Jewelry can be a dirty business, but New York-based designer Monique Péan is helping green-up by using socially-conscious, sustainable materials—like recycled gold and conflict-free diamonds—in her luxury rings and things. A regular world traveler, she doles out gems in our Proust-inspired questionnaire.
The in-flight film you hope for: Gone With the Wind. I’ve actually never seen it. My husband got on a Delta flight and he got to see it, and I was like, ‘How come they didn’t have it when I went!’ So now every time I get on a plane, that’s what I look to see.
The last book you took on holiday: I just finished reading Steve Jobs’ biography and it was exceptional. I’d highly recommend it for anybody who wants to start a business or wants to learn more about a visionary.
You tend to pack too many…: Shoes, and nail polish. Because I’m constantly using my hands, I’m always giving myself manicures.
Your idea of travel happiness: A mix of relaxation and culture. I get very antsy if I’m on a beach and there’s not something that I can learn from my travels. So I can only really spend three days in a beach environment where I’m not learning. A place like Tulum is so interesting because then you can also visit the pyramids and learn about the Aztecs.
Your idea of travel misery: Being stuck in the Middle East in the airport for 72 hours. That was pretty miserable. I couldn’t get back. I guess a lot of people traveling from the Middle East back west purchase really large amounts of goods [to] bring back with them, which then bumps people off flights. So check-in early!
Your favorite quality in a hotel: Soft pillows? But the most incredible hotel I’ve ever been to is Fasano in São Paulo, and Rio—the organic food and the Italian food and the Caipirinhas. I think it’s the most incredible hotel in terms of the design and service. Also, right up there is Singita in South Africa. Going on safari is just a really amazing experience and Singita looks at it from a real educational perspective.
What do you appreciate most in a travel partner? Someone who loves to explore and immerse themselves in new cultures.
What is your greatest extravagance while abroad? Good wine, local wine. Local, organic food. I try to go to some of the top restaurants around the world. I think life is short so you’ve got to try and enjoy it.
What is your favorite journey to take? The most amazing place I’ve ever been is to visit the pyramids in Egypt, and I hope that the political situation improves soon so I can go back.
What is your greatest fear abroad? Not being able to show my appreciation for the local environment or local culture, or not being able to connect with locals. I think when you travel the world you have to experience the local way, otherwise you’re only seeing half of it.
Which historical world traveler do you most identify with? Jacques Cousteau. I think the Cousteaus are just incredible in that they interact in a very positive way with the oceans, environment and people that live around the world.
What is the travel habit you most deplore in yourself? I always pack last minute, I never plan in advance. And I refuse to check bags. I need to get to the point where I plan in advance. It’s like my flight leaves in two hours and I’m running and grabbing stuff.
What is the travel habit you most deplore in others? I think people who aren’t respectful of others around them or other cultures.
In what travel situations do you lie? I’m not a big liar, but I will try and do my best to get upgraded. Why not, right?
When and where were you last happiest? I went to Saudi Arabia in January. I went out to the desert, outside of Riyadh, with Princess Deena Abdulaziz. She and her husband the Sultan took us to see this fleet of snow white camels. It was one of the most beautiful and magical experiences I’ve had recently. It was pretty spectacular turning 360 degrees and not see a building, know there are Bedouins around you and just enjoy nature.
What is your most treasured take-along? I have a baby blanket and I’m proud of it. It’s about to be 31 years old like me. And it’s like the softest warmest thing ever, so no matter where you’re stranded you can always be comfy.
What is your travel motto? Live freely. Travel freely. Embrace.
Follow Monique on Twitter: @MONIQUE_PEAN