Globetrotting With… Hannah Rhee
A new breed of women are changing the travel narrative, badass professionals who globetrot for work and pleasure. No matter what part of the world these women are stepping through, they always remember to set out in style. It’s imperative for us to come together and share our travel stories because when we do, we inspire other women, just like us, to travel too. Globetrotting Stilettos, we are committed to celebrating you!
Director, Michael Kors, Men’s Collection
GTS: Hannah, the best part of globetrotting for you is…
Hannah: Freedom. Not knowing anyone, not feeling like I’m being judged or watched. Also, traveling brings me back to reality. When I go to other countries and see how people are living it really exposes me to a different way of life. We are so spoiled here in America and it’s just amazing to see how little people have in other parts of the world and how happy they are. Being cultured is definitely my favorite part.
GTS: Great answer. You like to spend your vacay time… rather than…
Hannah: Getting lost rather than having everything planned and organized.
GTS: Ha! You did say you love freedom. You work in fashion and you’re a trained designer, how does travel influence your creativity? How important is it for you to go places and see different things.
Hannah: It’s crucial. We are required at Michael Kors to market research, not only domestically but internationally in other large cities—Paris, Milan, London, Tokyo. Buyers everywhere are different, they all have different taste levels depending on the destination’s culture. The Japanese customer loves washed, really dry wools, they prefer everything just easy, not so flat and starched. Whereas in Milan, the men love clean, three-piece suits.
However, it’s not just seeing what people are wearing, it’s not just seeing what’s selling in shops, it’s seeing local art, absorbing native culture, the architecture might even move you to create a new print. You can incorporate different things into your work from every city you travel to. Globetrotting is essential. If you don’t expose yourself you risk being stuck in a box and having tunnel vision.
GTS: Spoken like a true Globetrotting Stiletto! Your go-to safe food in any and every destination…
Hannah: Safe food? I try to find the natives and see where they are eating. Local spots tend to be safe, plus, the hole in the wall places are usually the most tasty and definitely more authentic. Also, they aren’t as culturally influenced by Westerners.
GTS: So when you travel you’re not afraid to try different things?
Hannah: I’m not going to say that I’m not hesitant to try different things, but as long as I know what I’m eating, presentation is everything, if it looks good I’m willing to try it!
GTS: Favorite airline to fly on?
Hannah: I really like Virgin, their customer service is impeccable. Asiana and Korean Air, their food is always so good, that wins me over. But I’ve flown the most with American and their sister companies—they’re good to me and meet my travel needs.
GTS: You get around. The most underrated destination you’ve visited…
Hannah: One place that I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did is Charleston, South Carolina. Many months after I visited, I read in a travel magazine that Charleston is one of the top destinations in the U.S. I honestly just happened to travel there once and fell in love with the city. It’s so quaint, love the southern hospitality, the food of course, the distinctive characteristics it had to offer overall was a pleasant surprise. So, domestically, Charleston, internationally, Bangkok, Thailand. I fell in love with that place. The people there and their generosity—it’s just a warm and very hospitable city. I felt so welcomed when I visited.
GTS: If you were the last person on earth, you’d wish to be chilling in…
Hannah: The Maldives.
GTS: Nice. We need to get there before they disappear! The one thing you need on your travels is…
Hannah: Aside from my camera, I don’t know, taking pictures is a big part of capturing memories because there’s nothing like looking back at those moments. I’d say my camera.
GTS: First class flights are cool but…
Hannah: Sometimes the beds aren’t the most comfortable. That may sound strange coming from someone who’s 5’2″ but still! I love first class flights (laughs).
GTS: The wildest thing you’ve ever done on a getaway…
Hannah: Maybe when we crashed on our jet skis in the Dominican Republic. That’s definitely at the top of the list. Or when we went cliff jumping at Rick’s Cafe in Jamaica. Hopping on a scooter taxi in Bangkok. Also, wandering through the cobblestone alleyways of Venice without a map. I wasn’t afraid to get lost. I threw out the map and just followed the what seemed like the okay way to go.
GTS: Isn’t it so liberating to just wander, aimlessly? Ahh. If you had to choose between the tropics or cabin in the woods you’d have to go with…
Hannah: Tropics. I do love camping so maybe I would like a tiki in the tropics—the best of both worlds. Haha. I am a tropical lover at heart, even though I was born in a cold city. There’s nothing like the scent of the ocean, the splash of the salt water, and just the sound of crashing waves.
GTS: When you were younger you always wanted to visit…
Hannah: New York City. And here I am!
GTS: Yes, here you are! The style in… is like no other?
Hannah: Morocco. The Muslim culture and the textiles, I was just there in October, their style is definitely distinctive.
I also respect how the Italians do fashion. It’s so effortless, clean and refined. The men are always polished from head to toe. You can really appreciate them on their Vespas in suits. The women are just beautiful, I mean, they can throw on anything but there’s always some effort put into these effortless looks. Sometimes Americans don’t try as hard, not that we need to try, but you look at the 20’s and 30’s and how they used to dress up just because and now it’s just like a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops is the way to go.
GTS: Nice observation. So, the food in… is definitely an acquired taste.
