Pilar Guzman has been editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveler since August 2013, but her most memorable trip was taken when she was 25.
“They had just opened the door to tourism, and I didn’t know where I was going. It was terrifying, exhilarating, and there was this feeling of discovery,” she said. “When you’re terrified, that’s the ultimate travel experience. Fear is underrated in travel.”
The four-month trip to Vietnam was for the country’s travel guide for the Berkeley Guides, a Fodor imprint, which Guzman wrote. Later, she founded a new-age parenting magazine for Condé Nast called Cookie and served as the editor-in-chief of Martha Stewart Living, before ending up at Traveler. She hasn’t been back to Vietnam, and her travel schedule as editor comes in “spurts,” with trips as editorial feature fodder (this year, that included a cross-country road trip taken during her son’s spring break) padded out by trips to establish and maintain relationships with industry leaders in countries like Dubai and Hong Kong.
As someone who travels for a portion of her living, Guzman said the adrenaline rush of exploring new territory never falls away, but work never feels like vacation.
“Nothing is ever as glamorous as it seems,” she said. “Some trips are amazing — you might get a beautiful room on the ocean, but you’re only there for two days. It’s wonderful, it’s privilege, you get exposure — but when you’re on assignment, you’re not there to enjoy it.”
Recently, Guzman headed to Cannes for the International Luxury Travel Market, a travel trade show. While there, she kept a log of her trip for Glossy. Here is her diary, lightly edited.
Sunday, December 5
4:00 p.m. (Eastern Time): Though I try desperately to never leave on a weekend (Sundays are sacred family time), the timing of International Luxury Travel Market, the most important travel trade show, makes a Sunday departure unavoidable. For a short trip, I pack in a color palette so items can be mixed and matched easily. This time, it’s a navy, grey and black color scheme. It all fits easily in my Rimowa rolling piece. I never check luggage so as to never have to wait in line any longer than I have to at any point in my journey. I also have TSA pre-check and global entry status.
Monday, December 6
7:24 a.m. (Central European Time): Though I got a solid four hours of sleep, I wrote for most of my waking hours as I was on deadline for an upcoming issue. I usually spend a lot of time catching up on The New Yorker during long haul flights. After I’ve exhausted new releases, I go back and watch older, schmaltzy or heavy films and weep quietly in my seat. Crying while watching movies on the plane is one of my guiltiest, most therapeutic pleasures. When we land in Paris, my colleague Victor [De Vita] and I have a little time before our flight to Nice. We grab a coffee and share a jambon and fromage sandwich—something that even gas stations in France get right everywhere.
9:35 a.m.: On our short ride to Nice, I start to frantically Google restaurants in Cannes. Cannes is notoriously touristy, and I’m always looking for new places to eat that take advantage of the fresh seafood and that don’t feel overrun with Americans. I crash for about 30 minutes (that’s the max, or else you throw yourself off for the rest of the trip). When I wake up, I answer emails and sift through the scores of interviews for quotes for my story. My favorite place to write is in bed in a hotel room with my notes and notebooks scattered around me.
12:30 p.m.: We are lucky enough to have chartered a yacht for our meetings, which is well-stocked with coffee, wine, cheese and charcuterie platters, as well as sweet treats. It’s a welcome reprieve from the Palais, which may as well be in Vegas for all of its convention center insularity. We meet with business associates who have become friends: Rob Cheng of Peninsula Hotels, Stefan Leser of Jumeirah and Marco Novella, who is the newly appointed Managing Director of Brown’s. Though we certainly talk shop, we also spend a lot of time sharing intel on the changing travel landscape, as well as updating each other on recent travels.
4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.: Knowing that people have lots of cocktail parties to go to, we decide to do wine and oysters in the late afternoon. We watch and Instagram the sunset.
6:20 p.m.: Since it’s noon back at home, it’s the perfect time to check in over email with various members of the editorial team, answering queries on my own story as well as making notes on other manuscripts that have been sent my way.
8:15 p.m.: I live in fear of wasting a meal. In Cannes, while it’s easy to find mediocre, it’s hard to feel like you are having a truly authentic meal. I resume my frantic Googling and cross-referencing from notes from editors for something that feels intimate but can also take our unwieldy party of eight. We end up at Auberge Provençale Da Bouttau, which is lovely and cozy. At some point during the meal, I text my son to remind him that he has an orthodontist appointment. The world’s most charming Uber driver with a serious sound system takes us back to the hotel after dinner. I love those moments when you really feel that you are on foreign soil, no matter how not exotic this particular work trip is.
11:30 p.m.: On our way back to our rooms, we hit the bar at the Majestic, which is filled with hotel industry colleagues. It really is like a reunion. When I get up to my room, I’m still wired and ready to write and edit more.
Tuesday, December 7
3:45 a.m.: Anytime I travel to Europe on business, it’s not until about the third night that I can go to bed at a reasonable hour. I’ll recover with a cat nap before dinner, but I tend to take advantage of the jet lag to keep up with the workload in New York. We are in the process of closing our February issue and I don’t want to hold up the editors with time-difference delays. I make it through a few stories and finally nod off until about 6:30.
6:30 a.m.: I do a 25-minute Kayla Itsines workout from the app. I take a shower and make a Nespresso with the in-room machine. The beauty of being in a hotel room is that you only have to think about getting yourself ready.
7:40 a.m.: I’m walking over to the yacht for an 8:30 breakfast with one of the most elegant and knowledgeable men in the industry: Herve Humler, president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotels. It’s another great day of back-to-back meetings.