“Bombay is like my other favorite city (New York), but on steroids. A few days in Bombay and I feel like I can be anyone and do anything—it’s a city of infinite possibilities.
Sarah Khan has lived in Canada, Saudi Arabia, India, South Africa, and the U.S., and throughout her peripatetic upbringing, India has remained the one constant. As a travel journalist, she has written about various parts of the world for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Saveur, and others, winning multiple awards for her work. Sarah was in New York City when she responded to our questions. You can also follow her on Instagram @BySarahKhan.
Essentialist: What was the first trip you took where you thought…I’m hooked and want to do this more?
Sarah Khan: I’ve been traveling since I was a few months old, and I lived in four countries by the time I was 14, so there were countless family trips growing up that left a lifelong impact. But my first proper overseas vacation without my parents, a trip to Spain with friends during spring break in college, was the beginning of a completely new phase of traveling for me: complete freedom to spend my own hard-earned money however I wanted, with whomever I wanted, planning it all around things I wanted to do—and I’ve never looked back since.
E: What is the first thing you like to do when you have landed in a foreign country or a new city?
SK: While I’m still in my hotel room: turn on the TV to let the local language or accent set the sound track while I freshen up and get ready. But the first thing I do when I’m ready to set foot outside my room is go out for a walk to explore my new neighborhood and, if it’s not too late, find a cool coffee shop to sit in while I plot my next steps. It’s way better than holing up in my hotel room with notes and maps, and I’m likely to strike up conversations and get more inspiration (while squeezing in some critical people-watching).
E: What are two essential items you carry with you on all trips? (besides your passport and wallet!)
SK: I feel like a phone is also as indispensable as a passport and wallet these days, so it would probably be cheating to include that—so I’ll go with my portable phone chargers (I usually keep two on hand, in case a day gets extra-crazy) and a set of resistance bands that I can use in the hotel room for exercise when I don’t get to work out for extended periods.
E: Any secrets for battling jetlag?
SK: None. I am the worst at jet lag, it lasts for days and I have yet to figure out a viable solution. Somehow it doesn’t exist when I arrive somewhere on assignment—I think the adrenaline and realizing I have a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time overrides sleep deprivation—but when I’m returning home or am going somewhere for vacation, I’m usually out of commission for at least a week.
E: When not traveling, what do you like to do for fun?
SK: Same thing I try to do in any new city if I have the time: Head out to wander aimlessly around the streets of New York without a clear plan, stopping in at any shops or cafés that catch my eye, trying a new museum, and strolling through Central Park and finding a place to settle in with a book.
E: Backpack or roller suitcase?
SK: Both? My checked-in bag and main carry-on both have wheels, but depending on where I’m going and for how long, sometimes I take a backpack with me—my Dagne Dover Dakota is super comfortable and has lots of little compartments that always come in handy.
E: In your bag: Books or kindle?
SK: So I’d converted to kindle for a few years, but I’ve recently returned to physical books for some reason, and always have one physical book and a fully loaded kindle in my bag, to give me lots of options
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