In this Q&A we meet Lauren Ho, a lady who was born with travel in her blood; hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa, her childhood involved lots of adventure-filled travels, and she has since made a hugely successful career from doing what she loves most – writing and travelling.
Most of Lauren’s career was spent at Wallpaper* where she was for 13 years, today she works as a freelancer writing for national and international titles, including The Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller, House & Garden and Robb Report among others. Lauren is also a hospitality consultant for brands including The EDITION Hotels, Nordic Hotels & Resorts, onefinestay and the Fife Arms, among others. Read on to discover more about her career and love of travel.
Please tell us a little bit more about yourself and your career.
I am originally from Johannesburg South Africa, where I grew up in a family that loves to travel. As a child, my parents took me and my sister on various trips abroad to the US, Canada, Europe and the UK. This was in between many adventure-filled holidays in South Africa, going on safari, hiking the awe-inspiring Drakensburg Mountains, or exploring the splendours of the Cape area and its sunning beaches, vineyards, and the wide-open spaces of the Karoo.
When I left South Africa for London, it was – of course – to travel. But what was meant to be a couple of years turned into 20 and somehow, I’ve been lucky enough to carve out a career doing what I love most- both travel and writing.
Most of my career was spent at Wallpaper*, where I was for 13 years, up until December 2020. In the beginning, I started out as the Fashion Coordinator, where I spent my free time assisting the travel editor. I then became the Deputy Travel Editor before I was promoted to position of Travel Editor in 2012.
Today, I work as a freelancer, writing for national and international titles, including The Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller, House & Garden and Robb Report among others.
You carved out a career that enabled you to travel the world long before ‘digital nomadism’ was even an option. What were the key challenges you faced and how did you ensure this was a successful career move?
At the time I still worked in-house as the Travel Editor for Wallpaper*, but I was lucky enough to have a boss who trusted me and gave me the wings to fly. This was before Zoom and shared Google Drives, so the biggest challenge then was communication and being able to work with a team I couldn’t communicate with in person. As I started freelancing at that time too, I was basically holding down two jobs, so that was another challenge, along with all the jet lag!
Apart from not wanting to be desk-bound, I was always aware that nothing lasts forever, and I wanted to ensure I had the opportunity to establish myself in the industry as a freelancer while still having the security of a full-time job. I was given the opportunity, so if that meant working extra hours, then I was very happy to do that.
As a journalist, you cover the topics of travel, food and design for a variety of high-profile international publications. Please tell us how you adapt your approach to each publication and each different topic.
Each publication has its own approach, tone of voice, and audience. It is important to understand exactly who its target audience is, what they cover and how- firstly to be able to pitch stories that are relevant for them and then to be able to write it in a way that fits. To be honest, these topics are what I am most knowledgeable in, so I don’t need to adapt too much!
As the former London-based Travel Editor at Wallpaper* magazine you worked on both print and digital content – which medium do you prefer and why?
This is a tricky question! I like them both for their own reasons: print because it’s always so satisfying to work on producing a proper story from start to finish and then seeing the result on paper, in a beautiful magazine that you can touch. Digital, because of the instant gratification, which I dislike at the same time.
In addition to writing, you are also a consultant to a range of international hospitality brands – what are some of the key changes you’ve seen in the sector and what do you predict for the next few years?
Obviously, the events of the past couple of years have changed things dramatically within the industry. This has led us to look at travel differently, especially now that many of us have discovered we can work remotely. We are now being more considered in our approach; our health and wellbeing has become a bigger priority, alongside wanting to take things slowly and make the most of the journey as well as the destination we are in. Most of all though, while sustainability was already a key topic pre-pandemic, there is now an even bigger focus, with many of us looking for more sustainable ways to travel, such as choosing ‘greener’ destinations, taking trips closer to home, or actively looking for sustainable products and responsible brands with eco-friendly policies. Sustainability and the environment will become an even bigger focus over the next few years.
Any words of wisdom for hospitality brands on how to stand out in what is such a fiercely competitive sector?
Tell your story! What makes your hotel special? Every place has its own unique story – whether that’s your environmental approach to hospitality, your neighbourhood, your awesome employees, or, if you’re lucky, an epic history. Stories stick in people’s minds; it adds a layer of personality and it’s up to you to find it and tell it.
Which has been your favourite consultancy project to date and why?
My favourite project was working with the Nordic Hotels & Resorts team on the launch of Amerikalinjen in Oslo because it has a great story! I wrote its book and I learnt so much about Norwegian history at the same time.
What’s next for you? Can you share details of any exciting forthcoming projects?
I am very excited for the launch of Sommerro, a new hotel due to open in Oslo in 2022. The hotel is housed in the former headquarters of Oslo Lysverker, the city’s original electrical company, which has been transformed into a community in its own right, with 231 rooms, four restaurants, three bars, meetings and events spaces – including a 200-seat theatre – a sprawling subterranean gym and wellness space in the building’s former public baths, and the city’s first rooftop pool, sauna and terrace.
Is there anywhere in the world you haven’t yet visited and would love to do so?
Oh, so many places! Antarctica, for one. Mongolia, Madagascar, The Galapagos Islands…
Everyone has their own interpretation of luxury. What does it mean to you?
Luxury, for me, is being able to travel freely
What is your life motto (if you have one?)
Live your best life according to yourself, only.
Find out more about Lauren over on her website www.laurenho.com