Australian graphic designer, wanderlust inducing photographer and travel writer with a knack for capturing the exact essence of a place, Emma Kate Codrington, of stationary label Emma Kate Co, shares her tips for exploring a city with authenticity, finding the best coffee spots and what travel has taught her.
What does travel mean to you?
For so much of my life, travel has been my everything! For me, travel is my teacher - to travel means to both learn, and unlearn. Whenever I immerse in a different place, I start to question everything. The more I travel, the more I learn about the world - and the less I feel I really know for sure! Travel gently and powerfully stretches – and breaks down every assumption. Immersing in another culture also helps me to better understand my own culture.
Travel carves a depth in you - eyes widen, your heart expands – your capacity to feel, live and love deepens profoundly. There’s a word in german ‘Fernweh’ that there is no precise translation for in English. Loosely, it means ‘farsickness ‘ - or feeling homesick for a place you’ve never been… and I feel it perpetually!
Do you have a favourite trip?
It’s so difficult to single out a favourite place, but my gut feel is to say Turkey. It’s such an exquisite country of colour, texture, kindness and contrasts - a total assault on the senses. I travelled there solo a very pivotal time in my becoming - after a significant breakup, and in transition between my life in London and relocating to Australia - so I think that’s why I remember Turkey with such gratitude and importance.
Turkey made me feel vividly uncomfortable, in a good way. I woke before sunrise to the prayer calls - the most unsettling and calming melody drifting through the sky. I covered myself in layers of clothing, yet felt more and more stripped back to my core, emotionally. It’s a place where beauty and ruin coexists. And floating across the sky at sunrise, above the lunar-like, rugged moonscape of Cappadocia was one of the most incredible mornings of my life.
What's your favourite destination?
Montpellier, in the south of France. Many years ago I moved there, without speaking a word of French, and it will always feel like a home to me. Montpellier is such a happy, sunshine-soaked, vibrant yet relaxed city. It’s got a blissed out, Mediterranean vibe, and living the Joie De Vivre is a non-negotiable way of life. It’s a pedestrian city, so you walk everywhere. Drinking wine on the terraces until all hours, on any night, is standard. It’s close to the sea and averages sunshine more than 300 out of 365 days in a year! I miss it so much.
Do you have three tips for visiting Montpellier?
- You’ll find best baguettes and croissants are at at Ortholan (1bis Rue de Verdun) and the best dining at Le Petit Jardin (20 Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau)
- Put your map away, and wander the narrow back streets - you’ll get beautifully lost and love every moment.
- Don’t miss the Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier (Boulevard Henri IV) - it is France's oldest botanical garden and has over 250 traditional Mediterranean medicines and herb plants.
Is there a dream destination you're yet to discover?
So many!! I’d love to see the salt flats of Bolivia. And Sicily.
How do you explore a new destination?
These days, I travel largely unplanned. I will always do some (necessary) research on where to find the best coffee, but not much else.
When I was 21, I graduated from uni and jumped on a plane to explore the world, solo. In preparedness, I had brought every map and guidebook under the sun, then left them all at the bottom of my suitcase and instead chose to follow my feet, forget the tourist must-do’s, and just soak it all up. The culture, humanity, language, vibe… the heart. It’s safe to say, on that first big trip I fell head-over-heels, ridiculously in love with the world. And ever since then, I’ve left the guidebooks at home to collect dust on my bookshelf.
What inspires you when travelling?
In equal amounts, the food and the people - I love meeting the locals and wandering the back streets to find local gems. I try to avoid the ‘top 10’ in a city wherever possible.
What's the biggest lesson you’ve learned from travel?
If I think about what travel has taught me most, I think it’s about hardening and softening. Hardening, in terms of strength – I’ve learnt that I can handle any situation – that I am much braver than I know. Softening – into the power of vulnerability. It’s beautiful to be inspired and moved by the world. I’ve become such a ‘crier’ since travelling - but not in sadness. Travel steals, and crushes, and floods your heart all at once. You cry in moments where you’re just really in it; utterly eclipsed.
And… travelling has, at times, given me a perpetual feeling of rootlessness – a transience – and I’ve become quite comfortable with that. I’m constantly connecting with new faces, bonding, letting go, missing, longing for beautiful friends who are scattered far and wide – but mostly, I’m learning to really appreciate and harness everything and everyone that I have in the here and now, rather than what I can’t have. That’s the blessing and curse of travel – and making beautiful friends the world over. You will meet people that you will have to be separated from, purely because of distance.
Are you a light traveller or pack for every possibility? Is there an item you can't travel without?
I’ve become better over time - but I wouldn’t say I’m the lightest packer. To my credit, I’m very adept at collecting memories, not things part! So while I might not start out with the lightest case, I don’t add weight as I go.
My Sparkstone! It’s a non-negotiable travel accessory - a charging device - that I don’t want to ever be without.
Do you have any tips for fellow travellers to better document their travels?
While images will definitely make more impact if they’re picture-perfect and beautiful, I'd say, let the words and stories you spill be less edited, and far more authentic and messy and real.
Also, carve out some time that is not captured or documented, and decide on your ‘line’ - what you will and won’t share. I always try to spend my first day or night in a place just being - to feel into a place and to see with my eyes, not just my lens. The more ‘visible’ I get, the more protective I feel about carving space for downtime and nurturing privacy – experiences and precious time with my family and loved ones. So I’m becoming really conscious about which candid moments I share publicly, which I capture but don’t share, and which moments I just fully give myself over to and forget to document at all.
Feature image by Katie Mitchell