When I first met Stephanie David, founder of PopNod, we instantly bonded over our mutual love for Thailand. She is a truly kind soul and has a way of bringing people together that always results in (unexpectedly productive) fun – I walk away from every event and hangout she plans feeling happy and inspired. When she is not planning fashion shows, running charitable campaigns and developing her business, she can be found exploring exotic locales with her husband, Dean, in tow. All on frequent flyer miles and points. Talk about the life.
What’s your favorite childhood travel memory?
It’s not really a personal travel memory, but my travel bug all started when I was a child sifting through my dad’s photo albums. My father is filipino, and he joined the U.S. Navy when he was 19. He traveled all over Europe and the Middle East with his crewmates, and I spent hours as a child sitting on the floor going through pages of photographs he took during his travels. I remember being so enamored by old photos and Polaroids of the ancient city of Jerusalem, the beauty of the Trevi Fountain, the Greek ruins, and seeing the joy on my father’s face as he told stories of his travels. I would dream about these images and make up stories of my own. That’s when I promised myself to see all those places and more.
When you hear “travel” what comes to mind?
Travel has played a big role in defining my values and what I stand for. To me, travel inspires, creates cultural understanding, opens up the mind, conjures up new perspectives and ideas, reveals how we are all different, but at the same time, how we are all very similar and interconnected. To me, travel is my home and my haven.
What’s your favorite destination and why?
It’s really hard to pick just one, as every place offers something different. I fell in love with Chiang Mai, Thailand, immediately because of how gracious and beautiful the people were. Also, being in the South Island of New Zealand is like landing yourself in paradise – its land is untouched and the country does everything it can to protect its land. You can be on top of a glacier, in green pastures, and by the ocean all in a single day.
Your business was inspired by a trip abroad. How did that happen?
One morning, I arrived at an elephant farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There, I was met by a man who ran the farm, along with his wife and two young children. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked weary. I learned that a baby elephant had just been borne right before I arrived, and the entire team was up for 48 hours straight throughout the labor. A rare occurrence, it takes 22 months for a pregnant elephant to give birth to a baby. This is when I became immersed in the story of a family that devoted their entire lives to reviving the elephant population in Thailand. Rescuing elephants from labor and captivity, the family had the difficult task of raising and breeding elephants on their farm. In the morning, the baby elephant was learning how to stand; by the afternoon, it was making laps around its mother. I have never forgotten that day.
I couldn’t let go of the idea that if a single family can make such a huge impact, what if we all inspired action and made a small impact everyday. PopNod was borne – a way to shop meaningfully and discover the stories of designers, brands, and real people who inspire positive change.
Your schedule must be busy! How do you prioritize travel?
To me, travel has always taken priority. It fuels my business and my personal life. It’s where I get inspiration and where I find balance. My goal is to build a career where I can work from anywhere – and I think I’m almost there! I get restless when I haven’t seen an airport in a month.
What are you dying to do next?
Everything! Just kidding – my next trip is a roadtrip through Tuscany and Piedmont regions in Italy, with stops at Florence and Milan. I’ve been dying to see the Italian countryside!
Your husband is a genius with travel hacking. Where have you traveled on points? Got any tips?
We’ve traveled to four continents on points. We joke around and say we haven’t really paid for a flight in 7 years, and we’ve traveled internationally every single year. This is our travel bible. It takes a lot of management and discipline to keep track of all the points!
What type of packer are you?
I’m a practical packer. After having traveled so much, I noticed there are always outfits that I never touch in my suitcase so I try to minimize that. No matter how long my trip is, I take only one suitcase with me. No one likes lugging two suitcases onto a bus, train, or while walking! This has been my savior – you’d be surprised how much you can pack with these!
What’s your travel style?
I’m definitely a chameleon when I travel. What I enjoy most is learning about the fashion and traditional clothing in the countries I visit. Style can be such a beautiful representation of who people are – their culture, what they believe in, their experiences. I love bringing back pieces that remind me of that – a Qipao from Shanghai, a tunic from Thailand.
What is your beauty routine like when you travel?
Very minimal! I’d rather spend more time exploring and experiencing, and less time getting ready. In the morning, I refresh my skin with a mild toner like Thayers Witch Hazel and moisturize and protect with Kiss My Face Facial Sunscreen. My makeup routine consists of eyeshadow, two coats of mascara, and any kind of lip balm with SPF. At night, I make sure I cleanse my face with Jason Apricot Scrubble.
How do you wind down after you get back from a trip?
Plan for the next trip!
Thanks Stephanie! I can’t wait to hear about your Italian countryside adventures.
If you’ve got a habit of online shopping (don’t we all!) be sure to show Stephanie some love and sign up for Popnod online or download the app, where a portion of your purchases become charitable donations. If you liked this traveler spotlight, share it with a friend or check out my first one with Graham!
*Photos provided by Stephanie