Want to know how to travel in style, just like the pros? We check in with frequent fliers to find out how often they fly, their favorite destinations and what they never leave home without.
Name: Yulia Denisyuk
Occupation: Travel photographer and writer
Hometown: Tartu, Estonia
Residence: New York City
College: Washington University in St Louis
College major: MBA in Marketing
Facebook: In Search of Perfect
Short bio: I am a passionate travel photographer and writer. An ethnic Russian-Chuvash, I was born in Kazakhstan, grew up in Estonia and now live in the US.
I’ve started traveling solo at the age of five because my family was scattered across the four corners of the former USSR. The confusing geography of my family settlements ensured I wouldn’t stop traveling ever since. A four-year stint with the U.S. Navy has brought me to the arid fields of Afghanistan and Iraq, while an MBA program has taken me to the skyscrapers of Japan and the rural homes of Northern India.
I’ve traveled the world extensively and eventually turned to a career of travel writing and photography. When not traveling, I usually hang out in New York or Chicago reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita” with my goldendoodle Misha by my side.
How often do you fly? 2-3 times a month.
How many countries have you been to? 42 countries.
How many continents have you been to? Four continents.
Earliest travel memory: Saying goodbye to my mom and holding a stewardess’ hand as I leave Estonia for a solo flight to Kazakhstan at the age of five.
Favorite American city: New York City.
Favorite international city: Istanbul.
Least favorite country: I don’t quite have one. I try to have an open mind and enjoy new experiences—good or bad—as they come my way. The closest I got to disliking a country was in Vietnam when my phone was snagged from my hand on a busy street in Saigon. About a week after the incident, meeting many nice people along the way, I fell for Vietnam.
I have no desire to go to: Back to corporate employment.
Friendliest people in the world: It would be a tie between the Indians, the Turks and the Moroccans.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Russia and China both have very unfriendly officers, in my experience.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Taj Mahal—even with all the visiting crowds, it is worth to see the ethereal beauty of the monument in person.
Favorite airline: Korean Air—even in economy class, their service is unmatched!
Favorite aircraft type: 787 Dreamliner—I love how spacious it feels.
Aisle or window: I always book a window so that I can take some photos while we fly.
Favorite airport lounge: Korean Air Business Lounge in Seoul—they have great espresso machines with unlimited access and comfortable seats perfect for lounging.
Favorite U.S. airport: Delta’s new terminal at LaGuardia. You can order a drink and a quite nice selection of food items from an iPad while you’re waiting at an airy bar with natural lighting.
Favorite international airport: Seoul-Incheon.
Favorite hotel: I mostly stay at Airbnbs, but recently I treated myself to a stay at the Starwoods luxury property on Crete: the Blue Palace Resort. It was a wonderful retreat, with a private beach, five-star dining options on property, and a five-minute walk to the nearby village of Plaka.
Favorite cruise line: I would take any cruise that the G Adventures team puts together—I love their experiences!
Favorite travel credit card: American Express Delta SkyMiles.
Favorite island: Santorini, Greece. I haven’t seen a blue sea of such intensity before or since.
Favorite beach: Koh Yao Noi, Thailand. I loved it for its secluded nature away from Phuket and Krabi partying crowds.
Favorite fancy restaurant: I’ve had an exquisite dining experience at Nomad in Marrakech overlooking the Rahba Kedima spice market.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Kobeyaki ramen noodle shop in Chelsea. Their pig belly ramen is the best I’ve had outside of Japan.
Favorite bar: The Press Lounge in Manhattan—it offers the most beautiful views of the city in my opinion, facing Times Square and the expanse of the city from north to south.
Favorite fruit: Pomelo, grapefruit’s bigger and sweeter cousin.
Favorite food: All types of Indian food, but my two favorites are chicken tikka masala and mutton rogan josh.
Least favorite food: Any kind of fast food. Also durian—I just can’t get over the smell!
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): In the air, a glass of red wine, preferably Spanish or Tuscan. On the ground, depending on the mood, it is going to be a refreshing wheat beer on a hot afternoon, a glass of Barolo with dinner or a Campari orange cocktail if I am going out with friends.
Favorite travel movie(s): Not a travel movie per SE, but the following three movies have made a deep impact on me and fueled my interest in and fascination with Asia: Hero, Memoirs of a Geisha and The Last Samurai.
Favorite travel show(s): Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. I enjoy his style of travel reporting: authentic, locally focused and raw.
Favorite travel book(s): “Geography of Bliss” by Eric Weiner. There are countries that consistently receive the highest scores on the WHO annual happiness report. Eric sets on a quest to find out why.
Right now I am reading: “The Best American Travel Writing 2015″
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Instagram! I get a lot of visual inspiration and insights on where I should head next from the app.
5 things you bring on a plane: I travel with a carry-on, so my necessities are always within reach. I do take out these five items as we take-off: a good book, a notebook, a large bottle of water, comfortable socks, and my camera!
What do you always seem to forget? Chargers…I’ve left behind my phone and camera chargers on multiple occasions. There always seem to be plenty of electronics shops at my destinations, so I have been saved each time!
What do you like least about travel? Going through the security lines.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? A new perfume. I love to change up the scents depending on destinations and I associate certain scents with certain countries. Smell is a powerful trigger of memory: If I want to experience India again for example, I use a bit of Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy perfume because that’s the scent I wore on my two-week Indian roadtrip in 2013.
Favorite travel app(s): Google Translate, Airbnb, Google Maps.
Most embarrassing travel moment: Driving a moped for the first time in Southern Thailand. I was lucky that the island I stayed on at the time had very few fellow motorists—otherwise I would have surely end up in an accident (indeed many visitors to Thailand do).
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Most of Russia! There are so many diverse regions to explore in Russia that a lifetime would not be enough.
Worst travel moment: Getting my phone stolen in Saigon, then dealing with unsympathetic police wee hours into the night while crying hysterically as if I was an inexperienced traveler.
What’s your dream destination? Antarctica—I hope to see the glaciers before they disappear.
Favorite travel charity: Rough Tours. It’s a Moroccan tour agency that organizes multiple tours across Morocco. Part of their proceeds go to help poor Berber communities in the country.
Best travel tip: Have an open mind and be flexible. Not everything will go according to plan (in fact a lot of times nothing will) and that’s ok. If you let travel take you, you’ll see that opening up to new experiences in strange environments does wonders to our mind and reinvigorates our spirit.