David Duran

The favourite places of David Durán

David Duran is an award-winning travel writer whose work covers general destination and luxury travel as well as culinary, hospitality and airlines. He has contributed to such publications as Travel+Leisure, Jetsetter, The New York Post, Fodor’s and Southbay Magazine. In addition, he has written for every major LGBT publication in the US as well as several others overseas. He began his career in writing by submitting opinion pieces to local newspapers until he was given the opportunity to expand his platform. He started as a news reporter and eventually found his passion for writing was mostly in the travel sphere. He’s been to all seven continents and more than 80 countries, and talks to Mr Hudson about some of his favourite places.

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Tell us about yourself

I’ve been travelling all my life. As a child, I remember driving across the border into Mexico with my family every year to San Felipe, where we would spend our summer holidays. Before I was a teenager, my parents were sending me on international flights by myself so that I could go visit family in Bolivia. I guess the travel bug never left because I just kept going and going. I spent time in the military and later as a flight attendant, both of which helped rack up my travel experience. I began my career in writing by simply submitting opinion pieces to local newspapers until I was given the opportunity to expand my platform. I started as a news reporter and eventually found my passion for writing was mostly in the travel sphere, and almost a decade later, here we are. I’ve been to all seven continents and more than 80 countries (I honestly have lost track and keep meaning to spend a few hours with a map in front of me). I’ve contributed to some incredible publications like this one, in addition to the NY Post, Travel + Leisure, and countless others. I also write about HIV related topics for various health-based magazines. Most recently I’ve filmed a travel pilot, contributed to a guide book going to print soon, and have taken up a second career as a luxury travel advisor, something I’ve always wanted to do since I’ve been helping friends, family and social media strangers for years with planning their trips. Also, I just wanted to cut back on my travel a bit as I’m now domesticated with an amazing partner and I don’t’ want to be away from home as much, although I’m probably still travelling more each month than most people.

What destination has lived up to the hype?

I have a slight obsession with the Middle East. I was going to make a beard joke but I’m sure the readers will come up with those on their own. Oddly enough, I took one of those DNA tests and I had zero per cent come up from the Middle East. Anyways, I just love everything about it. Each time I am there, I feel as if I am in another world. Things are just so incredibly different there. From the culture rich and non-existent skyscrapers in Oman to the overly built insanities in the UAE, all of it fascinates me. Obviously, as a gay man, I think that element of danger also excites me, but that could also be the news reporter in me.

What destination hasn’t?

This is such a tough question but my immediate go-to answer always is Marrakech. I just didn’t have the greatest time there and it truly felt like an unorganized Disneyland, at least in the old medina part of town. I’m not really into monkeys with chains performing in the street or having to constantly feel for my wallet to make sure it wasn’t stolen. I will say that once I left the old medina and ventured out a bit more, I did enjoy myself a bit more. I probably wouldn’t go back unless I was just landing there and then continuing to another part of the country, like Casablanca or the Atlas Mountains.

David Duran far away

Photo: David Duran

David Duran in a Safari

Photo: David Duran

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Aloha is not just a word, it’s a way of life, and I think that after 25+ times of spending time on the islands, I’ve learned what it means to live and embody the aloha spirit

What is your favourite place in the world?

Hawaii. I know, it sounds cliché to say, but I’m happiest when I’m there. I’ve been to all of the islands, with Maui being my favourite, but it’s beyond the destination, and it truly is about the warmth and kindness of the people and culture. Aloha is not just a word, it’s a way of life, and I think that after 25+ times of spending time on the islands, I’ve learned what it means to live and embody the aloha spirit. There was a period in my life where I would refuse to leave Hawaii unless I had booked a return trip. There’s just something magical about those islands.

What is it about travel that you enjoy most?

A lot of what I enjoy about travelling involves the people I meet and the things I learn. Whether that’s trying a new type of food or cuisine, or just chatting with someone about their daily life, it’s all important to me and it inspires me. Forgive me as I get deep for a moment, but I truly believe that most of the hatred in the world stems from ignorance and lack of information. With my travels, I’ve met and experienced so many different types of humans and cultures and through all of that, it has provided me with a deep understanding of what it’s like to be different. There are so many places in this world to visit and explore, but don’t do yourself a disservice when travelling and forget to engage with the locals – the more different types of people you interact with, the more compassionate you become towards diversity.

What is the best hotel you’ve stayed at?

Another tough one because depending on the criteria, I could list hundreds of amazing properties I’ve been privileged to stay in. But my initial answer was the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain. I’m a bit of luxury hotel snob and have been to hundreds (maybe thousands, who knows) of properties around the world, and this particular property is owned by the royal family of Bahrain, I think. I have never seen ornate green marble so casually used throughout hotel suites and the artwork around the property was just inspiring. There was nothing I could think to complain about while there, which is a rarity for a travel writer. From the butter cream Bentley, one of the many luxury house cars at the property that picked me up from the airport to the Hermes bath products in the suites, this property reigns supreme.

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What does your ideal trip look like?

It definitely involves a luxury hotel or resort with views of water and cabanas by the pool. I’d need to be surrounded by like-minded people, which is tough, but ideal, and if I was constantly hearing English, I would not be in a happy state of mind. The hotel would have to have vast options for dining which includes stellar room service because I am one of those people who loves to enjoy a good hotel room (or suite).

David Duran horseback ridding

Photo: David Duran

David Duran angel

Photo: David Duran

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while travelling?

I’ve met a lot of interesting people during my travels but there are a couple that immediately come to mind. I spent time with a female butler in a 5-star hotel in Buenos Aires who just captured my attention. At the time, she was the first and only female butler on the team and she was telling me all about her life and specialized training that was involved with her career. She was inspiring to say the least. Another incredible woman I met in Zanzibar in a tiny art shop in Stone Town. I was walking past her shop and she called me over to talk. That talk lasted 2 hours and during that time, I learned about how she was the only, if not one of the first, female entrepreneurs (I didn’t verify that, nor does it matter because she’s amazing) on the island. I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed the company of a stranger more than I did with Hellen.

What are your favourite places in Phoenix that people need to know about?

As someone who grew up in Southern California and spent years in New York City, I never imagined I would settle down in Phoenix, but beyond the politics, Arizona is a beautiful and naturally diverse state. We currently live in downtown Phoenix, which is still developing, but already has a ton of really fun restaurants and places to hang out. I personally love walking around or riding my bike in the true centre of downtown on the weekends because it’s a ghost town, and oddly satisfying. But I also enjoy the proximity of nature to downtown. We are minutes away from Papago Park, Camelback Mountain and Phoenix Mountain Reserve, three of the best hiking spots in the city.

What is your best-kept travel secret?

Travel in comfort. Whether I am in first class or cattle class, I always board an aeroplane in comfortable clothing. And I bring everything I would ever need from cleaning wipes to facial moisturizers to a travel toothbrush. I also carry a mini-pharmacy with me just in case. And I often bring a pillow and always carry a bigger coat or jacket on the plane with me so that I can sit on it as an extra cushion unless I’m up front and then I just hand it to the flight attendant so that they can hang it for me.

Any recommendations for gay travellers?

One thing: go and explore places that don’t always make those “top ten places for gays” type of lists.

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