Debbi Kickham: Luxury Travel Writer, Author and Editor

 

Angela Tuell: 0:05

Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those reports on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes. Today we are talking with Debbi Kickham. Debbi is a luxury travel writer for Forbes, senior editor at Honeymoons.com, luxury travel style and beauty editor at Westfair and luxury writer for Travel Curator online magazine. Early in her career she was the editor of Robb report, and is the author of three books with a soon to be fourth. Debbi covers international beauty, style, fashion, spas, wellness, travel, honeymoons, cruises and shopping. Hello, Debbi.

Debbi Kickham: 0:59

Good morning, Angela. How are you?

Angela Tuell: 1:01

I’m doing great. Looking forward to learning more about you.

Debbi Kickham: 1:06

Okay, well, I’m delighted to tell you all about my life as a travel writer, because it has been a fabulous career. And I’ll just say upfront, it’s very funny. Many, many years ago, I met another travel writer. And she looked at me and she said, you know, Debbi, when you are a luxury travel writer, you live the life of a part time millionaire. And I said, You know what, you got that right. And that has been my life for the past 40 years.

Angela Tuell: 1:34

That’s pretty incredible. And like you said, You’ve been a writer and editor for 40 years with quite an extensive career. You know, what have you enjoyed most?

Debbi Kickham: 1:43

Well, many things. Um, let me see, you know, for me, I love going on spas, going on spa trips, and writing about health and beauty and wellness. I actually want to get to do even more of that. But I have been like to just some of the world’s best spas all around the globe. And that has been an absolute thrill because I’m very, very focused on in my own personal life, on good health and nutrition and staying fit and feeling good, and positivity and all of that. And so, I’ve been able to go practically every year to for example,

Angela Tuell: 2:21

There are give and takes for everything. You know, Canyon Ranch, which for me is like one of the world’s best spas. I’ve been able to go to Mira Val, which is, that’s like one of Oprah’s favorite spas with fabulous beds. I’ve been to spas all over Hawaii, all throughout Europe. The other thing is that, you know, luckily, my husband Bill and I and I’ll tell you more about our travel writing career together, we have been able to go on small luxury ships. So we’re not talking these mass market 10,000 ships, we only cruise on ultra luxury luxurious ships like Regent Seven Seas Cruises, or Viking or Paul Gauguin. And it’s just ultra ultra luxury. And I love it because it’s very luxurious, you usually have a butler to do things for you. All kinds of low fat food and cuisine. So I can watch my diet, there’s a gym on board, there’s great excursions, you meet fabulous people. So, you know, when I got into my career, I said, you know, when I grow up, I want to have a great job. I want to have great clothes from all around the world. And I want to have a great husband and I got all three. Very, very lucky. God willing, I have been able to create the dream career of, just the career of my dreams. And you know, it’s funny, we travel all the time, and we cannot have anything in our life with the letter P. And that means no pets, no plants and no parenting because we’re always traveling somewhere fabulous. you have it all but some of those things you don’t have. So it’s usually Yeah. Because I was going to say what advice do you have for others? Like how did you get to this point?

Debbi Kickham: 4:16

Well, I’ll tell you very briefly, um, when I was in eighth grade, um, at the Catholic school that I went to, I won first prize in a writing and speaking award. And everybody told me I was just a natural communicator and a natural writer. And to be honest, I had read the Diary of Anne Frank, when I was about in fifth or sixth grade and I had started my own diary and my own journal and I just knew I was going to be a writer. And when I was in high school, I was an intern at an entertainment in the arts newspaper. And then in college, I got an internship at Channel Five in New York, which was a really, really big deal. And I knew that, I always knew I was going to be, you know, a writer. Then I went to graduate school at BU and got my master’s in broadcasting. And then I realized what I really wanted to do was be an advertising copywriter. So I was an advertising copywriter for four years while I did stand up comedy at night.

Angela Tuell: 5:27

Really?

