Principles of Modern Travel: Chelsea Kyle

Blogs, magazines, guidebooks. You may often refer to these sources for inspiration and advice, but the truth is, there’s no “correct” way to travel. From departure to arrival, there are countless things to see and do. To discover what you need most from these experiences, question your intentions and evaluate why you’re traveling in the first place: Who are you traveling with? Where are you traveling to? How are you getting from one place to the other? What will you do when you arrive at your destination?

The purpose of this series is to gather insight from the creative and curious who regularly embark on new adventures. We’ve collected their best stories to create a list of principles that can guide you on your journeys—interpret them, learn from them, and use them to define what modern travel means to you.

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

photo courtesy of Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

Our sixth Principal of Modern Travel is Chelsea Kyle, a still life photographer living in New York. Though she primarily works in the studio—bringing recipes and ingredients to life for publications such as Bon Appétit, Women’s Health, and Epicurious—she also takes her camera outside and abroad. Travel photography has become a creative outlet for Chelsea, one that allows her to experiment with new subjects, angles, and lighting. Of course, she’s drawn to food wherever she goes, so we caught up with Chelsea to get her best advice on how to fill our minds and our stomachs in every new place.

What do you love most about living in New York? How has the city influenced or inspired your work?

It’s so unlike anywhere else. There’s just so much access to whatever kind of art you want to experience or talk about. People want to get out and talk to each other about what they’re doing and it really inspires you to get moving. Collaborating with other artists, stylists, editors, and writers—those are experiences I wouldn’t have had the opportunity for if I lived somewhere else.

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

"This probably goes without saying, but you can find anything you want to eat in New York—and you can find it done well."

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

What is your favorite thing about New York’s culinary scene?

This probably goes without saying, but you can find anything you want to eat in New York—and you can find it done well. There’s such a wide range of food and it’s very accessible: you don’t have to know much about a given cuisine to experience it, which inspires you to try other foods.

What sort of food experiences do you seek out during your travels?

I try to go to as many farmers’ markets as I can. It’s so interesting to see what local items are being sold—pop-ups and local vendors tend to flock around these outdoor markets.

I love food tours, too. They’re frowned upon because they all seem the same, but I’m very interested in hearing about a person’s experience and knowledge of an area. When I went to Mexico City a couple years ago, I did a food tour and it was great because the guide brought us to the markets and pointed out specific ingredients. It was really cool to have an insider’s perspective, and I brought home a bunch of stuff that I wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint had she not been there to tell me about it.

Mexico City, Mexico

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

Farmers’ market, Portugal

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

Principle #1: Take a tour.

Travelers often shy away from booking culinary tours—they have a bad rep for being unoriginal and predictable. But if you do some thorough research and find ones guided by local foodies, you’re in for an authentic (and tasty) experience unlike any other.

What are some of the most memorable locations you’ve traveled to?

I think one of my favorite spots, in the U.S. at least, is Joshua Tree. I went out to Palm Springs for a photo convention, and I ended up having an extra day and a rental car—so I went to Joshua Tree by myself. Before that, I was not the kind of person who traveled alone. It was an incredible experience to go through a national park with no cell phone service, taking in the landscape.

I’ve become obsessed with national parks; I really love finding beauty in raw nature. Last year, I did a trip to Zion National Park, then up to Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the surrounding area in Utah, which was absolutely incredible.

Zion National Park, Utah, U.S.

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

Principle #2: Forge your own path.

Traveling with others has its perks, but so does embarking on a solo journey. If you find yourself with time to spare or an opportunity to break away from the group, take advantage of it.

How do you capture the essence or true spirit of a place in your photography?

I try not to take the obvious photos—they’re so overdone. In Utah, Big Bend was just overcrowded with people and photographers. It’s a beautiful location, but the same photo gets taken all the time. I try to find something unique to a spot, and look to the more cultural characteristics of a location. I want to give people an idea of what it’s like to be there.

Alaska, U.S.

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

"I’ve become obsessed with national parks; I really love finding beauty in raw nature."

Valley of the Gods, Utah, U.S.

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

What’s the key to finding a great restaurant in a new city?

Take advantage of the connections that you have and get as many recommendations from them as possible. And be specific. “Where should I eat?” is such a blanket question that’s so hard to answer. If you say, “I’m looking for this kind of food” or “I’ll be in this part of town,” you can definitely get better information from people.

Maine, U.S.

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

"The only time I’m okay with a long wait is when I know a spot has really beautiful food that I want to photograph. But at the end of the day I’m a reservations person."

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

Principle #3: Ask for what you want.

Before asking your friends to suggest a restaurant, decide what you want to eat and what type of dining experience you want to have. This not only helps you find exactly what you’re looking for, but also helps your guides make more tailored recommendations.

Making a reservation or walking into a restaurant—what do you prefer doing when you’re in a new city and why?

I really hate waiting because it’s so hard for me to predict when I’m going to be hungry [laughs]. Walking into a place and then finding out I have to wait for two hours is hard—especially when, as a photographer, I have a lot of equipment and am trying to schedule a meal around my shooting times. The only time I’m okay with a long wait is when I know a spot has really beautiful food that I want to photograph. But at the end of the day I’m a reservations person.

photo by Chelsea Kyle / @chelsealouisekyle

Traveling presents us with an opportunity to learn about ourselves, our destinations, and our journey to get there. What can we do better? How can we make our experiences more enriching? One way is to learn from each other. That’s why every issue, we’ll be talking with seasoned nomads, collecting their best travel tips and tricks—use these Principles of Modern Travel to guide you, wherever you go next.

Written by: Kaitlyn Funk