No sooner had I touched down from New York, another adventure beckoned. After a 12-hour pitstop home to wash clothes, repack and eat some avocado, it was back to the airport I wandered. I had been invited to experience 48 hours in Manila, with my favourite hotel brand Shangri-La.

I have previously had the great pleasure of staying in a number of Shangri-La properties across the world (see London, Hong Kong) – and this time around I was very excited to experience a hotel very familiar, within a brand new destination for me – The Philippines. Here’s a wrap up of my 48 hours spent in town.

Photo of me by The Straits Times journalist Jose Hong

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[emma ]

New York City is is a city like no place else. It’s a concrete metropolis full of life and energy – a place of frenetic chaos, and nourishing calm, where possibility always lingers in the air, palpable.

Partnering with NYC Go and Cathay Pacific, my long-time friend Ellen and I were so excited to experience the city this year in the spring. Although we were officially in town for almost two weeks, most of it was spent taking on the National Stationery Show – fulfilling a long-held dream of mine, in life and business (full report on that, soon!)

After the show wrapped, we had 48 hours FREE in New York to eat, drink, sleep and wander. From torrential rain, to blistering sun, we had it all! By day, we checked out the obvious (and necessary) touristy must do’s, and then wandered far beyond the guidebook. By night, we clinked cheers into pink sunsets from soaring rooftop bars, then dined alongside New York locals at chic Italian establishments in the heart of Greenwich Village.

We walked most places, hopped on the subway like we were locals, and hailed yellow cabs everywhere else… west to east, downtown to uptown, we photographed, twirled, and explored the city inside out. Awed and exhausted, challenged and inspired, we squeezed ALL the joy from every single minute. New York, you were magical.

[ellen]

After living in London together and travelling all over this beautiful little globe of ours together (and apart), Em and I have experienced our fair share of travel highs (and lows). We’ve learnt a few little things along the way.

Our top tip? With just 48 hours, the best way to really sink yourself into a city – dive into all the really good bits – is to WALK. Go, get out, walk (hail a yellow cab if you get weary feet), ask a stranger, talk to a shopkeeper, natter with your barista over your morning brew…These people know the city best.

It’s also good to have a little hit-list, to get you started. Write it on a cafe napkin (we did), keep it in your notes, or even keep snapshots in your phone of that dream breakfast spread, that bridge view, those cobbled streets, and tick a few off as you go.

Here’s a few of our favourites to get you started…where we ate, drank, stayed and played – and where you should too, on your next trip to the city that never sleeps.

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Today, I’m thrilled to share the back story on a very special and much-loved piece in our latest collection: Little Dreamer. The words I write and put onto products have always (so far in) come from my own personal journey – travel inspired, love inspired – words I needed to hear, and share. But, the words of Little Dreamer are the result of a beautiful collaboration with one of my dearest friends Jody.

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Well, this is a post I never imagined I would write (ever).

I am completely humbled – and extremely honoured to have an editorial feature in the current issue (25) of Fête/Life Magazine – the cover story, no less.

In late January, just before I hopped on a plane to Hong Kong, I spent a day with the lovely team, as we captured a ‘day in my life’ on camera, for the print feature – and on video, which I am so excited to share today!

There is nothing quite like the Fête aesthetic: timeless, understated, exquisite, inimitable, and I have long been inspired by Jane and Annabelle. I vividly remember the day I came across the very first issue, fresh out of design school, wide-eyed and eager, fervently emailing Jane to asking about any possible internship opportunities. Who knew this was to come! Thank you so much for sharing the behind the scenes of my life, and the inner workings of my mind, dream and brand.

The issue is twelve pages (twelve!) and yet, still my lengthy interview responses flowed far beyond those pages. So below, I have shared the extra content not shared in the magazine.

You can see issue 25 for the full interview.

Video: by the beautiful + talented Madeleine Gill

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Hong Kong is a sensory overload – chaotic and energising, it’s a buzzing metropolis where East meets West. If you’ve been to Hong Kong before, you’ll know the immediate intensity of this city – the sticky summers and foggy, fresh winters; the bright colours, sounds and people colliding from every which-way, in a beautiful kind of symphony.

Although I had been to Hong Kong twice prior, it has always been in transit to – or from – Shenzhen, when meeting with our manufacturing partners. It’s a city I have longed to properly explore, but not yet had the right opportunity to. This year, in late January, the stars aligned. Travelling with my beautiful Mum, we planned for 3 nights in Hong Kong to stay and play.

For a city so fast-paced – where it is often said, “it’s already tomorrow in Hong Kong” – what really surprised me about our time exploring a city is the sense of peace that coexists among the soaring skyscrapers. Resting just beneath the surface level commotion – the clashing colours and unrelenting hubbub – is a gentle foundation of peaceful calm, underpinning it all.