Debbi Kickham: 5:28

Yeah, I was a stand up comic, on open mic nights for two years. And that was a fabulous experience, because I think laughing is very, very important. And I wrote my first book. It’s called I love men in tasseled loafers and it is the saga of my dating disasters, as seen through the eyes of a woman who loves shoes. And I talked to all about the men and the shoes that I dated. And that is really when I got into writing from firsthand personal experience. And I would have to say, That’s my forte, with every article I write, whether it’s for forbes.com, or Westfair, or Travel Curator, I have had so many unbelievable experiences as a writer, and I thank God every day with such gratitude that I get to do the things that I do, and have these experiences and get paid for them. Then I got my job at the Robb report, which was back in 1984. And I’ll tell you that the Robb report had moved to the little town where I had been working as an advertising copywriter, because when I got out of graduate school, I couldn’t get a job in Boston, I couldn’t, nobody would hire me. So I took this little advertising job at the small firm. And the Robb report had just been bought out by a very wealthy entrepreneur in Acton, Massachusetts, and the Robb report, nobody had even heard of it at that point. And this wealthy guy bought it and moved it to Acton. And I did a lot of creative things to get a foot in the door. And they offered me a job there as an editor. And that was the day my life began. I was already like, in my 30s, and I became an editor at a major international magazine when nobody had ever even heard of it. It was really incredible, because our team really helped put it on the map. And I was just a natural for interviewing people. And then I had done work a little work, well because I had worked at Channel Five and done some work in television, they made me the magazines on air media spokesperson. So I made all the TV appearances, especially when we did our Christmas feature of expensive gifts, which was sort of like the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog.

Angela Tuell: 8:04

Okay.

Debbi Kickham: 8:05

And I would work on that, that I like oversaw that whole thing. And then I would go on TV and bring all the gifts, and like talk to Regis Philbin, you know, for 20 minutes on air. And it was just an amazing, amazing experience

Angela Tuell: 8:17

Oh wow. when I got my job there. And I’ll tell you something, it was around 1985 When I was at the Robb report that I was on a press trip and I went to the St. James club in Antigua. And I was in this really, really gorgeous villa on beach it’s spectacularly beautiful. And I was all alone. And I said to myself, you know, it would really be my dream, if I could do this for the rest of my life and travel to these beautiful places because I know the invitations are gonna come in. And I pray that God sends me someone that I can share this life with. And we can travel the world together. And basically like, you know, make every trip, every press trip, every business trip to make it into a second honeymoon. And you know what, that’s exactly what happened. I met my husband Bill. And when I was working at this advertising agency, I took a walk every day at lunch and I prayed and I prayed for the man that I was going to marry. I didn’t know his name. I didn’t know God would send him to me, but I just always prayed for him and I said dear God to send him to me sooner as opposed to later. God sure did. And I have had like unbelievable miracles in my life, and Bill and I have had incredible miracles and incredible trips that it has just been that part of my professional life has been very charmed. I have been very, very lucky. And I have – Amazing.

Debbi Kickham: 10:00

And I never stop working. I work every single day, and I still do, and I’m going to be 70 next year.

Angela Tuell: 10:06

That’s amazing too. Could you tell us a little bit more about the outlets you’re currently writing for and the topics that are your favorite?

Debbi Kickham: 10:12

Sure. Well, of course I write for forbes.com about all aspects of wanderlust and wellness travel. I also write for Westfair, which is a luxury business journal basically set in Greenwich, Connecticut, which is just dripping with wealth. I contribute to Travel curator, which is a new online luxury magazine. And I’m writing for a new hospitality newsletter called Be our guest. So with all of those outlets I write about, well, one of the things that I love to write about is like fabulous shopping around the world. And I have like discovered so many incredible things. I’ve written about a lot of these for Westfair. One of my favorite things is Canfora Capri sandals. These are the the Jackie Kennedy sandals that she made famous back in the 60s when she was first lady. And I discovered this little shop when I was in Capri. And I’ve been there many, many times, done many interviews. And the fabulous thing is you can go to Capri and buy these Canfora, you know, jeweled sandals, or you can buy them online. And that’s one of my favorite things to write about is shopping, you know shopping like fabulous shopping things that you can find around the world. I write a lot about luxury beauty products from around the world. For a lot of these outlets, because I think that’s just a really fun thing to discover. Like when I go to a place I love to go to the pharmacy, like especially in France, and discover soaps and beauty creams, and things like that.

Angela Tuell: 12:01

Yeah.

