A CEO and entrepreneur, Melissa Biggs Bradley founded the luxury travel company Indagare to provide its members with rich editorial content and the services of a boutique, in-house travel agency. The company reflects Bradley’s passion for travel in the beautiful guides it publishes and expert travel advice on destinations ranging from Paris to Bhutan. Indagare, which means “to discover” in Latin, elegantly bridges the gap between travel magazine and travel agency, providing an easy-to-use digital platform as well as expert, personal recommendations. (Imagine reading a story in a travel magazine then being able to get on the phone with the author and having that person plan your next getaway.) We caught up with Melissa in her gorgeous office after she had just returned from a trip to France and Iceland with her teenage daughter. She shared with us what inspires her, some best practices when traveling and a hint of her joyous appetite for life.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself—where are you from? Where do you live now?
I am from New York City and live only two blocks away from where I came home from the hospital, which may seem odd for someone who is such a committed traveler.
Q: How many places have you been?
I have traveled to more than 100 countries, but I could not have traveled as much for my career with my children if I didn’t have a strong homebase. I’ve been so lucky to have my family and my husband’s family be so involved. As they say, “It takes a village”, and I have a good village.
Q: When did you first get bitten by the travel bug?
I’ve had the bug as long as I can remember. My mother is Australian. She left Sydney at age 16 to join the Royal Ballet of England and met my father who was an American working in London, so I am the child of wanderers.
Q: Why do you love to travel?
I believe that travel is not just where you go, but how the journey shapes you. I think travel pushes us out of our comfort zones and broadens our perspective and understanding of the world.
Travel has the power to be truly transformative. It allows us to meet new kinds of people and to learn new approaches to living. We are forced to see with new eyes and need to rely on others for guidance. The thread that runs through all of this, I think, is that we want to be more awake to the wonders and beauty of the world and to living. At Indagare, we bring this philosophy to every trip that we plan, whether it is a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa, a mother-daughter weekend away, a couple’s romantic escape, or a family’s first visit to Europe.
Q: What is Indagare? What does it mean? What inspired you to start it?
Indagare is a membership-based travel company that combines the services of a boutique agency with curated content for the luxury traveler. Indagare means to discover or seek out in Latin. I launched it after being the travel editor at Town and Country for a dozen years and starting Town & Country Travel magazine. I wanted to create a unique community for passionate travelers. At its core, Indagare stems from my desire to provide travelers with the information and tools to create the type of remarkable journeys that I’ve had over the years. Whether our members are in discovery mode and experiencing our curated content or they need access to our specialists to plan their next exceptional trip, we have a community of devoted travelers who rely on us.
Q: How did you figure out making a business out of the thing you love?
It was a natural evolution. I have always loved making discoveries and sharing them with others. I did that as a journalist first, but I get to do it even more powerfully with Indagare. I listened to our members and fellow travelers, and adapted what we do to what they were looking for: trip planning, member group trips, and much of the functionality on our website.
Q: You recently came back from a trip with your teenage daughter. What are your tips/secrets for traveling as a family? Especially with a lot of generations?
With teenage children, I think it is key to get their buy in, either for the destination or for the activities. On our most recent trip, my daughter picked Iceland. She wanted to see the Northern Lights and is really interested in exploring the wilderness. In the case of multigenerational trips, the destination is less important than choosing a way to please different generations. There should be one central destination, so a big group doesn’t have to pack and unpack or move between locations. There should also be activities to keep children and teens interested and occupied as well as spaces for everyone to gather for meals together. We know the best large resorts with lots of activities on site. Cruises, be they on river barges in Europe, boats down the Amazon or Mekong, or on ships in the Mediterranean, are excellent ideas for a large family. They offer structure without rigid scheduling, and undeniable convenience: wake up refreshed at a new port each morning, while sidestepping the exhausting logistics of travel. Grandparents and babies can stay put without missing out; the youngest family members won’t be overwhelmed; and everyone can enjoy built-in downtime on board.
Q: What are your packing secrets? What kind of clothes do you pack? What can’t you live without?
I always travel with carry on ONLY. I don’t want to risk losing luggage, and traveling lighter is less stressful than having to keep track of lots of belongings on the road. The secret is choosing one neutral color to build your wardrobe around; it can be black, navy, gray or khaki, and then you can limit shoes and bags and add color and personality with blouses, jewelry and scarves. Comfort is key too. Great flat shoes, blazers, pants and blouses that don’t wrinkle and can go from day into night. I cannot live without a great shawl for the plane and cooler evenings.
Q: What are your secrets for surviving long flights?
I have three tips for conquering jet-lag. The first is eat as little as possible on the plane. A stewardess on a Singapore to NY flight, which was the longest commercial flight when it ran, taught me that. She explained that your digestion slows down at high altitude so if you eat on the plane, you will feel more exhausted when you land. I drink tons of water to combat dehydration. Lastly, I start to reset my sleep and eating schedule to the time zone that I am traveling to as soon as I am on the plane or even a few days before I leave.
Q: Your office is beautiful. What inspired the design?
Thank you. We wanted the space to celebrate discovery and the diversity of places where we plan trips, so we have photos taken in India, Africa, Italy and other places by me and other staff members as well as finds we have brought back from our travels. We worked with two wonderful designers from 5N1 Design, who channeled our passion for travel. For instance, they created shelves in the front foyer from vintage suitcases, and now they contain jars from Morocco, shells from Fiji and busts from Botswana. The wallpaper in my office was based on a Turkish tile. We have an incredible staff with a passion for travel, discovery and delight, and we want everyone to feel inspired, not just when they are on the road but every day. For this reason, we incorporate regular staff seminars (we call them teach-ins), group meals with cuisines from around the world, and staff outings that are focused on art or community service.
Q: What are your favorite places to visit? And why?
I have lived in Paris and will never tire of its beauty. I also love being on safari in Africa because being in the bush forces you to be hyperaware of your surroundings, nature and the present. And I love a new discovery, whether it is close to home—I fell in love with Nashville this year—or far away. I am planning to go to the Seychelles this year for the first time.
Q: What’s the next hot spot?
There are so many places experiencing sudden popularity. Cuba, Cartagena, Iceland, Sri Lanka, Nashville and Biarritz are some that are generating lots of new interest.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self?
Seek out jobs where you will have access to a mentor or role model who will be honest, fair and demanding and where you like and respect the team. You will learn infinitely more surrounded by capable and generous people than in a cut-throat environment. Take risks and don’t be afraid of making mistakes, because they are the best way to learn about yourself and your talents. Listen to criticism; there is usually a real gift in it. Remember that no one but you manages your career, so don’t wait for opportunities; make them.
Have all of the fun with none of the stress: join Indagare here for help planning your next dream trip.