At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we’re doing it right. So we’re talking to globetrotters in all our fields of luxury—food, wine, sports, auto, real estate—for their high-end tips, tricks, and wacky experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.
Former Microsoft Corp. executive Mickey Ashmore owns the shoe brand Sabah, which he created in 2013. It produces leather shoes inspired by the traditional Turkish slipper and has five outlets around the world. A new flagship store in New York City’s Noho, Sabah House, opened this year. In that spot, you can showcase the lines the company now produces beyond its core collection, mostly small leather goods and accessories. Sabah’s latest brand extension: a fragrance inspired by two of Mickey’s favorite places, Turkey and the American Southwest.
Ashmore’s annual mileage count is nearly 120,000, and anytime she can, she’ll default to Turkish Airlines. “It has the best food and overall hospitality of any airline I’ve ever flown on,” he says, “There’s a dish called kofte in Turkey, it’s meatballs, and one of the best versions you can find is on Turkish Airlines. . It is the only airline where I wait to eat, because I want to eat in the flat.” Ashmore also touts its layover program, which allows anyone connecting via Istanbul to split their trip free of charge. “What’s cooler than flying around the world and then spending two days in Istanbul before hitting your next leg?”
The 35-year-old lives in Nolita in New York. These are his travel tips.
This little item is the ultimate in making friends and passing time on the go.
I always carry a leather roll-up backgammon board: it’s an antique corduroy one from a friend in Dallas, about 12 by 18 inches, made by Skor-Mor. One of the most fun ways to break the ice and invite a stranger or new acquaintance into a chat is to offer an impromptu game of backgammon on the go. I started doing it when I was dating someone; when we traveled, we took a board with us. We went to Brazil once for three weeks, and after a week together, sometimes you want to go out together but you can’t chat anymore. The backgammon board is something to do.
We found people asking to play, and then it became something I did. I just traveled to Patmos in Greece by myself, maybe two weeks ago, and I would take my backgammon board to the beach, and I probably met 12 people who would just look at the board and say, “Can I play a game?” Chess requires a lot of concentration – you can’t really drink a beer or two and play chess well, but you can have as many as you want and your backgammon game won’t necessarily get any worse. It’s more social and you can teach someone to play in about 20 minutes.
There are a magical number of trips it takes to really relax in a destination.
I call myself a repeat traveler: I like to travel to the same place over and over again. That’s why I’ve been to Mexico City 10 times, or I return to Oaxaca every winter. There’s something really nice about traveling back to a place, seeing the same faces again, and getting to sink into it a little bit more. I stay at the same hotel and even try to request the same room. The journey becomes less about seeing it all and more about being there. By the third trip, you know what to do, and naturally you find more stuff: that’s the magic number of visits, three, when you start to relax in one place.
The Middle East is famous for cutting-edge luxury, but Ashmore recommends an alternative.
I went to Oman with a friend from Dubai for three days and we spent it hiking and camping; it was the opposite of luxurious in the classical sense, but it was luxurious in the sense that we were totally alone. We camped on Fin beach, right at the end of a wadi, one of those watercourses that juts out into the desert. I remember waking up on that beach, we had arrived very late at night so we didn’t know exactly where we were. And suddenly that view! The emptiness of everything was incredible, the huge beach, the desert behind us and the sea in front of us. I remember feeling very small and very happy to be there. There is a place called Musandam, right at the tip of the Arabian peninsula and isolated from the rest of Oman, where we took a boat tour of all these fjords. You will see Telegraph Hill which is where the British ran the telegraph from India and connected all the way back. Europe.
Ashmore spends time in Turkey at his factory there and gets an in-depth perspective on Istanbul. This is how to move…
People don’t think about using the Bosphorus as a means of transportation: there are public ferries, which are great fun, but there is always a very well-developed network of private boats and taxis, which are not very expensive and you can move yourself up and down the city. shore quickly. If you are staying at a hotel, ask and they will give you the number of someone to call and be picked up or transported to and from you. It is the most magical way to see that city, especially at sunset.
…and where to go, to elude your fellow tourists.
People always spend too much time in the old city of Istanbul, around the tourist sites. That’s a great place to spend an afternoon, perhaps, unless you’re a super history buff. I spend a lot of time in the water: a neighborhood called Kuzguncuk, and it’s on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and it’s quite an artistic part of the city, and not very well known. You’d think you’re in a small town, having no idea you’re in a city of 18 million people.
Another charming neighborhood is Kandilli, and at the ferry dock there is a restaurant called Suna’nin Yeri, or Suna’s Place. It’s a fish restaurant right next to the mosque, so they don’t serve alcohol, wink wink, because they do, just in a red cup. The trick is to go around 5 or 6 pm when the sun starts to set because you are looking towards the European side. It’s like you are on vacation in the middle of Istanbul. It’s not expensive, and it’s no frills, but it’s the coolest crowd.
In Kanlica, another neighborhood, when the ferry arrives, people go up there and sell yogurt because it is very famous there, and in Çengelköy they have a place called Çengelköy Borekcisi. Borek is a phyllo pastry that is famous throughout Turkey, and you can sit on the Bosphorus for breakfast, have this puff pastry with coffee or tea, and watch the city wake up. There is a hotel there in Çengelköy called Sumahan that a family bought and turned into a very charming hotel where the rooms directly face the Bosphorus, so you can take a boat to get there.
Yes, you can turn off your phone on vacation. That is how.
I was in Paris for eight days and turned off my phone and laptop the whole time. For photos, I have a Fujifilm digital camera that I travel with, but honestly, I don’t use it much. For me, the greatest luxury these days is disconnection, not distance. In my opinion, the phone is the biggest threat to really being where you want to be. I sent a message to my company saying “Hi guys, I’m leaving” and I gave them the number of my friend I was traveling with, François, and I told my parents and my closest friends. I’ll tell you: no one called him. So many messages and calls are sent and made that they are simply unnecessary. By the end of that week, I was so reluctant to turn my phone back on that I almost got annoyed after that for a few days.
For design and art, Ashmore recommends this Middle East city.
There is a lot of interesting fashion in Beirut. Walking around Achrafieh, I came across very interesting designers. There’s a business there called Creative Space Beirut, run by a woman who works with very young designers to give them a platform and a voice. And there’s a man named Kamal Mouzawak – he’s more in the hospitality space, but he’s very inspiring from a design perspective. He has a series of spaces called Beit. The hotel to stay at is Albergo, which must be one of the oldest in Beirut and has been owned by the same family for a long time. I think people are concerned that Beirut is not safe. In every part of the world, there is danger: in New York City. But I’ve been there 10 or 12 times in the last 15 years, and I’ve always felt welcome and safe there.