Between the security checks, the disorganized airlines, and a teeming sea of irate travelers, modern air travel has become about as enjoyable a double root canal. Despite the innumerable annoyances that it presents, a trip to the airport is still a necessity if you want to make a getaway this summer, so to make your life easier (and set you apart from the pajama-wearing, full-size-pillow-toting American tourists) we’ve rounded up the best jackets that are tailor-made for air travel.
I’ve always viewed a winter get-away to warmer weather as a bit of a luxury, but this year with the exceptionally harsh and unrelenting cold, it feels more like a life line. With a ten day trip to the Yucatán Peninsula (Cancún, Isla Cozumel, Tulum) planned and booked at the end of last year, anticipating the vacation became almost as important as actually getting there. With the extra time to prepare, my packing became more thoughtful, more streamlined and more precise. This trip I got a few things right for once and I’m happy to share what I learned. —AJ
If you want an unflinching view of present-day America, look no further than Magnum photographer Alec Soth and writer Brad Zellar’s self-published LBM Dispatch Series. Drawing from the tradition of Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley and Kerouac and Frank’s The Americans, it is a serial journal of photos and writings that unfolds state by state, telling the stories of how we Americans are living today; how we get by, how we chase dreams, how we gather together and connect. As a photographic newspaper or travelogue, the LBM Dispatch bridges the gap between the immediacy of a blog and the beauty and permanence of an art book with each edition edited, laid out, printed and shipped just a week or two after the trip is completed. Empathetic, genuine, humorous and inspiring – the LBM Dispatch is a reminder that America is richer, sweeter and more nuanced than pollsters and cable television pundits would have us believe. Soth and Zellar were kind enough to answer a few questions for ACL about how the project came about and where they plan on taking it.
ACL: I assume that the newsprint format that you use for the LBM Dispatch was a discovery you made with The Last Days of W. What is it about newsprint that feels right for this project?
Alec Soth: Yes, that is true, but there are differences. The Last Days of W. was never a fully-fledged project. In that case I was digging through old photographs and wanted to make something that was modest and impermanent. So newsprint made sense, but it wasn’t actually constructed like a newspaper. With a writer and photographer going out telling stories, Dispatch is much more like a newspaper. And the immediacy of the form also made sense. But the project is much more ambitious than Last Days. That is partly why, in fact, we no longer print on newsprint. The first two issues were done that way, but the quality was just so meager —particularly in the dark values— that we switched to offset printing. This made the whole process much more expensive.
ACL: I love the idea that the LBM Dispatch is inspired by local newspapers. I grew up in a rural logging town in Oregon and our local paper takes itself just as seriously as say The New York Times, which I think is great. I feel like you guys approach the work in the same way. How does this idea or framework of being reporters help propel the stories and trips along.
Brad Zellar: It’s certainly the key to the whole thing. Although we don’t represent ourselves as reporters, our approach to the work is still very much a hunt for newsworthy or interesting stories and characters. I worked at my own local daily newspaper in a small Minnesota town, and the things that interested me way back when —the profiles of local people and the search for colorful or poignant yarns and haunted history— are still the things I tend to look for.
AS: I’m prone to self-indulgence. I’m much more likely to daydream or ponder my own neuroses than investigate the world ‘out there.’ One of the reasons I was interested in joining the photo agency Magnum is that I figured their tradition of doing documentary work would help keep me honest – keep pushing me out into the world. But I go back and forth. My last project, Broken Manual, was definitely inward looking. Afterward, I realized I needed to balance things out. But doing editorial work was increasingly unsatisfying. So Brad and I started our own paper. While it isn’t a conventional newspaper, having that as the backbone of the project does keep me from doing too much navel gazing.
The scene for this summer’s vacation was, again, thankfully Ischia. It’s an island I am getting to know (and love) more and more each year. I was educated about Ischia by Tom Kalenderian from Barneys, a man who will always be light years ahead of me when it comes to matters of good taste. My fiancé and I visited in June, a month in which the island ticks along with very nice weather and about half as many people as you would likely find in August. The combination of those enjoyment related two details all but guarantees me a return visit next year.
In my mind, there’s no better place to be really, and a lot of the charm has to do with the simple way of the island. When you visit don’t expect to see rows of luxury shops, because there aren’t any. There isn’t much to do there really, which is actually very nice. If you are get tired of sitting by the pool or swimming in the sea, hire a boat to take you around the island to have lunch in one of the hidden coves that only the locals know about. Or start in on the wine and get to bed early. There’s no fear of missing out — nothing is happening anywhere else, and even if it were, who cares.
You haven’t visited most of Maine—few people have. It’s an immense state that’s largely unpopulated. Well, try this: fly to Bangor, then drive three hours north. You’re getting up there. At the end of an 18-mile dirt road is Libby Camps. Established in 1890, it’s been in the same family for five generations. That all sounds promising, and it should. We’re partial to lodges and cabins that don’t dress themselves up (wall-to-wall carpeting is a telltale warning sign). When you arrive at Libby you know you’re in a place that has earned the right to take the long view.
Come in May and June to fish for native brook trout in many of the remote ponds that can only be accessed by foot or, even better, by float plane. Or come back in September when the water falls and they turn red before they spawn. Either way, you fly fish from a 20’ Old Town canoe and cast out one of the idiosyncratic flies made by the guides. Or, if you’re more classically minded: a caddis or March Brown. You can hope for a trophy 3 pounder, but that’s a setting the bar high. Aim a little more realistically, while expecting regular action from strong, healthy fish.
The guys at Valet put together a travel feature with tips from frequent travelers about how they pack and the bags that they use. I chimed in to talk about the way in which I organize my stuff when I am on the road. Specifically, I spoke about these small Kelty x Beams zip bags that I picked up last fall in Tokyo.
I use the big one as my “International Economy” bag (which I only bring when I am flying a redeye to Europe or to Asia in steerage). It holds a travel pillow, Nalgene bottle and a pair of Muji travel slippers (because you don’t want to hit the highly trafficked economy bathroom in socks). It can also be used to pack a pair of shoes or hold dirty laundry on your return. The middle-sized bag is for electronic accessories—chargers, an international power converter and even a spare memory card reader. If I didn’t always leave everything in this bag, I’d inevitably forget something.
The Hunt is a series that aims to find the best-in-breed products that we’re all searching for — let’s dig deeper.
You can buy a luggage tag almost anywhere. What you strangely can’t buy very many places is a high quality and tasteful luggage tag. It’s honestly a bit of a paradox. Most small consumer goods in this country are so cheap in both price and make that anyone looking for something well made has to spend an absurd amount of time looking for something that will last longer than a few rungs through the carousel of destruction at the hands of your friend airline baggage handler.
There are actually a lot of synthetic/plastic options out that there that seem decent enough, but I don’t want to put something too tech on my luggage (personal preference maybe). Additionally, there are quite a few companies that make good luggage tags from nice leather, but the problem I always seem to encounter is often that they use cheap hardware. A shitty clasp is a deal-breaker for me, I want something solid that is going to last for at least two decades and I am willing to pay for it. Enter the Tanner Goods luggage tags and my hunt may be over.