There are some career paths you look at and immediately think, "yep, sounds good—where do I sign up for this?" Jen Murphy’s is one such career. Formerly the travel editor at Food & Wine, she is now the deputy editor of the travel title that we here at Fodor’s have endless love for, AFAR.
As soon as we started building our list of Tastemakers, Jen’s name was at the top. Not only is she a consummate traveler who lists an I-totally-lost-count number of destinations under the "knowledge and experience" section on her Afar.com profile, but she has a great explorer’s style that’s clear on every page of AFAR and Afar.com. We love what she and her team have done to bring big, inspirational images to their site, and real-life user comments to their print magazine. Jen also manages to merge great food and travel with fitness (she writes a fitness column for the Wall Street Journal, too), which is something we can get behind no matter where we’re heading.
We also adore their Learning AFAR charity program that helps low income students in New York City, Chicago, Houston, Seattle and San Francisco travel the world. How great is that?
Simply put, we’d go anywhere she told us to and would do pretty much anything she recommended. Without further ado, our third Fodor’s Travel Tastemaker: Afar’s Jen Murphy.
How many countries have you been to?
Favorite so far, and why?
That is so far. I feel like my favorite destination is constantly changing. I’d have to say the Philippines and Spain. I love the ocean and the Philippines are the ultimate playground for water sports. You can surf, kite surf, jet ski, dive, sail. The beaches are gorgeous. And the people are just so nice. They love karaoke and are always singing, which cracked me up. I fell in love with Spain on my first trip to Barcelona. The food is incredible and I just love how passionate the people are about everything from food to football.
What trips do you have coming up that you’re most excited about?
I’m making my first trips to Uruguay and Brazil later this year.
What unforgettable meal would you travel far and wide for?
I often base my travels around food experiences. I used to work at Food & Wine so I feel very spoiled by how well I’ve eaten over the years. I would want to go back to Spain to eat along the Costa Brava and hit El Celler de Can Roca, Mugaritz, Arzak. I’m also completely intrigued by chef Helena Rizzo of restaurant Maní in Sao Paulo. I think there is a whole new culinary frontier to be discovered in South America.
What are some of your favorite places to eat and drink in San Francisco?
I love Outerlands in the Mission, particularly for brunch. State Bird Provisions serves its food on a dim-sum trolley and it’s all so good I always eat too much. The desserts are insane, particularly the mini ice cream sandwiches. I think Saison is brilliant. It’s a splurge but the food is so thoughtful and well executed and the chef is able to keep it light so you can have 20 courses and still walk out of the restaurant. Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building is always fantastic. I like to go for breakfast or lunch on a weekday. Bar Agricole makes a great bourbon old fashion and I have to admit that the banana daiquiri at Smuggler’s Cove is seriously legit.
And a trip to Napa Valley to eat at Meadowood is a must. It’s one of the most transformative meals you will ever have and totally conveys a sense of place while still being delicious.
On a road trip, what foodstuff would you always pull over for?
Ice cream, fruit stalls, coconut water straight from a coconut.
You also write a fitness column for WSJ—how did that come about?
The Journal was my very first gig out of college and my mentor there knew I had been a personal trainer in college and we both shared a passion for fitness. She asked me if I’d be interested in writing a column on fitness and What’s Your Workout was born.
Any great adventures that have come about because of that column?
The column has allowed me to meet such interesting people. It’s rare for a CEO to get a call from a journalist at the Wall Street Journal and they want to know about his or her ab routine or triathlon times. I’ve worked out with the Reverend Al Sharpton and Brandi Chastain. My favorite story is that I interviewed Sarah Palin about her workout before she was on the national radar. The column just happened to run the day after her vice presidential nomination was announced. We talked about moose burgers and marathons.
What’s your rule of thumb for staying fit while traveling?
I’m an obsessive runner and love to explore a new destination by going on a run early in the morning when everything is still quiet and still. I also love trying new yoga studios around the world. I’ve tried to do yoga at a studio in Germany and I don’t speak a word of German. It was quite comical.
What’s the first thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
I usually try to go for a run right away to explore the destination and shake off the jet lag.
What is one thing you never travel without?
A good book and my journal.
Photo credits: Jen in China, courtesy of Jen Murphy; fruit stall courtesy of Flickr/matt hutchinson