Proust Travel Questionnaire: Mollie Chen, Birchbox

- Joy Pecknold, Passport blog editor

At Condé Nast Traveler, Miami-native Mollie Chen worked the beauty and spas beat, getting a crash course in peels and developing an addiction to serums. Now at Birchbox, she helps bridge the gap between women and the beauty world. She shares a few beauty secrets in our travel-inspired questionnaire.

The in-flight film you hope for: Iron Man. When I’m on a plane, even the lamest rom-com can make me weepy so I stick to light-hearted action flicks. What’s better than Robert Downey Jr. playing a degenerate super hero?

The last book you took on holiday: I always pack two—one on my iPad and one real book. Recently, I read The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht, which was wonderfully rich, and A Most Wanted Man by John Carre, a classic espionage caper.

You tend to pack too many…: Silk dresses. I figure, they fold up small so why not throw in an extra one or two? I swear by Yumi Kim’s printed numbers.

Your idea of travel happiness: An outdoor market filled with fresh produce stalls and food stands selling local treats.

Your idea of travel misery: Miles of chain shops and restaurants, with not a local in sight.

Your favorite quality in a hotel: A stylish bar, preferably with a view. Also, super plush sheets and fun toiletries (Miller Harris or Molton Brown, please).

What do you appreciate most in a travel partner? Patience.

What is your greatest extravagance while abroad? Food, in all forms. Souvenirs, snacks, dinners, wine.

What is your favorite journey to take? I love being near or on the water. I’ve always wanted to charter a boat with friends and sail around the Mediterranean. Someone else would need to catch the fish, naturally.

What is your greatest fear abroad? I’d say getting lost and not being able to communicate, but with iPhones I feel like that’s a non-issue.

Which historical world traveler do you most identify with? She’s not quite a historic world traveler, but I love Julia Child’s letters from France because they practically burble with her enthusiasm and love of food. She reveled in the sights, smells and tastes.

What is the travel habit you most deplore in yourself? Setting expectations too high and being frustrated when things don’t live up exactly.

What is the travel habit you most deplore in others? Reluctance to try new things.

In what travel situations do you lie? Only when I was a travel editor and needed to be anonymous. I had to make up stories about why I was conspicuously alone at romantic hideaways and ultra-luxe resorts.

When and where were you last happiest? I just came back from visiting family in Hawaii. I love everything about the islands—the crazy Jurassic Park trees, the spectacular coastline, and the local culture (Spam musubi and all). My favorite thing to do while I’m there is lay on my aunt’s dock, right on the ocean in between Diamond Head and Koko Head. I could sit out there reading for hours (and often do).

What is your most treasured take-along? Not treasured, but practical, it’s good lip balm and hand cream to stave off plane dryness. My latest discovery is Lollia’s shea butter hand cream in “Classic Petal” and Sara Happ’s The Lip Slip.

What is your travel motto? Still working on it.

Follow Mollie on Twitter: @molliechen

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