For a long trip, the secret to happiness is packing less
Designer Patrick Robinson has spent the past 30 years at the forefront of fashion, whether helming the Giorgio Armani Collezioni line or juicing Gap’s sales with a jolt of couture creativity. The lifelong traveller's current project is Pashko, a startup specializing in travel-friendly clothes for men and women. With each piece made from reclaimed and sustainable textiles, Robinson aims for them all to look as good at journey’s end as at the start, and to carry travellers from seat 1A to a C-suite-level meeting, without the need to change.
Patrick isn’t sure how many miles he logs each year, but estimates at least 200,000. He tries to fly JetBlue domestically, as he’s a fan of its Mint class. “I’m just a fanatic about that. It’s outrageously amazing, because you literally have a door that you close and you’re in your own little bunker capsule pod. It’s almost like having a private jet.” He often tries to use his JetBlue frequent flier miles for tickets on Emirates, which he loves for much the same reason. “Emirates first class is a whole room by itself.”
Robinson lives in New York City and upstate with his wife, fashion editor Virginia Smith, and their son.
Forget a marathon. The best thing to boost your middle-aged fitness? A backpacking trip.
One of the things that I want to do is try to stay fit, but I work, all the time. It makes it hard, especially if I don’t have an outside goal or a vision for something I’m working towards, like running a marathon. So I go backpacking. Because just like you have to get in shape for the marathon, you have to do that for a backpacking trip. I usually hire a trainer to prepare me for it, to work on what I’ll need for a certain trip. As you get older, you see certain people’s trips become sort of soft, right? You’ve got to have these trips that are also hard, and that keeps you young and that keeps you out there.
Use this trick to find the best guide, or fixer, no matter where you’re going.
I go by myself, but I like to hire a guide. I start by doing research on where I want to go, and the pictures will come up. Then I look at the photographers’ names. They are a wealth of information about those best places to go and see, because they need this picture, right? That’s how they make money. So I contact them, and ask them for their guides. I usually piggyback off of them, and that’s an old hack for information.
This is his bucket-list journey.
If I’m going on a trip, I want it all about me. I want to go and find myself. One time, I hired a guide to take me into the Gobi Desert, and we were going to camp out for a few days. It’s life changing. There is nothing there but desert, forever. You hear nothing. All by myself, I slept out. You wander into the desert and you finally end up at this camp with all these camels. They actually don’t want you to ride them; they’re actually really mean, so they try to scare the hell out of you. I had the nastiest camel. But it could literally walk up and down something vertical.
How to fly long-haul business class for 80% off, or more.
I use Luxury 4 Less all the time. They’re amazing. They’re buying mileage from corporations—unused miles—and they’re booking you an award ticket [with them]. It’s usually cheaper than a full-price economy ticket. Take flying to Hong Kong, which is super expensive. They got me Lufthansa business to Milan, where I had a meeting, then on to Hong Kong, via Dubai, in one of those private cabins.
That’s probably a $20,000 ticket, but I think the total for that was $3,200. You’re getting nothing but the ride for it, of course. You won’t get miles from them, but sometimes that’s all you want. You just have to be flexible with your flight times and all that, which I always am. [Editor’s note: Purchasing miles is not allowed by airlines, and they may cancel such a trip.]
Robinson learned to pack differently for long and short trips from his father—though the difference might surprise you.
My father is sort of the extreme traveller. He was a doctor who invested his money well and retired at 45 so he could travel to every country in the world. I think he finished that, let’s say, five, six years ago. And then he did all the territories. He emailed me Sunday from Antarctica, and he was, like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s the second or third time I’ve been here. I just felt like coming back.’ I learned about packing from him. On a short trip, say three to five days, I learned you might end up checking luggage, but on a longer trip, for two or three weeks, you never should. People actually do the opposite, which I think is really fascinating.
On short trips you actually need to pack more, because usually a short trip has a reason and you actually bring more with you on the short trip. You don’t want to get slowed down by washing things, so you should bring everything you need. But on long trips, he takes very, very, very little because that’s when you have time to wash your clothes or do this and that. He just went to the opera in Salzburg [Austria], and he took a lot with him: the tuxedo, the right shoes. But on long trips, he just takes a backpack.
Take a moment, and you could find that long-haul flight might just inspire you.
I hate the airport but love a plane. I find I breathe better on airplanes and have creative thoughts. You know what we don’t do as people a lot? Just sit there and give yourself time to think. Planes are pretty quiet, and that’s a wonderful opportunity. I usually take something with me that sparks thought—a book, so I can then write in my journal. Planes are not a place to do email, but somewhere to be creative.
Don’t think of it as a First Aid Kit; it’s an everyday life kit.
I travel frequently off the beaten path and always have my personally built First Aid Medical Kit pouch. It’s really the way that I live, and I think you have to make it for all the things that you sort of have in your life every day that you don’t sort of think about. It contains everything from prescription medicine for severe stomach issues and other ailments or illnesses to bandages, aspirin, eye rinse, but I also have coffee and little bottles of booze. When I go to Muslim countries, I make sure I have some small bottles of vodka or tequila. And coffee—little instant Folgers containers. You just rip them off, put them in a cup, and pour hot water on them. Literally lifesaving, and I have tons and tons of those, and I just plan them out for at least two a day, I need two cups. My wife would call me neurotic, but I sort of plan ahead. Well, I plan ahead to an extreme.
Keep these two items in your carry-on bag at all times.
I put an extra shirt and a pair of socks in my smaller bag, and I leave them there. They never come out of that bag. I always say if I lose my big bag—if they take it away, if it falls out of the sky, if something happens—I can actually live with just the small bag. If you change your shirt on the plane, you can change the perspective of who you are. And socks mean you don’t have to worry if your feet get wet. People are like, ‘Why don’t you put underwear?’ But you can survive without underwear. Even wearing [just] a pair of pants, you can keep going.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)