She pretty much has a dream job. (Well, maybe two)
Katie (Goldstein) Lara is a luxury travel writer for top news sites. But what’s even more impressive how this adventurer managed to balance her passion for storytelling while working full time job as a practicing attorney. In our interview, Katie reveals her favorite places on earth (a winery in Uruguay) and the secret to unleashing our inner travelista.
1. How did you get started as a luxury travel writer?
Well it wasn’t your traditional route. I’m actually a practicing attorney by day and alter-ego extraordinaire, Travelingpanties by night.
Blogging and travel writing started off as a hobby and has become a second after-hours career. After taking the all-consuming Bar Exam and getting used to working 18-hour days, I didn’t know what to do with all the free time I had when I finished at my day job. So I started a blog, Smartypanties.com. I started writing about fashion and beauty but tired rather quickly of reviewing creams, serums hem lines. But once you have a blog, you just can’t stop the opinions from coming.
So when I traveled I began chronicling my experiences—the good, bad and the ugly for my readers. And what started as a hobby turned into a blog that was receiving thousands of followers a day. And then I transitioned into my alter-ego, Travelingpanties exclusively covering travel, lifestyle and all things luxury—because those are my true passions.
After that it wasn’t long before I started freelancing for outlets like Fodor’s, Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and others. And I actually am a photographer as well for many of my articles.
2. Why did you pick luxury as a focus?
My whole life I have always tried to live it to the fullest—try the best restaurants, stay at the best hotels—enjoying the finer things in life is a passion of mine. Why not enjoy every minute? But I come from humble travel beginnings. I blame it on the 90’s when mini-van road trips were the height of family travel. I grew up with two sisters and when we traveled it usually involved all five of us piling into our mini-van—I’m talking 24 hours on the road all the way to Disney World, people.
The conditions on the road were let’s just say, less than first class and with three kids one of us always ended up in the “fun bed,” which was my dad’s brilliant idea—essentially it consisted of extra pillows, towels and blankets but we fought to the death to sleep here (on the floor). But even so, those are some of the happiest trips of my life. That said, you won’t catch me in a mini-van or on the floor ever again!
Traveling like this made me appreciate every amenity a hotel, airline or restaurant can offer me—and I’ve been seeking them out ever since I can remember. I have always loved seeing the world but I would rather not go if it’s not going to be in style. Beautiful (and clean) hotels with attentive service make or break a trip in my opinion.
3. What are some of your favorite destinations?
South Africa is probably my favorite place that I’ve been to in the world. Picking where exactly is tough because I loved every minute of it. The entire country is so magical but if I had to choose I would say Kruger National Park. While the accommodations and activities are important on a trip, it’s more about the memories—and choosing the right place to stay and companies to work with make all the difference.
Royal Malewane and Singita Lebombo, despite the fact that they’re in the middle of nowhere are two of the most luxurious properties I’ve ever stayed in. Everything from the food, the rooms, the drawn bubble baths with champagne, and I can’t even say enough about the safaris. The staff at these hideaways made our trips magical and I will never forget them. I also loved our experience in South Africa’s wine region. I adored La Residence and Delair Graff both which were over-the-top and spoiled us.
Some of my other favorite destinations are Chiang Mai, Thailand, Antigua, Hanoi, Vietnam, Bruges, Belgium and Carmelo, Uruguay (my favorite place on earth just might be Finca Narbona winery).
4. What advice would you have for travel writers just starting out?
People don’t realize how many years of writing and hard work go on behind the scenes before you get any of your opinions published. You have to start small, try and write for other blogs and get your name out there. Then try to write for small travel websites and work your way up the food chain. It’s not going to happen overnight!
5. Open question! Tell us anything more…
I’m totally obsessed with food. I actually usually consider cuisine when picking my travel destinations—there’s a reason I spent 3 weeks in Southeast Asia. My friends call me anything from Miss Piggy to man-metabolism to fat-skinny-girl. I love to eat! I have since the day I was born. I am told that I used to grab fist-fulls of Chinese as a baby and pretty much have been going strong ever since. But even though I am obsessed with luxury accommodations and tours I take, I always encourage travelers to make an exception for cuisine and venture outside of your luxe comfort zone. Some of the best food I’ve discovered in the world is in unassuming (read hole-in-the-walls), local favorites and often inexpensive spots.
When it comes to restaurants, I never judge a book by its cover (as long as it’s been recommended to me—I don’t just troll the streets for places to try.) My favorite dessert in the world for example is at a food stand at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia— Bieler’s Donuts. You have to wait in line for 20 minutes but it’s worth it. While I can’t give you all my cheap-eat recs I can for New York City, where I am based. You have to try Pio Pio (Peruvian), Rubirosa (Pizza), The Spotted Pig (Burger), Katz’s deli (Pastrami sandwich), Levain (Cookies). These places aren’t anything fancy but trust me, you’ll enjoy!
For truly luxurious restaurants you can’t miss around the world Le Cinq at the Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris was probably the most luxurious dinner I’ve ever had. Test Kitchen in South Africa and Pot Luck Club are also favorites. And of course I can’t forget to mention Sparks, one of my favorite and most iconic steak places in the world. And the Ohio girl in me would be remiss if I didn’t mention Skyline Chili—nothing like it and worth every calorie.
Check out Katie’s blog and read about her latest travel adventure to the luxurious Acqualina Resort & Spa in sunny Florida.