Hannah: The food in China is definitely an acquired taste. That’s one place where I was very inquisitive about what was in the food and would even question how it was prepared. Now, India has a very unique taste because of their spices. Also, before traveling to the country, people told me to beware of Delhi Belly, but I have a strong stomach and I love spicy food, so I actually really loved Indian cuisine. There were a ton of different flavors that I’ve never tried before.
GTS: You’re best international hotel experience was…
Hannah: My first solo trip to Negril, Jamaica. I stayed at The Rock House, I love it there! I got lucky, they upgraded me to my own villa. I was supposed to go with my then boyfriend but we broke up and the trip was already booked so I ended up going alone, which was really scary because it was my first time traveling solo. I had never been to Jamaica but it ended up being one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. I think it was more of self-realization that made it special. It was a really Zen experience. Plus, at the back of each villa at The Rock House are cliffs that lead directly into the ocean. It was so peaceful, I saw dolphins. It was really a trip that was so memorable because of where I was personally, and where it brought me. It made me more tenacious. I appreciated myself and my alone time because up until then, I didn’t really get much time to myself. I made new friends. Everyone at the Rock House was so friendly and the food was amazing, it was clean, it was just a beautiful experience, those boutique hotel rooms—I just love them.
I really like the style of their villas, it was almost like I was in a cabin. It was such a big place, I felt bad that I was there by myself. Haha. It really could have fit like five people. I felt like I was in the tropics/ jungle. And just having the doors open out to the ocean was breathtaking.
GTS: We’re kindred spirits, the Rock House is one of my faves as well. …makes the whole traveling experience just a bit frustrating for you?
Hannah: There’s a lot. I hate packing. I hate unpacking. I hate dealing with airlines. And I hate connections. My sole piece of advice would be to plan things out thoroughly and in a smart way. Even if you don’t follow the plan at least one is in place.
GTS: Every time you travel you always forget…
Hannah: An article of clothing that I wish I had. I usually don’t forget too much because I feel like I can adjust and make what I do have work. Also, I try not to bring too much because then I lose something. I always lose something, It’s the worst. I’ve lost so many articles of clothing traveling. My advice is to travel light! Take only what you need.
GTS: That’s a great tip!
Hannah: Plus, nobody’s really tracking what you’re wearing every day. It’s only you that knows you’ve worn that denim shirt three times in a row. Shh…
GTS: The first thing you do when you arrive to your destination, is…
Hannah: Unpack, everything!
GTS: Me and Lyani do too!
Hannah: Really? I thought I was the only one. I’m like is this is a sickness? I like to take my time and get organized. It’s weird because I do that when I arrive but when I get home I drop my suitcase and live out of it for weeks.
GTS: OMG! Me too. It sits in my living room for at least a week.
Hannah: Mine sits there until I have to unpack and pack for my next trip. So yeh, I like to unpack, get everything settled, and I actually like to take pictures of the room.
GTS: When on vacay you spend most money on…
Hannah: Food and experiences.
GTS: So you don’t mind splurging on an experience?
Hannah: Absolutely not. I would rather do that because memories are permanent, you’ll have them forever, material possessions don’t hold the same value.
GTS: When you travel to a country and you don’t know the language, you…
Hannah: Use my trusty translator app.
GTS: Does it work?
Hannah: Yeah! Fortunately, for the countries that I’ve traveled to and English is not the first language, I’ve had the luxury to have a tour guide or someone who I know who can help me. Worst case, I get by saying I need to get here…
GTS: So, wait, you use your hands?
GTS: Got it. Sign language is universal. The most number of shoes you’ve brought on a weekend trip…
Hannah: I went crazy last year in Paris, only because I felt like I had so many places to be. I think I brought 10 pairs and wore 3.
GTS: Wow. How long were you there?
Hannah: 5 days.
GTS: Love that. 2 pairs a day.
Hannah: Well, my logic was, I work during the day, then I’ll go out at night, so I would need to switch from work heels to after-hours heels. Then leisure activities and if I decided to work out I need my gym shoes. Then I need my wedges for this outfit and my stilettos for that… It’s just bad, it was all bad.
GTS: Haha! Your friends and family get embarrassed when you…while globetrotting…
Hannah: I guess my personality. They know I’m a very outspoken, friendly person. So, sometimes when I travel people aren’t as friendly as I am. They’re more reserved. But, that hasn’t happened too often. Because, we know, when I travel with you we have the same personalities, we’re not afraid to meet new people, you know, meet an old man, call him our grandfather and take him around and go grocery shopping (laughs). Granfadda was the best.
GTS: I miss him!
Hannah: So, I would say, maybe that. But I don’t think it’s something to be embarrassed of. More or less, I think they appreciate it. It gets us to where we need to go. I think it’s more them, they are shy and may not be open as I am.
GTS: Good point. So, where to next, Ms. Rhee?
Hannah: Well, I just hit 3 different cities in Morocco in 5 days, Amsterdam, at the end of October I went to Peru. Trinidad and Cuba must happen in the New Year. I don’t know, travel to Cuba is still a bit risky but we’re risk takers so I want to go!
GTS: Calculated risk takers at that. You were awesome. Thank you!
WAIT, there’s more! Check out designer, photographer and all around girl boss, Lyani Powers’, Globetrotting With… feature here. It’s a real good read.