Tom Marchant defines jetsetter ? having lived in such varying locales as London, Moscow and Johannesburg, he?s spent time in practically every other destination the world has to offer. With a never-ending thirst to be truly immersed in other cultures and to find unique experiences off the beaten path in new locations, Marchant helped found cutting edge travel agency, Black Tomato, in 2005 to help others do the same. Creating bespoke vacation experiences for a luxury audience looking for the roads less traveled, Black Tomato ? and Marchant ? is arguably the last word in travel expertise. We sat down with Marchan to give us a taste of the world as he sees it.
L-atitude: How did you develop the concept of Black Tomato?
Tom Marchant: The idea was hatched deep in the Australian outback when three like-minded travellers met and realized that there was no company catering for the thirst for hip, authentic and off-the-beaten path travel experiences that was coming from a discerning, metropolitan market. Over the next 4 years, we shaped our business plan in every spare hour we found. One day (in 2005) we decided to take the plunge and do what we love the most in the world: create travel experiences that we can share and organize for other like-minded people.
L: What is your all-time favorite destination in the world and why?
TM: An almost impossible question to answer as, given my job, I am lucky enough to see many, many inspirational destinations that all mean a great deal to me in their own unique way. However, if push came to shove, I would ask if I could list two. For landscapes that blow your mind and an escape like nowhere else on the earth, then it would be Namibia and specifically the Skeleton Coast in the North East of the country. For a city whose culture and social side are both on a par in terms of decadence, then it would be Moscow. I lived there for a year when I was 22 and never has a place left such an impression on me.
L: What are three things you never leave home without?
TM: Notebook. And it needs to be old school. Love gadgets but nothing beats the end of a day when you scribble your thoughts and findings from that day into the book.
I-pod ? travelling without music makes the whole experience only half complete
A novel by an author from the place I am visiting (or if not possible, to source a book on the place ? but not a guide book. A story that relates to the place is better). I find literature is the best way of putting places in context and also evokes a strong sense of connection to a place.
L: What music do you listen to on your iPod while traveling?
TM: Depends on the trip and often what part of the trip. On a plane I like to listen to music that lulls me to sleep and removes me from the journey and to another place. When I?m in a place it is always good to dig out music from local artists, as it produces a great local flavor and connects you with a key aspect of what comprises the cultural side of a place. That aside, current bands making up my travel play lists include, The National, Port O?Brien. The Acorn, Jamie T and Delorean.
L: What is one place you are dying to visit but haven?t yet?
TM: The country of Cameroon. I have heard it is the most incredible country. It combines a stunning coast with jungle, desert and mountains. People talk about it as the best of Africa in one gorgeous country, and it has yet to be un-ravaged by excessive development.
The city of Bucharest. Romania?s capital is by all accounts a stunning destination with great culture, nightlife, cuisine and a rich history to be explored.
L: What is the most popular destination on Black Tomato?s site?
TM: It varies by season and we add many over the year, but to reflect on 2010, the following are the top 5 destinations from our site: Brazil, Indonesia, Tanzania, Syria, Iceland.
L: What is the perfect day spent in Istanbul?
TM: Start the day? at the Spice Market. The rich scents of spices and the bustle of the people haggling prices will sure get you on your toes. Fill your sweet cravings with flavored tea and delicious Turkish Delights.
Best View? from down below. Head to Hagia Sophia, an ancient mosque where you can head underground to find a gorgeous ancient water pool lit up by the flicker of candles.
Lunch? Make your way to the suburb of Ortak?y, a chic suburb brimming boutiques and atmospheric coffee houses and tea terraces. Be there on a Sunday and expect an electric artsy market to pick up some great finds.
End the day? on an island between two continents. Catch a boat to the Suada Club sitting on Galatasaray Island in the middle of the Bosphrous, this club boats an Olympic size swimming pool, restaurants and bars for a hedonistic night.
L: Which nightlife spots in New York do you make sure to visit when you?re there?
TM: I always like to combine the rough with the smooth, but tend to start with smooth first. In my case this manifests itself in a hotel bar, such as the Gramercy Park Rose Bar. Then I?ll head to a superb bar, be it Death and Company, Angel Share, Milk and Honey or a current favorite, Painkiller. The thing I love about NYC is that there is always a dive bar to hole up in and keep the evening going.