APIECE APART WOMAN
“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck
As the editor and co-founder of Cereal magazine, Rosa Park's life is a study in the observation of place and story. A seasoned traveler, she has an ease surrounding life on the road, a nomadic sensibility that’s followed her across continents, through cities and deserts, by foot and by train. We discussed these transportive experiences, and the other moments that give us perspective and keep us grounded.
You’ve described yourself as a traveler, a nomad by nature, most at home when you are on the road. Talk more about this: did you intentionally choose to build a career that allows for this, or was it a (happy) accidental byproduct?
I’m definitely a nomad by nature. Growing up, I traveled and moved around a lot with my family, and continued to do so as I forged my own path as an adult. I believe your upbringing has a profound impact on the person you become, and for me, this means I’m at ease when on the road. It’s a familiar feeling. When the opportunity came to start my own magazine with Rich, my partner and Cereal’s creative director, it was inevitable that our title would be dedicated primarily to travel. Rich, like me, has lived in multiple countries and has seen much of the world; so for us, travel is our domain of expertise. We’re confident in talking about it, we love discussing all aspects of it, and want to share our way of traveling with our peers and readership.
And the more I see of the world, the more I wish to retreat to nature. A strong preference for a rural environment has been the main shift in my perspective in recent years. I was raised as a bona fide city girl — having lived in Seoul, New York, Vancouver, Paris, and Boston — but these days, too many capitals feel like replicas of one another, perhaps an unavoidable byproduct of globalization. Whether I’m in Shanghai, Los Angeles, London, or Melbourne, I see the same types of establishments, identical mega brand flagships, similar styles of buildings by architects, and homogeneous trends. I know I’m erring on the side of oversimplification to make a point, as each place, of course, has wonderful unique elements. But as time passes, more and more cities seem to emulate one another. When you squint and look out at these cityscapes, they start to blend into one, the urban microcosm. And that’s made me feel disappointed on several trips as of late.
Nature on the other hand, it never fails to surprise and impress. My most memorable trips are ones where we climbed the sand dunes of Erg Chegaga in the Saharan Desert; drove down the coast of Big Sur, taking in the expanse of the Pacific Ocean; explored Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park on foot, tracking zebras; and ambled along the rice terraces of Bali. These experiences truly transport me out of myself, and they sustain my passion for travel. They also remind me of my very, very small place in the world, and that keeps me grounded.
You live in Bath, England, which also represents a pretty specific choice to not live in a major city. Talk about this.
I live in Bath, and have now been in the southwest of England for six years. This is indeed an intentional choice to live outside of a major city. It echoes the sentiments I’ve expressed above; I want to be as close to nature as possible. And Bath is the perfect balance of being a ‘city’, and having the creature comforts that come with that, and being five minutes from the rolling hills of the English countryside. Now that I’ve become accustomed to a slower pace of life in a place as peaceful and bucolic as Bath, I think I’ll struggle to give that up. I also attribute my productivity to residing in Bath; the calm that you find here facilities an extraordinary focus that I haven’t had elsewhere. It allows me to zero in on what needs to get done, and in my downtime, it’s so easy to relax and counter the intensity of my work.
You were very much at the forefront of a wave of publications that defined a particular visual trope. In the 2016 version of this conversation, where “minimalism,” “intentional living,” etc have become somewhat ironically over-saturated concepts, what still drives/inspires you about these ideas?
It’s been fascinating for me to observe how Cereal is perceived by the public over the last four years that the business has been around. Without a doubt, people have associated our publication with concepts such as ‘minimalism' and 'intentional living,' and I understand why they do so. These descriptions can fit certain aspects of our title, so I accept them for what they are. Having said that, I've never created an issue of Cereal with either one of those concepts in mind, only because they aren’t entities that I identify with.
The concept that I’m deeply committed to is simplicity. You might think that simplicity as a concept has huge overlaps with minimalism, and I appreciate that it may seem as though I’m splitting hairs; however, for me, there is a significant difference between the two.
Simplicity — as a word, idea, style and concept - is something that I’m perpetually drawn to. It's a lifelong love. I like the clarity and calm that comes with simplicity. I like the elegance and warmth that emanates from it. I think there is an austerity and coldness to ‘minimalism' that can be off-putting, and it can also sometimes feel one dimensional. I’m personally intrigued by the many different iterations and interpretations of simplicity across cultures, and searching these avenues is what keeps me inspired. I guess you could say that ‘simplicity' is the lens through which I view my environment, and I never tire of this filter, because the subject matter is constantly in flux. We are going further and further afield with each issue of Cereal, seeking out locations that are completely novel to us.
When I travel around the world searching for stories for our magazine, I’m exposed to so much, and I make sense of it all by filtering it through my lens of simplicity. This is how I establish and develop our editorial point of view, and maintain my balance. For me, no one summed up the attractive essence of simplicity better than Brancusi when he said: “Simplicity is complexity resolved.” I live by that. And this concept has had, and continues to have, a key influence over Cereal’s editorial content and approach.
(From afar) it seems like your work and life are very much intertwined. How do you create distance when you need it?
My work life and personal life are very much intertwined by virtue of the fact that I work with my partner, Rich. In the beginning, there was definitely a period of adjustment to the lack of boundaries. But over time, I’ve learned to embrace our work/life situation and make the most of it.
We still have moments when it's challenging — like when you bring work home after a long, stressful day — but I feel lucky to share such a big part of my life with my partner. That’s something to be valued, I think. We can relate to each other on almost every level, and though this may sound corny, it’s bought us closer together.
What is your favorite high-brow indulgence?
Collecting rare books.
What is your favorite low-brow indulgence?
Dominos. I always order a large Hawaiian and smother it in Sriracha. It’s just so damn good.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
“Dedicate your youth to building your life’s foundation. The rest of your life's ‘building’ will come that much easier in adulthood with a solid foundation."
What’s the best $100 you’ve spent?
Not quite 100 dollars, but Sunday Riley’s U.F.O. ultra-clarifying face oil, at $80, has transformed my skin!
What’s your current curiosity?
Watercolour paintings. Currently obsessing over the work of Raoul De Keyser.
As a seasoned traveler, can you share a few recommendations...
• A “sleeper hit,” underrated city:
• A place that’s changed your perspective:
• A city to visit by yourself:
• A city that’s overrated:
• Where do you want to visit in 2017?
• What’s the best souvenir you’ve purchased while traveling?
I always buy super cheesy baseball caps. I think my favourite is the one from Seattle’s Space Needle! And I’m always on the lookout for unique pieces of jewelry, which is something I collect.
… favorite of-all-time:
I’m more of a tea person, so my vote goes to Song Tea & Ceramics in San Francisco.
Bemelmans at The Carlyle in New York.
Breakfast: Norma’s at Parker Palm Springs, US
Lunch: Osteria la Canonica at Castiglion Del Bosco in Tuscany, Italy
Dinner: Kitcho Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan
Favourite city hotel is Aman Tokyo, and favourite hotel amidst nature is Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley in Australia.
It’s a tie between Chichu Art Museum and Dia:Beacon
This story is part of an ongoing collaboration with Cereal magazine; read the first installment Everyday Essentials with Judith Clark
Photos by Rich Stapleton, interview by Leigh Patterson