Debbi Kickham: 12:01

And I’ll have to say one of my favorite things that I’ve discovered in Hawaii, there’s a company called Hawaiian body products, they make a product called Ola, O-L-A and, like, they make just gorgeous, you know, things like passionfruit body butter, which is you just can’t find anywhere else. So I write a lot about you know, shopping, beauty, lifestyle, style, fashion and accessories. Those are the things, the types of things that I do for Westfair. Although for Forbes, it’s really more about like luxury hotels, luxury trends. You know, first class airlines, first class packages.

Angela Tuell: 12:52

Okay.

Debbi Kickham: 12:53

But you want to hear some of my other fashion and beauty secrets that I’ve discovered around the world?

Angela Tuell: 12:59

Sure.

Debbi Kickham: 13:00

Okay. Well, besides the Canfora Capri sandals, there is this company called French Kande that I discovered and candy is spelled K-A-N-D-E.

Angela Tuell: 13:12

Okay.

Debbi Kickham: 13:13

And this is a this is a company that everybody who loves France should know about because the woman that owns the company, goes to France and scours all the flea markets, and she buys all these medallions, like in the Porte de Clignancourt. And these like French medallions were very, very ubiquitous in France in the 60s, she buys them all up, covers them in gold, add pearls, and they’re so gorgeous that Coco Chanel would lust after them or Marie Antoinette and I write about that product all the time. These jewels, this jewelry because, you know, because there were so many francophiles out there of which I am one. Another great product, another great beauty product that I have found that I always write about. It’s this company called Jet Set candy. They make travel charms from around the world. So you can get like 200 Passport charms, airport charms, you can get like a little mini vespa from Italy, you can get a mini bar of chocolate Toblerone. You can get a little New York taxi cab with moving wheels, palm trees and these are all like in gold and you can make them into a travel charm bracelet. Like I love discovering this stuff and I’ll tell you I am never happiest when, like, I go out somewhere and I’m wearing my you know my Tahitian black pearls with my my Jet set candy necklace and my little dress from France and my Capri sandals and my handbag from Italy and I’m really into all of that.

Angela Tuell: 14:55

That’s awesome. We will definitely link to those things in our show notes as well for those who are interested. You know, I really wanted to ask you that, luxury is so subjective, you know, different from person to person, how do you define luxury and for your outlets?

Debbi Kickham: 15:10

You know, um, for me what luxury is, is meticulous service and attention to detail without excess. And, and you know, sometimes it’s very hard to describe, but you know it when you see it, you know it when you feel it. And for me, for example, for me, an ultimate luxury is like to be in a hotel, a beautiful hotel, and take a nap in the middle of the afternoon on 800 thread count sheets in a beautiful room with flowers, knowing that there’s a delicious meal ahead of me later on, and maybe a Nutella crepe for dessert. And that’s for me, you know, a great luxury. It’s hard to define sometimes, but I’ll tell you another one of my favorite luxuries. And when people asked me like, What is the ultimate thing for you in terms of a luxury? I have to tell you, it’s staying in an overwater bungalow at a Sandals all inclusive resort. Have you ever, have you ever stayed in an overwater bungalow?

Angela Tuell: 16:22

I have not. It is on my bucket list.

Debbi Kickham: 16:24

Oh my god, Angela. I have stayed in several Overwater Bungalows, many of them at Sandals in Jamaica. And, you know, Sandals is great because it’s an all inclusive luxury resort. And let me tell you something, once you stay and I tell my readers this all the time. Once you stay at an all inclusive resort that offers luxury and all your meals, all your snacks, all your drinks, even though I don’t even drink, that is a real game changer. And they have overwater bungalows. Now, I’ve also stated overwater Bbungalows in Bora Bora in the lagoon. And I’m telling you – it is, you, everyone must must do that at least one time in their lifetime, at least for one night because it is so beautiful. It is so – you are just two very well cared for castaways. They give you everything: there’s steps into the water, there’s glass panels in the floor. And oh, and I neglected to say I’m a senior editor at Honeymoons.com. And so I just edited a story like about the 25 World’s Best Overwater Bungalows, and so if anybody wants to go to honeymoons.com and Google the 25, you know, world’s best overwater bungalows, you can see where all of them are. But that really, really is the ultimate, to do that. To me that’s the ultimate luxury. Especially like when you have a butler and then you have a tube and you can just you know, sit in your tube in the water and you know, have lunch on your patio and get a massage in your room and oh my god, it’s –

Angela Tuell: 18:04

You’re definitely making me want, I want to do that for sure. Right this minute. You know, your trips all sounds so fabulous. Have you had any that didn’t go as planned? Because when you travel that’s usually what happens.

