Today we’re introducing a new series on Quiet Traveler: interview features of fellow travelers who live mindfully at home and abroad. We begin the series by introducing you to Flynn Coleman: human rights attorney, social entrepreneur, and quiet traveler.
Tell us a bit about yourself and why you love to travel
I’m an international human rights attorney, an educator, a writer, a teacher of mindfulness, storytelling, and creativity, a former competitive athlete, a lifelong adventurer, global citizen, wanderer, and founder and CEO of Malena (@malena). One of my great passions is to have conversations with people around the world. I love to learn from them, laugh with them, share a meal around a campfire with them — I believe we all have a voice that matters and we all have a story to tell.
What are your top travel essentials? Anything you can’t leave home without?
Malena weekender bag*
Malena luggage tag*
First aid kit
Music on my iPhone
What’s in your carry on?
All the essentials! A journal and pen, a few essential oil blends that I mixed, a necklace my mom made for me, a book or two (or three, or four!), music (nature sounds and audio books are also good for falling asleep to), my trusty Shure or Bose noise cancelling headphones, a stash of snacks, and an extra pair of socks and undies just in case my luggage gets lost (or, like the time I landed and as I walked to baggage claim could see people rummaging through my bags through the flaps of the baggage carousel).
Do you have a go to outfit for airports?
Yes! It varies a bit depending on the weather conditions where I’m going, but it’s all about comfy layers. It’s usually a cozy outfit including a pair of high wasted silk slacks (Elizabeth Suzann is a go-to for beautiful clothes that work whether you are heading to an important meeting right as you land or want stylish clothes that are as cozy as pajamas), a long duster sweater to wrap around me (one that is also thin enough for temp changes), a Malena scarf* to use as a shawl, pillow, headscarf, or a blanket while traveling, and shoes that come easily on or off, so usually a pair of great boots since smaller shoes fit more easily in a carry on.
Learn “thank you” and “hello” in every language you can think of, and hand these phrases out generously everywhere you go. —Flynn Coleman
Describe one of your most beautiful travel memories
There are way too many to count, but one treasured memory is a flight from Ethiopia to Rwanda, where I started chatting with my seat mate, who happened to be a student studying international human rights law. She was headed home to Burundi to see her family, and we talked all things human rights, social justice, and making a better world. Studying the Rwandan genocide was one of the sparks for my international human rights legal career, so our conversation was very close to my heart, and it was also full of laughter and love. When the plane landed, I gave her the bracelet I had been wearing. Her eyes filled with tears and we hugged goodbye. I love to picture her studying human rights and making the world a better place with her wisdom and passion.
Describe one of your most challenging travel memories
Again, way too many to count! But I have had a slew of injuries, crazy happenings, and hospital visits while traveling. One time I was injured while riding a motorbike when I was living in Cambodia (where everyone gets around by motorbike), and my leg was burned on a tailpipe. A couple of women in a nearby shop saw me and carried me into their electronics store, applied salve to my wound, and bandaged me up. I will never forget the kindness (and serious roadside knowledge of people who spend a lot of time on motorbikes) of the women who helped me.
How do you unwind at home after a long trip?
By running a luxurious bath with essential oils and Epsom salts, playing some music, and drinking a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Then I cozy up with a hand-knit blanket, read or watch a movie, and eat a delicious home cooked meal.
Describe your typical self care routines at home, and how they change when you travel
I usually keep a shorter/more portable version of my routines while on the road, while staying open to adapt, skip any routine altogether, and have a new adventure. So, walks through my home city New York become wandering through the foreign city where I’m staying (one of my favorite all time things to do). Yoga classes become a quick yoga practice in my hotel room or Airbnb. Dance class becomes dancing out on the town, and home cooked meals become explorations to find the best local restaurants in town. I bring small versions of my favorite bath products, and I bring along my favorite teas and my Emergen-C too. But generally I spend as much time exploring, having conversations with friends and strangers, trying local cafes, wandering through libraries, bookstores, and museums, hiking, trekking, and experiencing the culture as much as possible.
You can also create more of a local routine if you are planning to stay awhile. While living in Cambodia, I would jog at a local school track and joined a local soccer team. While living in Senegal, I trained to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. My training routines shifted to early mornings and early evenings when the dust and heat were most tolerable. Generally speaking, I visit libraries, museums, waterfronts, vistas, mountaintops, and magical spots that feed my soul whenever possible, wherever I go.
Describe what you love most about your home, in eleven words or less
Sanctuary of love and laughter amidst the most vibrant global city.
Name five things that make your home feel like home
My beloved books, my map collection, photos of friends and family, a table my mom painted that I’ve had since I was a baby, and a box of keepsakes and treasures from across the globe.
Any travel tips you’d like to share?
Learn “thank you” and “hello” in every language you can think of, and hand these phrases out generously everywhere you go. You will be shocked at how far they get you, how much respect just these two phrases show, and how many smiles they generate. And bring small gifts to share with the people you meet.
Tuck your phone away as much as possible. Look up and all around you. Ask a stranger for directions and make conversation with people that you meet. Try a tiny cafe that a local recommends. Follow your intuition, and let your spirit of adventure guide you as you wander and bask in the majesty that is our world. Support local social impact and human and animal rights organizations: bring them donations, volunteer your time, or visit and spread the word about how they are making the world a better place. Respect the local customs, and always have an open mind and heart wherever you go, near or far.
Flynn is also co-leading Fog + Sage, a personal retreat for professional women held in Tomales Bay, California on March 3-5, 2017. Learn more about Fog + Sage »
*The Malena weekender bag and Malena luggage tag were designed by Flynn in collaboration with a collective of women artisans in Guatemala, in support of opportunity, education, and economic empowerment for their community. The Malena scarf, also designed by Flynn, supports opportunity, human rights, and fair wages in Ethiopia. Use code QUIETRAVELER for 15% off anything at Malena