Fathom Questionnaire: Jane Lerner
by Jane Lerner
Hometown: Born and raised in Chicago, spent a decade in San Francisco, now Brooklyn is home.
Occupation: Writer and editor.
Favorite destinations: Telluride, Marin County, Barcelona, London, Venice, Berlin, Bali, Sayulita (Mexico), all of Thailand.
Dying to visit: Alaska, New Orleans, Vancouver, Tanzania, Japan, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, Turkey.
Bizarre travel rituals: I pack enough fancy food on the plane to feed a small gourmet army. I fear going hungry while stuck in the air.
In-flight relaxation regime: Planes are inherently unrelaxing to me (I can barely sleep on planes, even with Ambien on a long-haul overnight flight), but podcasts of This American Life and an oversize cashmere shawl/blanket help.
Always in carry-on: I am a huge proponent of checking bags, unless there's a tight connection to be made. But I always carry a large bottle of water, a stack of magazines, headphones for the iPod, my laptop, and lip balm.
Concierge or DIY? I'm pretty DIY and always have been, though as I get older I have no problem with calling on a concierge to make reservations or help arrange itineraries.
See it all or take it easy? Depends where — a city trip is more see-it-all while it's easy going on the beach.
Drive or be driven? As intrepid of a traveler as I am, driving in a foreign country intimidates me.
Travel hero: My friend Sam, whom I met on a beach in Bali in 1995 and is my pal to this day. She spent six months traveling around Southeast Asia with nothing more than a little straw tote, a change of clothes, and a toothbrush.
Weirdest thing seen on travels: In a small mountain town on the island of Flores in eastern Indonesia, we came upon a just-dead horse being eviscerated. The entire town was gathered round to divvy up the organs.
Best hotel amenity: Flattering bathroom light; excellent room service coffee.
I dream about my meal at The French Laundry, where I went for my 30th birthday; the food stall in an alleyway in Bangkok where we had the spiciest food I will most likely ever eat, a nahm prik that made my scalp tingle for days; perfect apricots in a bowl of ice-cold water, presented to me by a medicine man in a hut in the Sinai desert.
Everywhere I go, I check out the supermarkets for sure. There's not much I enjoy more than wandering the aisles of a market in another country. I also check out the record stores, coffee shops, local parks, and art museums.
When I arrive in a new place, I learn the lay of the land by: I am an excellent navigator and a bit of a map nerd. I usually get the lay of the land pretty quickly by walking around and referring to the map to mark the trail I've taken.
I always bring home random groceries (my suitcase from a recent trip to London contained malt biscuits, tandoori spice mix, salt and tea); jewelry, barrettes, and small touristy gifts for my sister and nieces; party flyers and business cards from restaurants/bars I want to remember; bodycare items like soaps, lotions, and makeup. I especially enjoy the graphic design on products from other countries.
If I never return to Puerto Vallarta or Montego Bay, it'll be too soon because the idea of an overcrowded, alcohol-soaked, culturally anaesthetized beach holiday is totally depressing.