The Art of Discovery
A Well-Kept Secret
When you write about travel, tailors, fishing and the rest of it then you make an arrangement with your readers about sharing. Your life is no longer, strictly speaking, private—your discoveries are not yours alone. If something is good you write about it. If there’s no implicit trust between writer and reader that’s an unsustainable situation.
Places I've supported for years to friends and strangers are wide ranging and perhaps unrelated: Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, the delightful Shiki Juraku hotel in Kyoto, Great Jones Bar (RIP), Sotheran’s bookstore in London, Maison Borella in Milan, The Sportsman Motel in Melrose, MT. It’s a big world out there.
In the old days (say, the ancient times of 2008), most obscure places would not be discovered for a few years. These days word spreads faster and photos spread fastest. A hotel in Ischia can be turned inside out all too soon (as Michael Williams will tell you). The cycle of discovery is so short. Something unknown morphs into a hot destination (just typing that makes me queasy) and before you know it couples are posing for each other and jabbering away to their friends (You have got to come here, you would love it!) on FaceTime at full volume. Get me out of here.
People who read this newsletter want the inside dope and deserve to get it. I love sharing things that I think are worthwhile, whether it’s an old memoir or a Ketchum fishing guide. If a hotel is special I want to celebrate it and, in a small way, help the good people who run it. And of course that helps readers. Then the cycle continues.
Every now and then—very, very rarely—I keep things to myself. Sometimes people take me somewhere to eat or drink or fish. They ask me not to share it—this place is their discovery. I completely understand. Other times I find something that takes an unusual amount of work and intuition, something that’s actually secret. I walk up and down city streets looking for the place that feels more interesting than everything around it. That’s too easy to give to people scrolling through Instagram.