Meet the Curator

Brian McMahon

"Striving for low- or zero-impact travel isn't enough anymore; if you're going to be a guest in a place, you should be creating a positive impact."

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Brian moved to Spain in 2015 to take a "gap year" that never ended. Having always lived in major metropolises like San Francisco, NYC, Mexico City, and Madrid, he's currently trying out a slower pace of life on the Spanish island of Menorca.

A day in the life on Menorca

What sparked your passion for travel and how did it become your career?

I distinctly remember being a pre-teen and hearing my older cousins talk about their experiences studying abroad. I thought, "Wow, people can just do that?" and the moment planted the seed of wanting to experience as many different places as possible.

Working in travel always felt like a too-good-to-be-true fantasy, but while living in Spain I started working as an editor for a travel publication. That eventually turned into working as a travel writer, where it was easy to get lost for hours researching destinations that I'd yet to visit. Fast forward a few years and I'm now using all of that knowledge to curate personalized trips.

How many countries have you visited? What were your top 3 and why?

I've traveled to 31 countries so far and even though trying to pick favorites is virtually impossible, I can say the first three that come to mind when I think of my most memorable trips.

Mexico has been and always will be one of my favorite places. I spent a few months living in Mexico City and traveling through the south, and there's an energy there that's so bewitching I want to go back again and again.

I think I partly fell in love with Chile because it reminds me a lot of my home state California. There are unbelievable landscapes, wild Pacific beaches, and * chef's kiss * wine, with the welcome addition of pisco sours and empanadas. What's not to love?

There were a lot of great parts about visiting Vietnam, but what I most remember was the food. I often plan travels around what I want to eat, and the cuisine in Vietnam was was one of the most stimulating experiences in my life.

Street tacos in Mexico

Torres de Paine in Chile

A taste of Vietnam

What’s the place you most want to visit that you haven’t been to yet?

Without hesitation I can say India!

Why is it important for travel to make a positive impact?

I firmly believe that travel helps people to be more empathetic and open their minds, but it also comes with huge costs for the environment and local communities when not done responsibly. Striving for low- or zero-impact travel isn't enough anymore; if you're going to be a guest in a place, you should be creating a positive impact. Thankfully, there's a growing movement for sustainable and responsible tourism to help travelers make choices that do just that.

How can you promote positive change when traveling?

Making a positive impact on your trip isn't just better for the environment and local communities, but it also makes your own travels richer. Some easy steps include:

• Visiting fewer destinations - Its tempting to jet around to as many places as possible, but spending more time in fewer places reduces your carbon footprint and also lets you get a more intimate look into the place you are.

• Buying from local merchants - Leaving money in the pockets of local businesses is crucial for tourism to benefit the community. It takes an extra step of research to know where to shop and eat, but you're rewarded with a more authentic experience.

• Reduce waste - The cardinal rule and a good philosophy to live by wherever you are! Find travel products that you can re-use for trip after trip.

What’s the most surreal travel experience you’ve had?

It's not a specific experience but my entire trip through Myanmar felt very surreal the entire time I was there. The country had recently re-opened to tourism after decades of a military dictatorship and people were so interested about what I was doing there, even coming up and taking pictures with me as if I were a celebrity (or perhaps an oddity). I'd never in my life felt so self-aware, but apart from being curious, everyone I interacted with was overwhelmingly friendly.

Temples of Bagan

Which was the most memorable property you've ever stayed at? Why?

It's definitely EcoCamp in Chilean Patagonia. The tents were super cozy with views of the Torres del Paine and every single meal was somehow more impressive than the previous one. There are lots of "glamping" properties you can choose from with similar amenities, but what made EcoCamp truly stand out was the focus on community. Not just among the guests—dinners and excursions are designed to foster new friendships—but also for the local community. The camp's commitment to being a positive force in the national park was outstanding.

Dreamy tents at EcoCamp in Patagonia

What item can you not travel without?

My journal. As a travel writer, it's the only way I can organize my thoughts and when I go back to read it even years later, it's my mental scrapbook for reminiscing on everything I lived.

Pick one of your favorite photos from your travels and explain why.

This is "the" photo to take of Machu Picchu, and I loved that these llamas turned up to pose so perfectly for the picture.

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