Debbi Kickham: 18:18

Yeah, oh, yes. Well, you know, I’ve definitely had things go wrong. Um, you know, I was going to Canyon Ranch a couple of months ago, and I missed my connecting flight in Dallas Fort Worth, and spent the night at the airport, you know, like everybody else. And I’ve certainly had things go wrong like that. And you have to expect that, or, you know, you I have a confirmed assignment and I’m on a press trip. And, you know, something pulls through and then I have to scramble and get more assignments. But, you know, I mean, I typically whenever I take a trip, I usually have three or four assignments in hand. I, you know, I tried to get as much out of a trip as possible, but nothing’s ever really, really I can’t say that anything is ever really gone wrong. You know? Yes, flight delays, you know, yes, you know, one hour trips turning into nine hours but you just kind of have to make the best of it know that it goes with the territory.

Angela Tuell: 19:27

Yeah. What is the best way for PR professionals to pitch you story ideas? And, and talking about, you know, hosted trips, what your requirements are as well?

Debbi Kickham: 19:35

Well, you know, people can email me. I’m open to emails, I don’t want to get phone calls or text messages. You know, they should email me and I really only do like I don’t go to cold weather resorts. I like beach resorts, luxury beach resorts, and I like to focus on luxuries, spas, wellness, and things that tend to have a spiritual nature. I actually just wrote a very good article for Forbes about transcendent travel and wellness travel. I don’t think people realize it. But this year, according to the global wellness Institute, transcendent and wellness travel is going to reach the $1 trillion mark. I wrote about MycoMeditations in Jamaica, which is a psilocybin retreat. And it’s basically the gold standard. And I talk a lot about, you know, what, what is going to be happening right now. Because people, everybody who’s traveling wants to feel better, get better, have a good experience, get rest, get sleep. But you know, now, people want more than just a wellness and a spa vacation. They’re looking for something deeper, and something more intense.

Angela Tuell: 20:55

Yes. You know you mentioned, it’s sort of being a personal mission to stay in incredible shape. And as you’ve traveled the world, and at your age, as you mentioned, is quite impressive. You know, what are some of your tips for others?

Debbi Kickham: 21:08

Oh, sure. Well, yeah, it’s really importantly, you know, for me, because you know, I have bought beautiful clothes in my travels all over the world. And they’re a size four, and I’m going to be 70. And I want to make sure I can still fit in these to the end of my life, because it really does bring me a lot of joy to wear something fabulous. So I’m, I try to work out as much as possible. And I try to work out at least a half an hour to an hour every day, no matter where I am in the world. Either I walk or I go to the gym, or I have a Jane Fonda Workout that I’ve been doing for 40 years, like every single day. Yeah, and one of my favorite things that I travel

Angela Tuell: 21:47

Wow. with is a product called New fix, N-U-F-I-X. It’s a really, really, really good protein powder, it’s all organic. And I travel with that. And like when I need a snack, you know, I just have to add some water and you know, it’s a good snack before a workout, it’s a good snack between meals, if you want something healthy with a piece of fruit. You know, so like, I just do everything I can to make sure I have fitness and exercise in my life every single day when I travel. And you know, once I was in Thailand, and I’ll never forget, and I’ve done this before, I got back to my room at 11 o’clock at night after a really, really big meal. And I thought, Oh my God, I’ve got to do something. And I jumped roped in my room without the jump rope. Yeah.

Debbi Kickham: 22:45

So I got that exercise. And then I went into the shower, didn’t turn the water on, but they had like four steps down into the shower. So I just walked up and down those four steps for about an hour to get in a workout. So –

Angela Tuell: 23:00

You can always do it, right?

Debbi Kickham: 23:02

Always choose it, you know, um, if you have the the willing to do it, you know, you can always find a way. You can always find a way.

