If this is your year to get back into seeing more of our wonderful world, then you're in luck. Lucy Jackson Walsh - seasoned and intrepid traveller, and co-founder of global travel company Lightfoot Travel, has given us her tips on the best places to visit near and far - from favourite destinations and fabulous hotels to her travel bucket list, thoughts on travelling responsibly, with children in tow and what's in her carry-on luggage...
Get ready to be excited about travel again!
Lucy Jackson Walsh with two of her three boys at Mont Saint-Michel, and during 'home schooling' at Noosa / Sunshine Beach in Australia
I’m a dreamer and a believer of learning through experiences. Those founding travels shape us into who we are and want to be, through the people we meet and the environments that we surround ourselves in.
Please tell us about your upbringing and connection with travel from an early age...
I’m a dreamer and a believer of learning through experiences. Those founding travels that shape us into who we are and want to be, through the people we meet and the environments that we surround ourselves in. I had a rooted upbringing between London and the South Downs in Sussex – surrounded by nature and water. It’s often these things that we went looking for on family holidays, whether taking the overnight trains to Provence in the South of France to stay with friends, frolicking on pedalo boats on lakes, biking through vineyards, or sailing holidays in Greece, Turkey and around the Med. Apart from trips to see family in New York, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I explored further afield, living in South America and travelling widely in Latin America that I caught the bug, travelling at any available holiday, working abroad and eventually in the travel industry after a brief stint in media and commercial espionage.
And what led you to set up Lightfoot Travel with your co-founders?
My travels finally culminated 15 years ago after a holiday scoping out a potential move to Asia where I traced some family roots to Hong Kong, working for another business and eventually setting up Lightfoot Travel there at the invitation of an old friend and colleague Nico Heath and his brother in law Simon Cameron – fellow founders and dear business partners.
What’s the ethos behind Lightfoot?
Authentic travel choices that suit the needs of our guests – we focus on the boutique hotels and villas with a deep understanding of hospitality from our Asian beginnings.
Some of Lucy's favourite places - Botswana/Kalahri Desert, Babylonstoren, South Africa & Zannier's Phum Baitang next to Siem Reap in Cambodia
What was your last trip/ most recent family holiday?
Ile de Re with my husband and 3 boys (6, 4 and 1 years old). We had a vintage road trip similar to my childhood down to the Loire Valley, then onto the coast where we rented bicycles, pottered around the oyster farms and brocante/village markets, sourcing baguettes, the best cheeses and a melange of meats.
What’s your next planned trip?
Now that Hong Kong is open again, I will be planning a trip out to see the team there soon and combine with our other offices in Singapore, Bali and Dubai. For our family holidays, this tends to be when we plan for the year ahead (we should know working in travel to plan sooner, as always good to book a year ahead to lock in the best prices). We’re debating a last-minute trip over February half-term to Morocco to source some home furnishings, no doubt we’ll be away in Europe for the summer – potentially back to Puglia which we love and possibly Australia for another family catch-up – it’s a bit up in the air.
Top three destinations for couples?
EUROPEAN CULTURAL SPOTS such as Paris, Rome or the more off-beat skiing in the Dolomites/pottering around Puglia is a foodie haven.
MOZAMBIQUE – Bazurato archipelago – an unspoilt underwater wilderness for snorkelling and exploring. Such an incredibly beautiful part of the world.
LATIN AMERICA particularly Brazil, Peru & Colombia – You can take children too as the Latinos love children. I always feel that Latin America is the last place that people tend to travel to, as there are less business routings there but there is so much to explore.
Top three destinations for families?
SRI LANKA - A private villa in Sri Lanka like Ivory House near Galle, with wonderful chef Sunil and his team – this is such a great way to catch up as a multi-gen family.
MAURITIUS – A range of hotels to choose from.
ANTIGUA – Carlisle Bay
Do you have a favourite villa/house for longer summer family stays?
Yes, there are loads but very much depends on budget :-)
The Hong Kong skyline - close to Lucy's heart for generations and the very beautiful Cape Town beaches
A favourite ever hotel or villa in Asia?
So many I can’t begin to pick. I will say that at Lightfoot we love anything by COMO, Soneva or Aman and highly recommend these properties. I love the Zannier brand, which is quite new – they have a new property which has just opened in Vietnam which I have my eye on and a colleague in Singapore really rated it but Phum Baitang next to Siem Reap in Cambodia has a particularly comfortable design and the food is delicious too. For me, some of the unknown spots and independently owned properties are the best.
