Curing My "Place Envy": A Conversation With a Festival Going Guru

Article by: Chip Conley|@ChipConley

Wed March 13, 2013 | 00:00 AM

I have a 1:1 ratio as to how many countries I’ve visited and my age. Been to 55 countries (so far), turned 52 not long ago. My new friend  Art Gimbel  has been to more than 72 countries, and he’s just 36 so his ratio is 2:1. I’ve got a serious case of “place-envy” when I hang out with Art. What’s your ratio? What’s Hillary Clinton’s?

It was in his college years that Art caught a whiff of what he calls “profound travel,” a sojourn that transforms you. Whenever he’d come to a new place, he’d always seek out a local cultural celebration since it represented the heartbeat of the people. Living in Central America and studying Spanish during college, he stumbled upon a mountain village celebration in Guatemala near Lake Atitlan that changed his life. At times, he was an observer and then he’d find himself immersed in the magic of the moment dancing with locals. He saw that these festivals were “living museums” of cultural history. He came back to the states and spent a decade doing investigative cardiology research (trying to fix broken hearts), but it was when he co-founded an import-export company a few years ago that he was able to reconnect with his flourishing desire to visit festivals all around the world. One of his favorite festivals of all time is Holi in India because it’s such a celebration and an explosion of color.  You can’t help but be immersive and bond with each other in an experience like Holi.


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Ultimately, these festivals led him to collaborating with a friend who was creating travel apps for mobile devices. Since festival fanatics are on the go, going mobile with an easy-to-navigate treasure map made all the sense in the world. And, the GPS feature in a mobile device allows one to really understand what kind of festivals are in their proximity as well.

Art has provided us a guide of discovery with his app. And, he’s also helped me to understand that “place-envy” can be cured by just increasing your country:age ratio. No doubt, we can’t decrease the age denominator of that equation, but we can increase the places numerator. I’m looking forward to surpassing Art’s 2:1 ratio some day, although my math is getting progressively more difficult.