You only need to explore a little deeper to find it.

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When I think of all the places in the world where I feel the happiest, there would be a few. Propped at the windowsill of a light-flooded Melbourne cafe, soy coffee in hand. Happily lost on a backstreet in Europe. Held tightly in my partner’s arms. And, 35000 feet up in the air, barefoot and cross-legged on a plane, bound somewhere (anywhere) for adventure.

And, I don’t just feel happiest on a plane because of where an aircraft is taking me (to a new destination, or returning home) – I actually love the experience of flying itself. The roar of the engine and heart flutters during taking off; the first glimmer of a burnt orange sky from a window seat. The uninterrupted sequence of hours to think and be; the feeling of palpable transition – literally between ‘here’ and ‘there’ – and, the perspective that I gently seem to feel, when I fly above my everyday life.

Cathay Pacific are a travel carrier that fully embrace this idea – believing that travelling well is an important part of living well. As an airline, their work is to enhance the overall travel experience – and let me say, with every detail imaginable, they do this exquisitely. Four weeks into 2018 I found myself Hong Kong bound with my beautiful Mum by my side, and excitingly – a chance to fly up front in the Cathay Pacific Business Cabin.

So, what was it like? Amazing, from end to end. Here’s a rundown of my full experience.

“To most people, the sky is the limit. To those who love flying, the sky is home.”

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For many Australian travellers bound for Europe, London is an obvious spot to fly in to, or out from – with a few days tacked onto the itinerary, for exploring London itself. Hailing from our country that stretches so far it requires a flight (or days in a car) to see the other side of Australia, often we completely overlook beyond London. We forget that in the United Kingdom, a whole new experience can easily be reached by car or train, and just a handful of hours.

The Cornwall Peninsula is home to hundreds of beaches and storybook harbour villages, the kind we read about in classic English novels. The pace moves more slowly than the hustle of London, so feel free to be a little lighter on the accelerator, and slow down a notch, or three. Drive West from London [and a little South], as far as you can, and you’ll soon be encircled by almost 300km of rugged, stunning coastline than tumbles into the Atlantic Ocean. Cornwall also enjoys the mildest and sunniest climate in the United Kingdom, with over 1541 hours of sunshine per year, and winters are amongst the warmest in the country.

For the second part of my trip with VisitBritain, I was so excited to explore the South West for the very first time. After checking out of the beautiful The Great Northern hotel, I hopped across the road to collect my hire car from Hertz St Pancras, loaded my playlist, plugged in my GPS and hit the road for Cornwall.

It’s an easy drive (via freeway the entire way), but a lengthy drive to take solo – so I took my time, and also made a quick diversion to Bristol for lunch and leg stretch. The drive itself takes around 5 hours, depending on traffic – a perfect opportunity to listen to some of my favourite podcasts and just be with my thoughts and the open road.

There’s so many beautiful parts of Cornwall – and much that I still want to see. But here’s how I spent three nights in Cornwall (and you should too).

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Three years ago, with my life at a crossroads, I boarded a one-way flight back to Australia and my two years living in London came to a severed, abrupt end. It’s a city I had fallen hard for, and desperately didn’t want to leave, but the visa laws made it impossible for me to do anything but depart. [Read this post for the back story.]

Three years on, although the now completely healed, far more travelled and (I’d like to think) better version of myself has fully made peace with that chapter, just say the word ‘London’ and my heartbeat will instantaneously quicken. It’s a place that I will always long for, in one way or another.

So, when an email popped up in September from the beautiful team at VisitBritain, expressing interest in working together, it was one of those moments that stopped me completely short – and despite a back-to-back schedule lined up to see out the rest of 2017, of course I immediately wrote back: yes! Although I’d visited London a number of times since returning to Australian life, this trip felt different. It felt a beautiful irony to be invited back, in a different time, and different life circumstance; something the wayward girl of three years ago could never had imagined possible.

So there I was, on 23 October, seated in the emergency exit row with all of the legroom ever, and ‘Fever to the Form’ playing in my ears, bound for a ten-day solo adventure for the soul.

My itinerary for the UK included a wonderful mix of both the intimately familiar London I knew and loved, and the London I had never before known. That’s the best thing about this city – you can choose your own adventure – and no matter the direction you wander, in the obliging, magical way that London always delivers in spades, I was in for the best few days ever, laden with amazing moments at every turn.

Wellness was a real focus for this trip, which was a refreshing way to experience the same city I once spent over two hours of commuting, a full day at work, and freelanced at either side of the day (anything but balanced!). On this trip, balance meant offsetting a bike ride with a hearty slice of Victoria sponge cake, and following up my sunset gin and tonics with a before-sunrise yoga class.

Here’s how I spent four days in London – wandering from West to East, and everywhere in between.

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