Hannah Hickok loves to travel so much she’s making it semi-permanent. The STYLECASTER deputy editor will move from New York to Paris in October, but her globe-trotting has already taken her far beyond the City of Light.
The Massachusetts native credits a teenage Outward Bound trip with sparking her love for travel and her taste for, as she describes it, “embarking on slightly scary adventures.” These days that means trips to far-flung destinations, from Dubai to Rome to Amsterdam to St. Lucia, and along the way, she’s mastered the art of making travel full of pleasure, not pressure.
Her secrets? Keeping a loose, “almost lazy” approach to trip-planning that leaves plenty of room for serendipitous experiences — oh, and a novel approach to packing that’s guaranteed to prevent any last-minute freakouts. We asked Hannah to share all the places she’s been, what’s next on her travel bucket list and why even a less-than-perfect trip is still one worth taking. She is, quite literally, living the dream — and she knows because it was hers once, too.
STYLECASTER: What sparked your love for travel?
HH: When I was 15, I went on a 22-day Outward Bound canoeing/backpacking expedition on the Allagash River in Maine, and it helped me realize my own capacity for independence and self-sufficiency — that probably planted the seed of an adventurer in me. Then at 19, for my first semester of college, I studied abroad in Dijon, France, along with about 20 other freshmen. I was homesick as hell, but that built character and expanded my world. I studied abroad a second time in Athens as a junior, which was basically a vacation compared to those more challenging experiences when I was younger!
SC: What is it about the experience of traveling that you love?
HH: I love that it resets your daily routine. Leaving behind the familiarity of home can be uncomfortable but invigorating, whether it’s for a week or a month. The best trips involve great food, culture and conversation, but even a less-than-perfect trip — if nothing else — makes you happy to come home. And what’s better than appreciating your everyday life?
SC: What’s your approach to planning your itinerary?
HH: I’m a pretty low-key — some might say slightly lazy — traveler. I rarely do exhaustive advance research or put together a jam-packed itinerary. I usually have a couple of goals in mind, like a type of food I want to try or a neighborhood, church or museum I’ve heard is a must-see. Other than that, I go with the flow and see where the day or my host takes me. Stressing on vacation defeats the purpose, and keeping things loose really takes the pressure off and keeps you open to new experiences.
SC: What’s one place you think everyone needs to go — bonus if it’s a well-kept secret?
HH: This isn’t a secret, but whenever I meet an American who hasn’t been to New Orleans, I tell them how much they’re missing out on. That city is a national treasure of vibrancy, culture, great food and pure joy. For a less well-known pick, I love to crow about the virtues of Maine, having spent so much time there growing up in New England — its national parks, forests, beaches, boardwalks and lobster rolls are truly not to be missed.
SC: What are your top five favorite places — that you’ve been to?
HH: New Orleans for the food, people and music.
St. Lucia because it’s wild, lush and exotic.
Amsterdam because it’s beautiful, historic and bohemian.
Rome for the art, history, food and people.
Grand Canyon for its raw beauty and mind-boggling bigness.
SC: And the next five places you want to go and why?
HH: So many! In the future, I’d love to visit India, Singapore, Guatemala, Senegal, New Zealand … but my ultimate bucket-list destination is Machu Picchu. These are all places friends and family have been and raved about, but honestly this list could go on for a very long time!
SC: What are your no-fail packing tips every frequent traveler needs to know?
HH: My absolute best tip is to start early and break it up! I break out my carry-on a week before my departure and add a few things every day. That way, there’s no night-before freak-out about packing all at once.
Make a list and actually consult it before you leave, so you don’t, you know, forget your passport.
Keep it to a carry-on whenever possible: I promise you don’t need those extra clothes, shoes or beauty products as much as you think you do!
Have a dedicated travel toiletry bag with duplicates of all the basics, like toothbrush, contact case and solution, aspirin, allergy meds, etc., so that you can just grab it and go.
Fold up a canvas tote bag and pack it in your luggage; that way you can use it as an extra bag at your destination for day trips or shopping without going over your carry-on bag limit.
SC: Not gonna lie, I am super jealous about your upcoming move to Paris. How did that come about?
HH: My first trip to Paris was for Thanksgiving break when I was studying abroad in Dijon, France, as a freshman. It was pure magic — not just because we were in Paris, but because I was reunited with my family for the first time after three months of serious homesickness!
My next time in Paris was last year, when my fiancé and I got engaged, so, of course, it was very romantic. We joked and fantasized a lot during that trip about not going back to New York or returning to Paris long-term. A year later, the opportunity arose when he was accepted to a master’s program there — something that wasn’t remotely on our radar during that trip.
SC: That’s amazing — what do you envision your daily life will be like there?
HH: I’ll be going freelance, so I hope that my life won’t involve too much of a daily routine, other than spending time writing in libraries and cafes. I’m excited to step away from the 9-to-5 corporate lifestyle for a while and explore passion projects, be inspired by my surroundings and have even more creative freedom and flexibility to travel. Always working on that bucket list!
This post is sponsored by DOVE® Chocolate.