CEO Lisa Stephenson on her spiritual home (it’s not the centre of the universe)

australian financial review

Originally published on AFR.com – 4 March 2019
https://www.afr.com/brand/life-and-leisure/ceo-lisa-stephenson-on-her-spiritual-home-its-not-the-centre-of-the-universe-20190228-h1btej


Lisa Stephenson, CEO of events and coaching company Who Am I Projects, packs super light. But there’s one thing she never leaves at home. She answers our Traveller Q&A.

First, business or economy?
I’ve spent most of my time in the back of the plane because it’s really about getting to where I need to be. But my general rule now that I’m almost a grown-up is that if the flight is more than three hours long, I go business class so I can work, rest and access good champagne to help with both those tasks.

Favourite destination?
Italy. It’s my spiritual home.

Favourite airport?
Heathrow. It’s feels like the centre of the universe. You can literally see hundreds of planes following each other coming in to land, one after the other.

If I ran my own airline I would…
See how we could humanise the experience when people most need it. Things go wrong and sometimes following a process is not the solution.

Where would you go with an unlimited travel budget?
Everywhere – and I would go now. (Hopefully my clients are not reading this.) I’m currently obsessed with planning a safari in Africa.

Worst place you’ve been lost?
Istanbul, Turkey. More than 15 million people live in that city and the markets are insane. I was trying to get away from a man who tried to steal my bag.

Best trip ever?
After much planning, I took my children out of school for a term and we went to live in Lucca, Italy. I get the coolest mum award for that. We experienced everything from the colours of Burano to riding the chairlift to the top of Capri; midnight ice skating on Lake Como and gondola rides in Venice.

Most memorable overseas dining?
I went on an amazing trip to Spain and spent some time in Tarragona. The boats come into the docks and the seafood goes straight into boiling pots of stock. It is then scooped into bowls and served at plastic tables. I don’t like beer, but that day it was the best thing ever.

In the suitcase?
Not much. I’m a minimalist. I have this thing about only doing carry-on luggage whenever it’s possible. A power adaptor is my only essential.

First thing you do in a new city?
Shower. Is that too much information? I always feel desperate to wash away the cabin air and jet lag so I can get out there. When I travel overseas for work, I try to arrive a day early and stay a day longer than needed so I can see the city.

How do you make the most of a spare afternoon in a strange city?
I go sightseeing on foot. I always think I can do more than is realistic, and I have absolutely no sense of direction, so that makes for a random and big afternoon. It normally requires a glass of wine at the end.

Most like to travel with and why?
I love travelling with my children. They have non-stop energy, are curious about everything and are not attached to what travel is meant to be.

Cure for jet lag?
I drink more water than should be allowed and adjust my watch to my destination as soon as I step onto the plane.

Other travel tips?
Don’t over-plan. You can always get the information you need when you get there. Local residents always have better advice on what to see and do anyway.

Anywhere you’d recommend for a special occasion?
Without hesitation, sitting on the balcony with an Aperol Spritz watching the sunset at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento. You look across the ocean to the lights of Naples and Pompeii.

Best overseas purchase?
I buy one thing every time I visit a new place. I most love a vintage ring my children chose on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence for me. I never take it off. A little bit of Italy travels with me every day.

Best travel tale?
I was recently travelling with my team to deliver a client program in Napa Valley, California. We spent the weekend in San Francisco, which blew my mind. They “made me” ride a bike over the Golden Gate Bridge, and neglected to tell me how long it would take, and how steep the surrounding hills are. It was truly spectacular, followed by eating clam chowder at Salito’s in Sausalito. It was the best clam chowder I’ve ever had.

Best thing about travelling?
Travel changes you. I am more flexible, resilient and grateful because of the places I have been and people I have met.

Top travel gripe?
Grumpy travellers. There are so many things that can and do go wrong when you’re travelling. People who invest energy in complaining about them annoy me.