You don't have to be rich to live the jet-set life. Seriously. Just ask Helena Andrews' good friend Johnica Reed, the consummate "travel tastemaker."
"How do you live?" asked the man with the official-looking neon vest. We were standing in the ticketing area of Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport, my friend Johnica and I. Our French is limited to Parlez-vous anglais? and Oui, oui!
Obviously, we'd heard the man wrong. The question of how one lives is a bit invasive, when you think about it. It's akin to asking a liberal arts major, "What is your purpose in life?" -- a question some contemplate in the comfort of their own bathtubs, but never at baggage claim. "You mean where do I live, right?" I asked, with my mouth already fixed to answer, "Washington. You know, near Obama!"
"No, no, no. How do you live?" he repeated, insistent on his word choice, despite my corrections to the contrary. With a weathered DVF carry-on purchased from Filene's slung over my shoulder, I wanted to say, "On a budget." But we were in Paris, after all. Because we wanted to see the Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective at the Musée d'Art Moderne.
This was all Johnica's idea. My good friend Ms. Johnica Reed from Fort Worth, Texas, is a self-described "travel tastemaker." She'd suggested that we spend a long weekend traveling slow in the City of Light. Johnica's career orbits around one seemingly simple concept: living well. So when the first Parisian we met asked, "How do you live?" she just smiled and asked where the taxis were.
Some people are genuinely confused by the concept of Johnica's living. Her Twitter location? "On a plane." Her G-chat status? "I can change your life in one flight." She "curates experiences" for Jetsetter.com (the luxury-travel arm of the designer-sample-sale site GiltGroupe.com) as well as American Airline's Black Atlas and Wyndham Hotels' Women on Their Way websites.
In an age during which most people measure their success by how much plastic crap they have stuffed in a closet, Johnica, who just launched her own digital-consultancy firm that focuses on high-end travel clients, can fit two weeks' worth of living in a Tumi carry-on. The following is a snippet of Johnica's swanky outlook on growing up by getting out.
So, seriously, how do you live?
I live on a plane. I live in the world. I don't identify with a home, per se. I'm most comfortable when I'm in a foreign land. And I live well with the best of everything. The best of food, the best hotels, the best people and the best experiences.
But how does that translate into what you actually do do? Like, what's on your business card?
I don't even have cards. Not having cards is quite freeing. What I do is show people how to live well. That means I connect people with the brands that will help them live well. Like with Jetsetter.com. People on Jetsetter want luxury-curated experiences, and I'm one of the people who curate those experiences. It's like 10 steps up from what people go to a travel agent for.
I promote a lifestyle. I promote a 360[-degree] approach to it all. Where are you staying? What are you doing? What are you wearing? What are you talking about? Those are just a few of the questions I'll help you answer.
This is a question I know you get a lot: How'd you get started?
I was always a jet-setter. But my background is in business and public policy. In 2009 I was working in development at a large nonprofit in Washington when an opportunity to cover the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival presented itself. A friend of mine is an editor at a national women's magazine, and she couldn't make it to this fabulous trip to South Africa, and suggested I go in her place. So like any true jet-setter, I quit my job and went.
All right, that term gets thrown around a lot. Give me the insider's definition of a jet-setter.
A jet-setter is a person who's a citizen of the world and who isn't a tourist. When they land somewhere, they're immediately on the scene. They're not standing in line asking, "Hey, let me in." They are like luxury gypsies, in a sense.
Um, OK, that sounds expensive.
Depending on who you are, yes. There are jet-setters whose travel is ingrained in their business life. There could also be the socialite people pay to fly somewhere and hang out. Or there could be someone like me who made jet-setting my career. Sometimes I pay for stuff, and sometimes I don't. For me, it's a mix of business and pleasure. Some people spend time looking for coupons for the grocery store. I'm scouring the Web for discounts on plane tickets. It's a lifestyle choice.
Give me one piece of advice for someone who wants a tiny piece of the jet-setter life.
Travel! Whether you start becoming a frequent weekender in the areas around your city or you just travel within your city's limits -- going to new restaurants, art exhibits and shows. Being a jet-setter is a state of mind. It has a lot to do with curiosity about new places, people and experiences. You're not going to develop that curiosity just because you hop on a plane.