A favourite ever hotel or villa in Europe?
My recent favourite (I was there in May) is the stunning Masseria Moroseta in Puglia – it looks achingly cool but doesn’t take life too seriously. Simple and elegant rooms with the most wonderful and inspiring restaurant. It's general aesthetic does draw in the models and celebs.
Favourite US destination?
It’s hard to beat New York for the vibe.
Dream Africa itinerary?
A Botswana and Zambia combination for the best of the best in terms of wildlife and Lightfoot’s finest boutique African bush camps, finishing off at our honeymoon location Babylonstoren in South Africa – a haven for garden enthusiasts as it has the most beautiful farm-to-table restaurant.
Best kept secret in Australia?
An unknown walking/surfers path into Alexandria Bay along the Sunshine Coast (of Queensland). I spent many a Covid lockdown morning marching into this delicious haven.
Best tip for long-haul travel with children?
A lot of snacks in different compartments for an element of surprise! Ideally, get them to carry their own hand luggage (if they can) and the rest in a small wheelie bag with a change of clothes that can do all the ages of kids (and one for you if you have an infant/very small person).
Off-the-grid travel experiences are my favourite – often unplanned or with a bit of extra travel to get there. Swimming with a pod of dolphins off the coast of Nicaragua, playing ball with local children deep in the Amazon jungle, or perhaps when I witnessed an opium ceremony in Bishnoi village, near Jodphur
What’s the biggest trend in travel in 2023?
Longer travel itineraries. Post-pandemic guests are taking more time to travel – knowing they can still stay in communication with business back at home but also to make up for the lost time/opportunity to travel. Sometimes, it’s about stretching out the funds to go further as a big part of cost is the initial flight ticket – particularly for those who are coming from Australia at the moment. Thankfully the UK supply is finally catching up with demand and Lightfoot’s prediction is that we’ll see prices dropping a bit towards the latter part of the year.
How do we respond when challenged over long-haul travel and the environmental impact - is there a way we can give back while still pursuing our travel dreams?
This is a conundrum that I haven’t figured out. Having studied Sustainability in Business with Cambridge University the only real way out is hydrogen planes, in the meantime, it’s about choosing the best suppliers who give back to the local communities and making the best choices possible. Obviously by travelling we see first-hand how out of sync the natural order is and the travel acts as a reminder to empower change in our day-to-day lives back at home. Living in Indonesia we would see the need for systemic change – I’d encourage anyone to live or travel in places for longer to minimise the impact and bring the local economies financing and aid that is much needed. Nihiwatu in Indonesia is a great example of this with it’s Sumba Foundation which has eliminated malaria in a huge radius of Sumba island, alongside encouraging education and sustainable growth of produce to improve life locally.
Your favourite ever travel experience?
These are always the off-the-grid experiences – often unplanned or with a bit of extra travel to get there. Swimming with a pod of dolphins off the coast of Nicaragua, playing ball with local children deep in the Amazon jungle, or perhaps when I witnessed an opium ceremony in Bishnoi village, near Jodphur. These are usually through contacts in the regions. I should probably add in here getting engaged and then married on the coast of North West Lombok to my husband and having 100 friends celebrate with us, coming across on traditional wooden fishing boats (jukung) for the parties. The last night there was a host of us to witness the sun setting on Mount Agung in Bali – such a magical moment.
Your craziest/most disastrous travel memory...
When backpacking being held at gun-point on the border of Chile/Argentina – we managed to get out of it by giving them a bottle of something, in lieu of cash as we weren’t carrying much.
What’s on your ultimate travel wish list?
North Island, Seychelles
What’s in your carry-on luggage?
Passport, Cashmere socks, a book (if I’m not travelling with the children otherwise the idea of reading is overly optimistic), iPhone and airpods.
Let's play Travel: Would you rather….?
Beach or mountains - Beach
Hotel or villa - Villa
Window or aisle seat – Window for day flights / Aisle for night flights!
Winter or summer - Summer
Horseriding or cycling - Riding
Room service or breakfast buffet – Breakfast Buffet
Train or boat journey - Boat
Dream up more travel plans at Lightfoot Travel and follow @lightfoottravel