Fiori is the author of the best-selling In the Spirit of Capri, In the Spirit of St. Barths, and In the Spirit of Palm Beach. She made publishing history in 1993 when she became the first woman editor-in-chief of Town & Country, the oldest continuously published general interest magazine in America. Previously, she edited Travel + Leisure magazine and oversaw editorial operations for American Express Publishing.
Recently, I attended a forum at Charlotte’s Mint Museum Uptown, titled In the Spirit of Giving & Living Well, where Fiori was the special guest. The Mint Museum Auxiliary, which raises money to support educational offerings for the community and to fund acquisitions for the museum’s permanent collection, hosted the fundraiser. The auxiliary gave me the opportunity to cover the event as well as interview Fiori. I had avidly read both her magazines, so hearing first-hand her insights about travel was intriguing.
At Travel & Leisure, Fiori traveled the world, and gave readers information they could use on their own trips. While helming Town & Country, she featured people of wealth and accomplishment with diverse backgrounds and the importance of giving back. She met luminaries like Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Ralph Lauren, Robert Redford, Evelyn Lauder, Giorgio Armani, and Oscar de la Renta. Travel was an integral component of the editorial. She flew to Sri Lanka after the tsunami and to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to pen stories about the aftermath of the storms.
When she left, Assouline Publishing contracted with her to write for its In the Spirit of series of books celebrating chic, elegant, luxurious destinations.
She ended her presentation with “words to live by,” citing a quote from the late philanthropist Brooke Astor: “Be an optimist. Be curious. Read every night. Don’t meet the same people all the time…Don’t be a cynic, don’t envy or be jealous; these sentiments are corrosive and they diminish you. Spend some time in solitude in order to reflect. Meet different people and meet young people. Travel. If you are rich, adhere to the gospel of the joy of giving.”
The Roads Traveled: Did your family encourage you to travel?
Pamela Fiori: I grew up in a middle class Italian family in New Jersey. It was about having dinner together, being close, full of laughter, being considerate and putting the concerns of others before yourself. I never thought I would travel. I took my first flight in my 20s to Washington, D.C., and that’s all it took. I wanted to go everywhere. I took a cross-Atlantic ship to Italy. I based myself there for several months and soaked up everything I could.
TRT: What’s your personal definition of a life well lived?
PF: One with room for other people and concern for others.
TRT: How does travel factor into a life well lived?
PF: To see people I want to see, do what I want to do, and go places I want to go is the ultimate luxury. Travel is the best way to get outside yourself. Through traveling, I learned how to be independent and get out of a jam. Most of all, I learned that the values my parents taught could carry me through.
TRT: What appeals most to you about travel?
PF: It’s good to go to places where you feel uncertain and don’t have all the answers. You need a curiosity about the world or why go. I want to learn and hear about other people and appreciate their cultures. It’s especially important to go to developing countries because you see people who have much less and it makes you aware of the lives of others. You come home feeling grateful, lucky, and obliged to do something. With philanthropy, you feel you can make an imprint.
TRT: How do you acclimate yourself to a new destination?
PF: It depends on how far I’m going and what shape I’m in when I get there. In Peru, I wasn’t altogether prepared for the altitude at Machu Picchu. My tour guide said to go to my room, lie down for awhile, and don’t go out to lunch, and I had no problems.
TRT: How do you prepare for a trip?
PF: I don’t go to a place cold. I Google, read a lot, watch videos, and talk to people. I make my own travel plans. I’m prepared for surprises and expect them.
TRT: What kind of travel experiences are most people looking for?
PF: Lots of people travel with their families. There are so many distractions from family, and when you can focus on other things and experience things together you come back with memories.
TRT: What’s your single best piece of travel advice?
PF: Remember always that you are a guest.
TRT: As a writer and editor, what do you want your readers to experience from your work?
PF: I want them to feel like they want to go and follow in my footsteps, to close the pages and say that’s my next trip.
TRT: Sum up the differences between Capri, St. Barths, and Palm Beach.
PF: (Laughing) You’re judged in Palm Beach by how much you wear, and in Capri and St. Barths by how little you wear.
TRT: This is your first trip to Charlotte. What do you think about the city?
PF: I like it. It looks like a wonderful place to live and raise kids.
TRT: Final thoughts?
PF: Keep a positive attitude. Customs is a pain and waiting in line is inconvenient, but one of the greatest virtues of travelers is patience. Travel is really its own reward. Getting out there is a way to appreciate how other people live, and also make you feel grateful for what we have in this country.
Ever the traveler, Fiori was leaving in a few days for Monaco, the subject of her next book. Look for it in the fall of 2014.