, I wanted to suggest a few items that have become indispensable and come on every trip regardless of time zone, visa, or weight restrictions. Each item satisfies a specific need with an elegance lets you feel like the golden age of travel never ended.
URSA MAJOR: Face Balm (traveller)
The only thing drier than the Sahara Desert has got to be the interior of an airplane. No matter how many little cups of water and bottles we try to smuggle onto the plane, one trans-ocean flight will turn an aloe plant into a piece of beef jerky. There is always a need for a good travel lotion. The thing I like about URSA MAJOR is their formulas are about as natural as can be, without feeling like you are rubbing tree sap on your face. The face balm is condensed so that a little bit goes a long way. Its also travel compliant, so you will get through security without a hitch.
POLK AUDIO: Ultra Focus 8000 Headphones
Admittedly I am not an audiophile, but I am a connoisseur of screaming children, snoring neighbors, and whoosh of airplane toilets. This year I decided that I am finished listening to the bodily functions of my fellow travelers and their adorable children.
These Polk Audio Ultra Focus 8000 Headphones were just the pair for my needs (and presumably yours too.) They offer excellent noise cancellation, sound, and over ear comfort which fits neatly into the provided travel case. And bonus points to Polk, when the strap on the case broke after one month, they sent me another case no questions asked. The headphones do run on AAA batteries, but fortunately the case has a small pocket to carry extras (estimated 60 hours of play time per set.)
TANNER GOODS: Standard Belt Natural
A belt really?! Might it be the lamest of all gifts you’ve gotten from that aunt who’s not exactly related but show up drunk at all the gatherings? No, no…not this belt. I started with a Tanner Goods belt a year ago. The leather looked too virgin to match anything in the closet. But the boys & girls at Tanner Goods know how this belt ages. After a few months it takes on a patina that matches the copper rivets on any pair of jeans. I’ve worn the belt with everything shy of a full suit. Its one part casual, one part classic making it a great piece to wear if you are nestling up to mixologist in Kyoto or working your way through Il Mercato, Venice’s fish market.
Its thick cow hide that will easily last a lifetime and only get better with age. And if you are in a pinch it can double as a lashing for a failed zipper or used to “kindly” persuade hotel reception that “there ARE upgrades available.”
FILSON LUGGAGE: Travel Bag-Large (discontinued)
To me the genius of the Filson Travel Bag Large is that on paper it exceeds any airline regulations for size restrictions. But because of its soft lines and deceptive shapes, it has been my carry on for the year. Sling this over your shoulder and you can take it through most flights worldwide. The only exceptions are the short flights from Rome to Sardegna or Bari (en route to Matera). The bag is now only available in a medium, which is only a touch smaller and will also do the trick.
Wheeled bags are great, but I have been to too many places where you simply cant wheel a bag, that I prefer my main bag to be a shoulder bag. Everything on this bag, from the bridal leather straps, to the thick twill construction and the heavy duty zippers are designed for travel. The bag is the equivalent of bringing a team of Navy Seals to a bar fight…overkill, perhaps…but you will never feel underprepared.
OFFICINE 904: Small Wallet
In my travels with craftsmen, I constantly come across genius designs that are not visible online. OFFICINE 904 Small Wallet is no exception. Since buying the first wallet for myself last year, I have bought a few as gifts and referred at least a dozen people to their shop in Venice. They maintain a base in Florence too, keeping with the Florentine leather tradition.
The wallet solves the “change” problem that I encounter in England, Europe, and Japan. Unlike the US, where pocket change is about as valuable as the lint next to it in your pocket, a handful of change in euros needs a place to live. This wallet balances the change purse concept with a small bill fold wallet in a brilliant range of colors. (email Silvia directly if you want to pick one up since they are not on the site: info
Long haul flights and airport lounges are what you make of them. For me, I turn them into my own little inspiration hubs, fully equipped with a small stash of reading material and DVDs to keep the creative juices flowing on the road.
JACQUES COUSTEAU: The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey
Whether you grew up watching the grandfather of modern diving on television or you are just discovering him for the first time, his adventures are just as relevant now as they were forty years ago. Follow Cousteau through this disc set as he find sunken Roman treasure in the Greek islands and saves an Italian fishing village from imminent threat as a sunken cache of chemical threaten to wipe out the fishing industry. Between the red caps, speedos and array of early dive watches (Omega Plop Proof and Prototype Rolex Submariners) the details of these discs are fascinating. And above all, get into the spirit of travel. Any man who travels by ship with and keeps a submarine and helicopter aboard is worth following.
ANDY WARHOL: A Documentary Film
Warhol is a polar character in the art world, who has gone through a bit of a resurgence in the last decade. At once reproached for his unapologetic aims to make money through art (his estate was valued at over $600 million when he died in 1987) and his near mechanical reproduction of his own work, Warhol really does have something for everyone.
I should be the last person to like Warhol, in that we come from two completely different and rather incompatible artistic traditions, but there is something I love about him. This four hour piece premiered on PBS and was quickly lost in the bowel of documentary programming, but I kid you not, I have watched this film over 30 times. It lays out Warhol’s path from start to finish, with all of the difficulties and successes that surround one of the 20th centuries most influential (I might not say best, but definitely influential) artists.
BARNSTONE STUDIOS: Figure Drawing DVD Course
If I could only find more reasons to turn a camera on Myron Barnstone, the art education world would be a more dynamic place. Like no other teacher I have ever met, Myron makes any artistic subject from Figure Drawing to Color Theory a wonderful walk through history. Free from the pitfalls of many art programs, Myron’s Figure Drawing course is not actually about drawing people. It is an in depth look at how great artists viewed the human body and why they selected the human form as their muse.
There are useful lessons in this DVD that any photographer should know by heart and they only way to know it by heart is to study it one element at a time.
EXPLORER’S CLUB JOURNAL
Summing up the Explorer’s Club in a small paragraph is not possible. Its members were the first to the moon, bottom of the Mariana’s Trench, and the top of Mount Everest. Since the turn of the century its pioneering members have reached new heights and depths in the fields of exploration, science and art. This lesser known publication which is not available in many locations is the perfect carry on size. I always take mine tucked in the side pouch of my bag to keep up on what path’s are being blazed around the globe.
BEST MADE & CO: Maps Notebook
The name is a little misleading, this is not a notebook of maps. You are the author and the maps it will contain are yours. As a long time fan of Moleskine notebooks, something has to be pretty special for me to even look in another direction. When I came across these notebooks a few months back I was instantly sold. Each page has a 1/2” dot matrix for drawing or if you are just a little OCD. While the back side of every page has a section for notes, incase you need to rip your map out and include some details on to how to find the hidden treasure.
ROTRING: 800 Retractable Mechanical Pencil
Lastly, you will need something to keep track of all your new ideas, projects, and goals for the New Year. As much as I love my fountain pens, there is nothing worse than cabin pressure popping a pen in your bag. Better to play it safe with a mechanical pencil.
For those of you who know my professional background, I used to do a lot of architectural drafting and became very picky about pencils and lead holders.
Rotring are solid, German-made pencils with retractable tips so you don’t break them in your bag and they don’t accidentally stab you in the leg. Being impaled by your own pencil is something worth avoiding. Better to put it to use as you overflow with genius while all of the other airline passengers are sound asleep.
I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season and enjoys the time away from work doing the things that matter most to you.