HOW I TRAVEL

In­spired by the cin­e­matic vi­sions of Stan­ley Kubrick and Wong Kar Wai, the founder of Jack­a­lope Ho­tels has fash­ioned his début ho­tel on the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula with more than a touch of the sur­real.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - OCT -

The founder of Jack­a­lope Ho­tels, Louis Li, on lux­ury and Stein­beck.

I was brought up in Kun­ming in south­ern China, which is also known as Spring City be­cause of its weather. It’s such a pretty place to live. Lots of film di­rec­tors, writ­ers and dancers live there. It’s not a ma­jor city like Shang­hai or Bei­jing, but it has po­etic el­e­gance.

When I ar­rived in Mel­bourne in 2007 to study film­mak­ing at Swin­burne I was struck by how cre­ative and grungy the city is. It’s a very in­ti­mate city, with close con­nec­tions be­tween the worlds of de­sign, architecture and hos­pi­tal­ity.

The most sig­nif­i­cant trip I ever took was to Berlin six years ago. I was there for the film fes­ti­val, and it was on that trip I en­coun­tered a sculp­ture of a jack­a­lope hang­ing on the wall of an an­tique shop. I asked the owner what it was, and he told me about this myth­i­cal crea­ture. I be­came com­pletely ob­sessed with it. That was

where the idea for Jack­a­lope came from. A crea­ture so rare it ex­ists only in myth is the per­fect sym­bol for my ho­tels.

Three years ago I was hav­ing lunch at the Wil­low Creek vine­yard on the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula and the wine­maker told me it was on the mar­ket. I thought im­me­di­ately that was what I wanted – to cre­ate a sur­real ho­tel in a ru­ral land­scape, a real des­ti­na­tion.

My fam­ily are ho­tel de­vel­op­ers, so I know the for­mula for cre­at­ing a good lux­ury ho­tel. I wanted to go fur­ther, how­ever, to merge my artis­tic ex­plo­ration from film­mak­ing with this for­mula to cre­ate an un­ex­pected prod­uct. It was a risk, but Jack­a­lope is a fear­less brand. You have to be a dreamer. If you think about the con­se­quences too much you com­pro­mise the vi­sion.

Travel for me is not a re­lax­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I travel for in­spi­ra­tion. I take an in­tense trip and look for the un­fa­mil­iar, to get out of my com­fort zone. My favourite ho­tels all have a dar­ing vi­sion. They’re al­most the prod­uct of ob­ses­sion – a sum­mary of the owner’s in­ner life and lifestyle. I look for a place that’s not copy­able, that can ex­ist only at that site.

My ideal kind of trip is a com­bi­na­tion of food and art. I’ll book 20 restau­rants when I’m go­ing some­where like LA for two weeks, and I will def­i­nitely travel just to see an ex­hi­bi­tion or a gallery. The most im­por­tant thing I take with me is a book filled with my per­sonal notes.

Lux­ury these days has be­come some­thing of a mean­ing­less term. Peo­ple are look­ing for mem­o­ries, not just for a two-night stay or a fine-din­ing restau­rant. I al­ways say lux­ury is de­fined by rar­ity. We’re all so tech­nol­ogy-ob­sessed that soli­tude has be­come lux­ury. You know your­self so much bet­ter when you can have a con­ver­sa­tion with your­self.

My favourite travel quote is “We don’t take a trip. A trip takes us.” It’s from John Stein­beck, and to me it sums up the won­der­ful things that can hap­pen if you leave a day un­planned and just wan­der.

Next up… Two weeks in Tokyo and the art is­land of Naoshima in the Seto In­land Sea. Just back from… Los An­ge­les and Hong Kong, vis­it­ing gal­leries and restau­rants.

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