Between her frequent far-flung exploits around the globe to some of the most incredible destinations in existence—think Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Namibia—for an exciting career in travel writing and her gorgeous home in Bali, Kathryn Romeyn inspires us to get out there and experience it all. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, educated in Boston, Massachusetts, and based for 15 years in Los Angeles, the jet-setting journalist writes regularly for magazines including Travel + Leisure, Architectural Digest and The Hollywood Reporter. She also co-hosts a travel podcast called Conscious Traveler in which she interviews fascinating personalities across the world and tells tales of culture, sustainability and community. A dedicated yogi, surfer and avid photographer, Kathryn is also a new mama who just moved full-time to Bali with her husband and 1-year-old daughter, Indah, in an attempt to find balance—and even more tropical adventure. Travel has always been super important to us at THE UPSIDE, so we thought it would be fun to quiz Kathryn about what it’s taught her, and also what she recommends in Palm Springs, California, the desert town filled with modernist architecture that influenced our latest collection. Here, a journey of a Q&A with the multitasking yogi.
What an exciting and fulfilling career you have built as a traveler and writer, how did you get into it?
I’ve been fortunate the whole thing has kind of felt fated. I was a ballet dancer growing up, and went to a conservatory to continue that study before transferring to a university where I decided to pursue journalism based on a love of writing and the idea that if I could write well I could write about anything under the sun. I spent about 7 years working as an editor at magazines based in Southern California, then got laid off from the last one when it folded. I decided to do something I hadn’t had much time or money for at that point: travel. Australia was my first solo destination, and I spent five months based in Sydney while also exploring the country on assignments. My travels naturally snowballed from there, and I planned trips to places that fascinated me, pitching as much as possible. It’s a real hustle. But what I learned in one place drove me to add five more to my list. And before I knew it I was a travel writer, spending two-thirds of the year on the road! I came into my own during this time and, as maybe embarrassing as it may sound, really blossomed into who I am as a person.
What has travel taught you about humanity? Any lessons you can share?
As much as I love, honour and celebrate all the differences in humanity, I’ve witnessed while traveling all the amazing ways in which we are the same. I think the biggest epiphany when I first spent time outside the U.S. was that we have the same desires and needs: love, safety and security. And without doubt every single human is equal, none of us is any better than anyone else. People in the West like to fixate on who need to be saved or pitied, but there is so much we’d be fortunate to learn from other cultures and communities. And as current events in Ukraine are reminding us once again, intelligence, success and goodness are not determining factors in who becomes a refuge or a person in need of assistance. Empathy is perhaps the greatest gift of all.
How has yoga changed your life as a mother, traveller and writer? Can you share what your daily practice looks like, and who some of your favourite teachers or methods are?
Yoga grounds me, makes my body feel better (and, most of the time, great), challenges my mind and physical self, and gives me quiet and space to dream up adventures and goals. This is especially true as a traveler and mama, though I have fallen out of my every-day-no-matter-what routine. (I’m hoping to regain it in Bali!) When I’m on the road a lot I crave consistency in some aspect of life, and for years now yoga has been it. I love doing a vinyasa flow practice because it keeps me limber and strong, and helps me feel like my best self. In Bali I love taking Khat Macias’ classes at various outdoor studios because every single session is different and pushes me in new directions. In LA I am all about Rachel Grant Jackson, who’s now fortunately doing regular online classes, each with a very intentional theme and message rooted in yoga philosophy but applied to real life through both dynamic and subtle movement.
You just moved full-time to a house you built in Bali several years ago. Why did you decide to leave LA, and how has travel influenced your perspective on home?
Years ago I realised Bali was my happy place and so I co-designed and built my very own home there—my first home I actually own. It’s always been where I feel the most myself, and the most at peace, not to mention in balance and fulfilled. I adore getting to explore so many disparate places on this planet, and then coming back to my bed, to my friends, to my safe spot to process everything I saw, felt and learned. But the pandemic dramatically changed how I felt being in Los Angeles. Maybe I was forced to spend too much time in LA, or maybe the inability to see my close friends as much changed my attitude. But I found myself craving a lifestyle that wasn’t possible there. Our daughter, born in February 2021, definitely has something to do with it. I’ve always loved how the Balinese revere babies and treat them so sweetly, and a big part of the island’s appeal to me was always how life is lived completely outside. I want all of that for Indah, and I can’t wait to see her thrive in a culture new to her, hearing a different language spoken and being exposed to so much more than most toddlers are.
What inspired you to start your podcast, Conscious Traveler?