Angela Tuell: 23:14

That’s great advice. I also want to talk about you being an author. You had mentioned one book, you’ve written three over your career. And you have a fourth coming out. Can you give us a preview?

Debbi Kickham: 23:24

Yes, um, well, you know, I have written my book manuscript to my fourth book. It’s called The 36 miracles, and I’m seeking a publisher. But my book is an incredible true story of what happened to me when I was getting married at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in in Hawaii, on Oahu in the year 2000. A little background, my late father, who died when I was nine had been stationed on Oahu during World War II and had photos taken at the Royal Hawaiian. And when he, and he loved Hawaii and always wanted to bring our family there. But then he died when I was a little girl. So when my, my wonderful husband Bill and I got married, we decided to honor him and get married at the Royal Hawaiian because we loved that hotel so much. And I said to my girlfriend, you know, my father is going to send me a spiritual message. He’s going to send me a message to let me know he sees me. He approves of my marriage and he loves me. Well, Angela, I have to tell you, my late father sent me not one, not two, not three, but four spiritual messages of an hour while I was at the Royal Hawaiian hotel and the Mallanna next door when I got married. And, you know, it just left us all in tears and I have been telling that story to people for years. And they either cry or they get goosebumps. And so I’ve written a manuscript about it. It’s a very spiritual book about, it’s an incredible true love story about miracles, being spiritual and making miracles happen in your life, and it’s called the 36 miracles.

Angela Tuell: 25:20

Awesome. We will watch for it to be to be at once you have a publisher. What else is next for you? You know, what are you working on currently that you can share?

Debbi Kickham: 25:29

Well, I want to write more about transcendent travel and wellness travel, I’m looking for, you know, more, more writing about that, because that’s personally meaningful to me. There’s certainly some places that I want to go back to. One of my favorite places in Maui is the Wailea Beach Resort. Which I really, really love and would love to go back there. I have two favorite hotels in Paris that I would love to go back to. One is the Ritz Paris, which I love. And the Foshan hotel is really, really famous because it has the world’s best minibar. It’s not just a refrigerator. It’s like a huge, huge cabinet filled with fabulous complimentary snacks. It’s a fabulous hotel, I want to go back there. And then I love to write about Cape Cod, because I live in Boston. And my husband, Bill and I are always going down the cape. And what we do is we go down to the lower cape, we go to Truro in Wellfleet. And I’ve written a lot of articles about that area of the cape. It’s part of the Cape Cod National Seashore that John F Kennedy created. And I just want to give a shout out to my two favorite restaurants on the lower cape and Wellfleet. One is called Moby Dick’s for like the world’s best seafood and one is called PB Boulangerie, which is an upscale destination restaurant that like people from New York and Washington will drive to PB Boulangerie just to go to that restaurant for a meal, it’s that good. With all of my trips, and you know, with everybody who wants to travel, what does everybody need? Everybody needs a passport. I have found in all of my research that the best place to get your passport, ordered or renewed, at the most affordable price, in the easiest way on an app – it is so great – it’s so, it’s a website called it’seasy.com. And I just used it and it is just, I can’t even tell you with all the problems people have now getting passports, that this is like what I view is one of the, one of the very best places to go to renew your passport. So you can have all these fabulous travels.

Angela Tuell: 27:57

Right. And you have given us so many fabulous tips and things to check out. I really appreciate it. How else can our listeners connect with you online?

Debbi Kickham: 28:07

Well, you know, one great way that people can contact me is through Instagram. My my handle is @DebbiKickham. And it’s just spelled D-E-BB-I K-I-C-K-H-A-M as in Mary. They can comment and they can message me there, you know, via Instagram, and and I’m on Instagram a lot. That’s a really good way for people to connect to me. And in terms of PR people, they can just pitch me via email.

Angela Tuell: 28:39

Great. Thank you so much, Debbi.

Debbi Kickham: 28:42

Angela, thank you. Tt’s been an absolute, absolute joy to talk to you about all my travels.

Angela Tuell: 28:49

That’s all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We’d love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I’m your host Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.

In today’s episode, Debbi Kickham discusses luxury travel and fashion, highlighting unique discoveries and experiences. Debbi is a former editor of Robb Report, current senior editor at Honeymoons.com and luxury travel contributor to Forbes.com, WestFair and Travel Curator. 

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