Photograph by Peter Adams
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Katherine Maher.
Photograph by Peter Adams
TravelFar & Away

Globalist Katherine Maher

The executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation was on the road 200 days last year. Here’s how the 35-year-old travels.

Far & Away, from National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal.

In a given month, I might fly to New York to meet with the Metropolitan Museum of Art about making its collection more accessible online to Wikipedia, then head to Tunisia to meet members of the Wikipedia community. A big reason why I spend so much time on road is that we support nearly 300 languages. We’re committed to the idea that Wikipedia should be this essential knowledge infrastructure for the world.

I used to be really aggressive—walk off the plane and go straight into meetings. Because we’re a nonprofit, we travel economy class everywhere; getting off a long flight can be tough. I’ve learned to build in a little time for recovery. If I need a nap, that’s OK. You have to be nice to yourself.

One of the first things I do in a city is go for a run. It’s a great way to orient yourself—even if it’s just for a mile or two. And I usually listen to NPR podcasts. Those tend to keep me company, although for the most part, I have a no-earphones approach to travel. I think when you wear earphones you’re not able to see as much of a place.

The Walker Hotel, New York City.

I’m not super loyal to any hotel brands. I often stay at the Hilton London Bankside near the Tate Modern or in New York I like the Walker Hotel, not far from Union Square Park. I like a hotel to be well located. For me that means close to a neighborhood I want to visit, rather than one that’s central.

I have a super beat-up Samsonite Spinner carry-on. The handles ripped off and the wheels are destroyed. I’m definitely in the market for a new one, but I haven’t quite brought myself to make the investment.

A soft spiky massage ball is great for long flights.

I fly with an eye mask from Bucky. It’s heavy, filled with buckwheat seeds, and made of a silky material. I’m asleep five minutes after I put it on. And I bring a soft, spiky massage ball; it’s nice during a long flight—and after a run.

Kenneth Cole Kalvin sneakers.

When I get dressed for a flight, I walk the line between relaxed and presentable. I once got off in Nairobi wearing very casual clothes, and I ran into people from the State Department, which was awkward. These days, I fly in comfortable jeans, a nice cashmere sweater and leather Kenneth Cole Kalvin sneakers.

My phone is loaded with apps from the airlines. I use TripIt for my itineraries and Oanda for currency conversions. Those are essential.

Beirut is one of my favorite cities. I like the culture, the activism, the tension between the new and the old—and I don’t mean the mosques and the high rises. I mean between young and older generations. It has accepted a huge number of Syrian refugees in recent years. It’s a fascinating place to be.

I also find myself in Berlin a lot. It’s a very important city for our community, but it’s also a really fun city, with a big arts and creative presence.

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City.

Similarly, I love Mexico City. Its food scene is obviously phenomenal, and it’s another a vibrant, young, interesting city that’s constantly remaking itself.

Culinary traditions of East and West meet in Naschmarkt, Vienna.

I try to spend as much time eating and exploring a city through its food. Naschmarkt in Vienna is fantastic. In one place you can eat Balkan food, Bavarian-influenced food, Turkish food.

I have these beautiful rugs from Adnan & Hasan in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. They were a real stretch for me at the time. Every morning when I wake up at home in San Francisco, I look at them. They remind me of all the wonderful places I’ve had the opportunity to visit.

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