Introducing this week’s girl crush: travel and fashion writer, Monica Mendal. As a New York-based writer, editor, and brand consultant, Monica adventures to sunny destinations for a living (the dream, right?), regularly contributing to the likes of Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest and Travel + Leisure among others. A quick scroll through her Instagram will transport you from one far-flung locale to the next – Jaipur? Check! Jamaica? Obviously! Barranquilla? Duh! – and you’ll also notice her jealousy-inducing collection of charming swimsuits and treasured straw baskets.
Monica was most recently a fashion editor at Glamour before leaving Condé Nast full-time and writing freelance. It wasn't until then that she realized she could combine her interests in both fashion and travel. She credits her success to staying true to herself and being kind to everyone she's met along the way (case in point: kindness goes a long way!).
Monica counts Cartagena, Mexico City and India among her favorites and next month, she’ll be traveling to Bahia, in Brazil's northeast, for the first time. Her itinerary? Beach town hopping of course, starting in Salvador then heading south and finishing in the little bohemian town of Trancoso (you heard it here first: go now before it becomes the next Tulum!). We’ve been dreaming about Brazil lately, so who better to curate a stylish edit for a balmy December in South America than Monica? Ahead of her trip, we spoke with her about what she's packing, her career, favorite destinations, and her idea of a perfect summer getaway: “ease, natural beauty, a warm culture and good company”. Can we please tag along?
TELL US ABOUT YOUR UPBRINGING - WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I grew up in Swampscott, MA, a charming little beach town north of Boston that will eternally hold a special place in my heart. Though I was raised by Jewish Colombian parents, and a dad who was especially spontaneous when it came to traveling. He’d decide on a Thursday that we needed a change of scenery, so I got used to missing out on a lot of typical high school weekend activities (football games, school dances, etc). But I never complained. I’m a lot like him; I’m very curious and spontaneous and love exploring different places. I’ve always considered myself a citizen of the world.
WHAT MADE YOU GET INTO TRAVEL AND FASHION WRITING?
Fashion and travel were my first loves! The travel was just something I had loved doing from a young age. But I knew I would always have a career in fashion. I deferred my first semester at college and interned in New York City. I wanted a jump-start. After that, I interned in fashion every summer (in PR and Editorial) and after some pretty great summer internships, I landed jobs in the fashion departments at Vogue, GQ, and Glamour where most recently I was a fashion market editor. It wasn’t until I went freelance that I realized I could combine my interests in both fashion and travel. It was my own travels and meeting fashion designers from all over the world over the course of my career that made me realize the two go hand-in-hand… at least they do for me.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROUDEST CAREER MOMENT SO FAR?
Oh, this is impossible to answer! There are so many frivolous moments I’m proud of. But mostly, it’s that I’ve remained true to myself throughout the entirety of my career. Even through the hard times (and there have been many!) I’d like to think I’ve been kind to everyone I’ve ever worked with. I’ve always believed that no matter your position in this industry (or any, really) it's so important to stay humble and be kind to everyone who crosses your path, no matter where they rank! I couldn’t possibly have moments of pride without all of the people that have helped me get here.
YOU TRAVEL A LOT - MAYBE MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE WE KNOW! WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE DESTINATIONS?
I have so many favorites, just for different reasons. I’ll always have a love affair with Cartagena because it’s a place that will always feel like home and I have so many happy memories there. India was so special; you have to experience it to understand what I mean. It’s like no place I’ve ever been and I’d even venture to say it’s like no place I’ll ever go. Mexico City is also the coolest. Everything about it: the people, the art, the food, the culture, the nightlife. I hope I get the opportunity to live there some day to explore it more in depth. Malta and Curaçao are also at the top of the list.
WE WANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING TRIP TO BRAZIL NEXT MONTH, WHERE YOU'LL BE GETTING SOME MUCH-NEEDED SUN. WHAT ARE YOUR ABSOLUTE MUST-DO'S WHILE THERE?
I’m so excited! I’ve been wanting to visit Brazil for so long. I’ve never been but I already feel so connected to what I do know about the culture. It’s just so happy and loud and colorful! I’ll be traveling around Bahia, starting in Salvador (there’s a new LATAM direct flight from Miami to Salvador which usually means a particular city is going to get popular soon). After Salvador, I’ll head down to Trancoso for the new year, with a few spontaneous stops in between, I’m sure. I’m most looking forward to my stay at Casa de Perainda in Trancoso. It’s the cutest little hotel with a few individualized casitas so it feels like your own cozy paradise.
WHAT ESSENTIALS ARE YOU PACKING?
One of the things that's always attracted me to Brazil is how loud and energetic the culture is – and the fashion is no exception. Brazilians are just effortlessly cool and fun. So I'll be packing an unapologetic mix of bold prints, bright colors, and cheeky bikinis! For any trip less than two weeks, pack everything in a carry-on. This makes moving around totally stress-free. You always need way less than you think you do, and if you forget something, it gives you an excuse to shop.
SHOP MONICA'S EDIT