Back in February 2012, I received a copy of Chip Conley's enlightening book, Emotional Equations, which made me reflect on the one singular phenomena that we as humans can connect with—emotions. No matter where you travel in the world, you'll find people with similar feelings of happiness, love, fear, suffering, disappointment and joy.
Today, the author of the New York Times Bestseller, seasoned entrepreneur and world traveler, shared with me his thoughts on life, people and nature.
Dhana: In Emotional Equations, how do you address the fact that emotions are a common denominator that binds us together as a human species and transcends all geographical boundaries?
Chip Conley: Emotions are universal to the experience of being human, but very few of us ever took a class on emotions. One of the best experiences of travel is to be in a small village in Bhutan or in the highlands of Peru and meet locals and realize they have emotions just like me. I wrote the book because I felt like I needed an operating manual for understanding this most universal of human experiences.
Dhana: In the course of your life as an entrepreneur and Founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, what have you come to realize about people’s needs in terms of having a good time while traveling and staying in a place they do not call home? Do people have similar expectations irrespective of their ethnicity or country of origin? What are some interesting insights?
Chip Conley: People want to feel at home even when they're on the road, so that's why I enjoyed being the CEO of a hotel company for two dozen years. But, they also want a peak experience, something that will sear into their memory for a lifetime. To put it in Abraham Maslow terms, they want a peak experience and, as a hotelier, part of my job was to figure out what would be transformational for them and then try to deliver on that with my employees brainstorming with me as well.
Dhana: How has global travel impact your life? Are you a changed person with exposure to both developed and developing worlds, Eastern and Western Cultures? If so, in what ways?
Chip Conley: I was born in the shadow of Disneyland and was always fascinated by Walt Disney's ride, "It's a Small World." While it truly is a big world, the more we can see that the fundamentals of being human have a small variation from culture to culture, the more we have an understanding of each other. I've said that "peace through travel" is one way for hoteliers and travel execs to create a sense of mission in our industry. As a traveler myself, I love the sense of curiosity that comes up for me when I'm experiencing a new culture for the first time. That beginners mind is so refreshing.
Dhana: For people who are unable to travel extensively for economic and personal reasons, would you encourage people to explore, discover different people and places virtually – why?
Chip Conley: We're fortunate in the U.S. that we have so many pockets of international cultures in our backyards. Go experience the alleys of Chinatown. Go to a Greek festival in a local park. Experience Peruvian cuisine in a small cafe and talk with the owners. You don't have to jump on a plane to experience foreign cultures.
Dhana: How would you describe your connection with nature? What advice would you give parents to get their kids outdoors and in nature?
Chip Conley: This is where I get renewed. It's where some of my greatest epiphanies come from. It's where I find a sense of awe in the world such that I understand there's something so much bigger than me. And, that is truly a relief. I'd give the following advice to parents: at least twice per month, make sure your kids spend a minimum of two hours each time in nature and ask that they become as curious as possible and come back with three to five questions that you can look up on the internet together.