It started with a pre-pandemic rooftop conversation with a good friend of mine and longtime colleague. We both felt that a lot of the richest parts of what we experienced while traveling and reporting was lost as our assignments were often fairly topical and tied only to what was newest. We wanted to dig in deeper. We’d both met so many captivating people along the way, and sought more opportunity to share stories we were moved by. We also wanted to transport people and inspire them to travel with more meaning when they did next plan a trip.
What does 2022 have in store? Do you have any big trips coming up?
Having just moved to Bali, we’re going to try to stay somewhat local to the island for a little bit. That said, I get itchy if I don’t fly somewhere every month or two. I have my eye on Vietnam, the Maldives and potentially a Europe trip including Lisbon and Venice. We’re going to be traveling back to North America in late summer to visit family on the East Coast and also spend time exploring Vancouver, Tofino and some other parts of British Columbia.
Palm Springs is known as ‘Hollywood’s Playground,’ a haven for relaxing in style. What are the top spas where people can really focus on their wellness when visiting?
At 38,000 square feet, The Spa at Desert Springs is ridiculously comprehensive in its wellness offerings—think caviar facials, percussion therapy massages using Hypervolt, CBD massage, collagen-plumping red light facials, and another so powerful it was actually conceived by Harvard Medical School skin biologists. It’s the kind of place I could spend an entire day… or more, in the Finnish sauna, Turthkish steam room, saltwater lap pool and aromatic Hammam. Friends swear by Two Bunch Palms, a super peaceful adults-only hot springs resort that’s fun with a partner or pals but also makes for a dreamy solo reset. The Palm Springs Yacht Club is a place for unabashed indulgence and pampering. Guests of L’Horizon can book private yoga and personal training sessions or take weekend group sessions, and melt during arnica deep tissue massages. The massage tent at Sparrows Lodge is amazingly atmospheric, especially for the Whole Body Purification Treatment, which includes sage smudging and dry brushing. And I’m already excited for Sensei Porcupine Creek, which is opening this fall and, if it’s anything like Sensei Lāna’i, promises to be a next-level mecca for holistic wellness practices and state-of-the-art therapeutic treatments.
Image Credit – The Palm Springs Yacht Club
If you want to get in touch with Mother Nature while in Palm Springs, where would you go and why?
I know it’s not right in Palm Springs, but Joshua Tree National Park is such a special and stunning place. It’s my go-to for camping, hiking and scrambling up boulders with my husband—it was actually the first place we went away together when we first started dating, and he was a beautiful guide through the park. There’s really great hiking in Palm Springs itself, too, like the Lykken Trail.
Image Credits – Joshua Tree National Park
If you’re not into “attractions,” where would you visit to get the authentic Palm Springs experience?
It’s not exactly unknown, but Moorten Botanical Garden and Bacterium is one of the coolest places I know in the desert. They’re family operated and have a wonderful collection of desert plants, succulents and crystals, and it’s a peaceful—not to mention photogenic—place for a picnic. I think to really get the local experience you need to connect with locals, and that can happen if you’re friendly and sociable at the right places, especially bars and restaurants that are locally owned.
Image Credits – Moorten Botanical Garden
What is a must in the arts and culture scene while visiting?
The Palm Springs Arts Museum in a Brutalist building is worth a visit, and there are some really cool architecture and design tours to take. Sunnylands is an A. Quincy Jones–designed estate that you can see by booking in advance, while the Albert Frey House II is an incredible steel and glass modernist treasure that is kind of mind-blowing. Author and historian Michael Stern gives tours that include it and other gems via The Modern Tour.
Is there an ideal time to visit? What time of year do you recommend people travel, or are there perks to each season?
There are definitely perks to each season in the desert, though it’s pretty sunny all year round. Summer is, of course, swelteringly hot, but much of Palm Springs is equipped with these amazing, refreshing misters that help keep you cooled off whether while dining or at the pool. Winter can get pretty cold at night, though there are far fewer tourists and less traffic. Spring and fall are pretty perfect: warm to hot during the day and cooler at night. Modernism Week happens every May for 11 days, and is a busy but stimulating time to be in town.
Lastly, we need to know all the best places to eat and drink, of course!
I can’t say enough great things about Bar Cecil, a newish bar and restaurant that pays homage to Cecil Beaton and honestly feels like being somewhere in Europe. It is crazy charming, and exceptionally designed. The cocktails and food are mouthwatering and the energy is so good you never want to leave. Beyond Bar Cecil, which is truly a must, Counter Reformation does delicious tapas and wine and Workshop Kitchen + Bar is a cool dinner spot, especially in tandem with a cocktail at Truss & Twine. Try Birba for a vibey patio at night with awesome pizza, and don’t skip the opportunity to carb load at Townie Bagels.