travel tips

Travel tips: the stateside road trip worth doing and the secret to scoring the best views

Your guide to a road trip in the Midwest, the one souvenir worth bringing home, and the new way of visiting museums

The “great road trip in the Midwest” taking in the sights of Illinois and Wisconsin is one for the bucket list . Picture by Alex Azabache on Unsplash

Manish Vora co-founded the gloriously goofy Museum of Ice Cream, which started as a pop-up in New York City in 2016.

The Instagram-friendly adult playground now has a flagship location in New York as well as satellite sites in Austin, Chicago and Singapore. Previously, the erstwhile investment banker co-founded design firm Grey Area, which specialised in partnering with artists to create products.

Logging around 50,000 miles per year, he’s a United Airlines devotee for two reasons. “The upgrade transparency – it’s so easy – and the Premier 1K program is really strong,” he says. “The app and technology also work really well.”

Vora (left) and co-founder and creative director of Museum of Ice Cream Maryellis Bunn at the Museum of Ice Cream opening party presented by American Express Platinum on September 15, 2017 in San Francisco, California

Vora often jets between his sites in Illinois and Texas, and United serves as his shuttle service. “They have the same set of flight attendants, who often work the same route, and that feels like premier service to me. On other airlines, especially when you’re flying out of cities like New York, you never see the same people.” He lives in Austin.

The best icebreaker in any travelling situation is this grown-up game

I always pack ‘Where Should We Begin?’, the card game by Esther Perel. I met her during Covid, and she’s a remarkable woman.

This game is an icebreaker for adults. I carry the full deck but only use a portion. I generally separate out the pink cards – which are all what would be more sexually intimate cards – but all the other cards are deeply probing, too.

It’s about digging into your true authentic passions, things like: What are your deepest fears? Where’s a place that changed your life? Who’s someone who you’ve been reluctant to text?

I use it all the time, like at a restaurant conference I attended, or on an airplane. I went to Summit at Sea last year on a Virgin Cruise, for the first time, and I probably carried those cards around with me the whole weekend. If you’re taking a two-hour excursion, all of a sudden you can get a whole group of people involved. It’s easily scalable.

Set your alarm a little early to score the best views on any trip

My favourite view, anywhere, is 10 minutes before sunrise. The anticipation, the commitment of your energy to starting the day.

The Adam’s Peak hike in Sri Lanka. Picture by Egle Sidaraviciute on Unsplash

I did a hike in Sri Lanka called Adam’s Peak, where you start at midnight and reach it at sunrise. The locals were barefoot, and you go up 5,000 steps through a mountain that has Hindu, Christian and Buddhist history; it’s where Sri Lankan Christians believe Adam and Eve resided. That was what made me seek the same view in my travels, no matter where I’m going.

This Central American city is a must-visit spot

If you want a city with great design, architecture and food, Mexico City is closer to Austin than Miami or New York or Chicago.

Everyone focuses on Pujol, but I would recommend Rosetta Bakery, which I think is the heart of Roma Norte, and I love the simplicity of a place called Maximo Bistrot, which keeps a warehouse feel right in the middle of the city.

They built the kitchen as if it was a house within the space, so there’s playfulness alongside Michelin-quality food. For art, I love Masa Gallery and JO-HS.

In their version of Central Park, there’s the Museo Tamayo, but I think the place people need to go is the National Anthropology Museum. It’s a massive complex, and truly one of the most special museums in the world, with a collection that’s uniquely Mexican.

There’s an easier way to get to know a place than walking

I start every trip in any city with a bike share: It might cost me €3 for the day, and I go off on a 45 or 60-minute leisurely ride through the city.

The best way to see a city, according to Vora, is by renting a bike. Picture by John Towner on Unsplash

I get to know it, and I think about what neighbourhoods I want to go back to – the café that looks really cute, or a museum. I did it in Cairo and in Stockholm and Copenhagen. If there’s no bike share programme, there’s usually a bike at your hotel.

Try picking up this functional but fun souvenir next time you travel

I pretty much stopped buying souvenirs because I think they end up in the trash. But every time I travel, I try to get a unique set of playing cards in each place.

Museums often have their own, for example, and I got some incredible vintage playing cards in French and in Arabic from a souk in Marrakech. Playing cards are an easy thing to store, and I hope one day to create a display of them.

Be a good plane passenger by doing this one thing

I’m a “shoes off” person. We have an Indian household, and it’s how I feel more comfortable and happier. And I always wear these thick socks when I’m travelling.

Partially, it’s for warmth, but I think – psychologically – there’s a bigger layer between the airplane dirtiness and my feet. It’s half warmth, half protection.

Bored by standard museum guides? Book a tour with this start-up

I’m a huge fan of Museum Hack, which offers alternative tours of places like the Met.

They started out as kind of rogue tours, but now they’re sanctioned: They operate in Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

Instead of the scripted narrative of the standard approach to guiding inside a museum, they do things like a VIP night tour of the Met, with a glass of wine.

Don’t travel to numb out. Instead, go here to truly turn off

The mindset when we travel can often be to numb out, but instead of that, we should fully turn off. I learned that when I went to Six Senses Vana in northern India, which is somewhere I’ve been going back to over and over.

It is a spiritual mecca, with ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine. It has a lot of connection to Chinese medicine and practices in India but with unique herbs and different massage techniques. There’s a deep spiritual chanting that goes with their herbal medicine.

In the last few years, India just recognised it as an official medical practice, so they’re translating books, these ancient texts, into languages we can understand.

This is the next road trip any architecture buff should take

There was a little indie movie called Columbus. I discovered Columbus, Indiana, from that maybe four or five years ago.

It’s arguably the most important town for modern architecture in America, because this single family of industrialists, the Millers, commissioned so many public buildings from Eero Saarinen: a church, the library, municipal buildings, their home.

A great road trip in the Midwest should include Oak Park in Illinois to see architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio. Picture by Alex Azabache on Unsplash

Then you can go on a great road trip in the Midwest, on to Oak Park in Illinois, to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio, and then up to Wisconsin to see Taliesin, the house he built.

And near there, you’ll also find the House on the Rock. It’s so hard to describe, because it starts as what looks like a mid century home tour – a house built into this massive natural rock.

I hate to give it away, but you emerge into something wild: there’s a collection of carousels and music boxes, not just small ones but room-size ones that activate.

It’s like Willy Wonka plus Disney plus a whole lot of what feels like 1970s psychedelia.

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