I have been looking forward to this interview for months. Tamara Lohan, founder of Mr & Mrs Smith is someone who I have admired for years, for her love of travel, passion for everything she does and entrepreneurial stance.
I grew up in Ibiza and from an early age I knew I was meant to travel. My parents divorced when I was young and my father moved back to the UK which meant I was on a flight often to go and see him – I was the kid with the lanyard round my neck. I always got taken to see the cockpit and the air hostesses were glamorous and so kind. I was hooked and my dream was to become an air hostess! The problem was that, with the education I had, there was no one encouraging me to be an ‘entrepreneur’ and the travel companies that existed at the time were somewhat uninspiring. So I started a career in marketing, travelling when I could until I met a nice young man who shared a passion for hotels. My passion is being on the move, always having some kind of travel in the diary (though the flip side to that is that I get depressed if I don’t have any travel to look forward to). Even now, after all the years of Mr & Mrs Smith, I get inspired by the places I see; by the hoteliers creating amazing and unique experiences. My pet hates: a hairdryer stuck to the wall; cookie-cutter hotels that are so bland in their design, style and service that they could be anywhere in the world.
What made you fall in love with travel?
The flying was the first thing that gave me the bug and still to this day I get excited walking into an airport. Those early flights in my formative years where I could be totally transported from one world to another. In fact, at university, I joined the air squadron and almost signed up to become an RAF pilot.
How has becoming a mother changed you, your relationships and career?
The biggest change I’ve seen in myself is that it’s forced me to be more patient – after all, there is no rushing a toddler who is trying get their own shoes on as you want to walk out the door. Every mother will know that feeling of wanting to just get on and do it for them contradicted with wanting your child become more independent. So I’ve become more patient with myself, too – I’ve come to terms with the fact that you cannot do it all, all of the time but that you cannot beat yourself up about that.
What has been your biggest challenge in your career?
Learning to say no. As an entrepreneur you tend to be positive with a ‘can do’ attitude but it means sometimes that you don’t focus on the real priorities. Personally, I find it hard to say no and I never like to let anyone down so once I’ve said I’ll do something I will always do it – to the detriment of my free time and stress levels! We’re lucky to have built a beautiful brand and that means lots of people want to work with us – again, this has meant learning to prioritise the opportunities that can really make the difference.
Where is the most beautiful place you have travelled to?
Asking me to pick one is like asking me to pick a favourite child… There are so many incredibly beautiful places out there, it all depends what experience you’re looking for. For example: the views from Post Ranch Inn in California make you feel like you can fly; I could spend days just staring at that view, just as I could at Awasi in Chile looking at the mountains across Patagonia. Ett Hem in Stockholm is probably the most stylish hotel I have been to in terms of interior design, but it’s a city hotels without views. The architecture at Alila Villas Uluwatu will make your jaw drop and there is probably no better place in the world for a sundowner than in their ‘birdcage’. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world to watch the Northern LIghts than looking through the moon window of Treehotel’s Blue Cone. I could go on and on, but basically each of our Smith hotels are like little gems: special and beautiful in their own unique way.
What does a hotel need to have, do or offer for you to really fall in love with it?
Again, there’s no one thing that I can point a finger at and say ‘that is it – have this and you will be perfect’. Creating a great boutique hotel means you have to look after 1,001 things and do them all well – the welcome you receive, the way the furnishings feel next to your skin, the smell in the corridors, the threadcount of the sheets, the lighting in the cosy corners, the music… All of these things (and many more) assault your senses when you walk into a hotel and getting any of them wrong can quickly ruin a mood.
You are always on the move travelling to wonderful stylish places! Where will your trip next trip be taking you?
My very next trip is to Sri Lanka – I’m taking the kids to search out some child-friendly options for Smith. As the children get older we need more from our holidays – we seek out places with activities (to satisfy their endless energy) and that bring us all closer to nature (it’s important for me to teach them the importance of conservation). I think Sri Lanka will definitely tick those boxes.
I love being nosy! What are your essential carry on products?
When it comes to travel I never leave the house without my Face Matters face cream or Dr Lipp lip balm – lifesavers on long flights. I’m also a big fan of my De Mamiel Altitude Oil, because we all know how dehydrating planes can be. Olivia von Halle is a wonderful designer and I have one of her silk eye masks that adds a little bit of luxury to my life.
What is your favourite gadget when you are on your travels?
Boring but practical – it’s a multi plug charger. Having one place for all gadgets to charge from means me not having to crawl around hotel rooms looking for plugs and having phones charging in different places, which always leads to forgetting one.
Many people these days struggle to maintain a good work-life balance. I know I have done in the past! What advice would you give someone who does not feel like they have it quite balanced?
I would tell them that they are not alone and that that’s not a bad thing. If you are always striving for a perfect balance you will beat yourself up every time you don’t achieve it and that’s not good for your own happiness. So give yourself a break and realise that most people out there are like swans: they may look cool calm and collected on the outside but underneath they are paddling away furiously, trying to hold it all together juggling school runs, packed lunches, playdates, meetings, interviews, etc….
How do you like to kick back and relax?
Sorry, relax? I’m not sure what you mean? How do you spell that?
And finally, I ask everyone this, who is your ultimate travel partner?
My family. I love the fact that my husband indulges my constant need to be on the move. He lets me be the control freak when I need to be but is as constantly invigorated by the experiences we share as I am. And through my two children I get to see the world anew and I get to go to places again which I wouldn’t have otherwise.