I’ve never been one to take birthdays or anniversaries all that seriously, but, well, this time around I couldn’t resist. Despite the fact that there’s no fuchsia-colored bow or special banner packaging (well, there is a touch of something—see the doodad above!) or a 20-page portfolio of biggest hits, the September 2009 issue marks the 20th anniversary of Departures. Do we call it “anniversary,” or is it just a birthday? Who cares…you get the point.
I’ve now been here for the last nine of those years and have watched Departures evolve through good times, tough times, challenging times. It’s all part of growing up, which you have, too. Some of you have even been here from the beginning, when American Express Publishing brought Departures to America. Way back then, it was a rather eccentric British publication filled with the rare, the unusual, the downright odd, and the, quite frankly…so what? Over the years the magazine’s changed as dramatically as travel itself.
Looking back on the very first cover I oversaw—a geeky-looking model with really bad hair and an even badder sweater!—I shudder. And what about that “cruise” cover—a woman in sunglasses and a straw hat that I thought at the time was the epitome of high chic? Gradually we made up for all that with covers like “The Woman in White” with ruby-red lips from September 2005, which won Departures the best fashion cover of the year from the American Society of Magazine Editors. I’m very proud of this publication: of how far we’ve come, of the awards we’ve won—two years ago The Latin Issue won Departures its first National Magazine Award, and just this spring India Now 2008 won the Henry R. Luce Award at Time Inc. for best magazine cover of the year—and of how much first-rate journalism, photography, and…service we’ve delivered. I feel that we’ve traveled at your side, having been responsible for and inspired by where you’ve gone.
At my own side has been a great team, including my creative director, Bernard Scharf, who has been here even longer than I have. He understands this magazine and me as well as anyone. Sometimes too well. I consider Bernard not only a colleague but also muse and friend. There’s nobody who can be funnier or wittier, better at solving a problem, or, thankfully, accommodating a “last-minute burst of creativity” accompanied no doubt by a pat on the shoulder and the line, “But you’re soooo good at that…you know what I want—right, Bernard?”
And a few special words of thanks to three people without whom Departures wouldn’t be.…Departures: to Edward J. Ventimiglia, our publisher, who is more protective and sensitive to our editorial than many of the editors I’ve worked with during my 25-plus years in this business; to Nancy Novogrod, American Express Publishing editorial director and editor in chief of Travel + Leisure, for her support and genius; and to Ed Kelly, American Express Publishing CEO, a tip of the old Stetson, fedora, or in this case, chapeau (in October we celebrate France with a special issue). Ed was one of the first publishers of Departures. He still understands its DNA better than just about anyone. Happy 20th!
Departures & Arrivals
Over the past nine years I’ve encountered some terrific people and places. Among my recent favorites: In Istanbul, Sorbonne-educated Figen Ayan Semerciyan (90-21/2643-4734; firstname.lastname@example.org), one of the best city guides I’ve ever had…At the Sunset Tower Hotel in Los Angeles, Suite 1207, with its semicircular floor-to-ceiling Art Deco windows and terrace overlooking all of Beverly Hills and downtown…The Marine Wrap and Thalasso Bath at Montage Laguna Beach…Rafting the lower gorges of the Salmon River in late August, privately and en famille, with Abercrombie & Kent…A dive into the Mediterranean at the Hotel Caruso on the Amalfi Coast…The buffalo mozzarella or ricotta in the perfect teeny-tiny café–salumeria–mozzarella store Chiù (it means “more” in Napoletano) at 5 Via Pontaccio, Milan…The rooftop bar at the Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow…Rafting the Li River near Guilin, China, on a trip customized by Imperial Tours…Mehera Dalton at Greaves Travel for all things Indian…Drinks with newish GM Luca Finardi, formerly of the Savoy, now at the Villa San Michele overlooking Florence…A beachfront villa at Amanyara in the Turks and Caicos.