“ON A LONG JOURNEY EVEN A STRAW WEIGHS HEAVY”
"My look is a deterrent for an attack"
When embarking on an international adventure everyone aspires to pack light. Some travellers are better than others. Some will opt for a fleet of matching luggage encasing pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, while the more successful travellers will manage to squeeze everything into a single carry on bag.
The thing is the more stuff you bring with you, the more complicated everything gets. There are huge advantages to packing everything in one bag: there’s far less to organize; nothing ever gets lost; everything is much more accessible. Most importantly, it allows you to be more nimble, giving you the freedom to navigate a new place without being encumbered by heavy bags and looking like a tourist.
"Kolja Spöri is probably the most journeyed and spirited man you could ever hope to meet, having visited almost 190 of the 207 independent countries on the planet. Impressive"
One man who subscribes to the one-bag-fits-all travel mentality is Kolja Spöri, the German Formula 1 manager, investor, lecturer, adventurer and author. Author of the book ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ (where he talks about his experiences in conflict countries such as Chechnya, Afghanistan, South Sudan, the Ilemi Triangle, and East Siberia, to name but a few) and a member of the exclusive Club of The Most Traveled People, Kolja Spöri is probably the most journeyed and spirited man you could ever hope to meet, having visited almost 190 of the 207 independent countries on the planet. Impressive.
Befitting of someone so intrepid, he has his own particular approach to world travel, combining danger and luxury, travelling by car, covering long distances quickly and comfortably, sometimes as a businessman, always as a gentleman. For Spöri, it’s all about getting deep under the skin of the culture and people in the hotspots, danger zones and places with travel warnings.
“I like to meet the real people, the ones with powerful stories, learn from their first-hand accounts and to capture the spirit of places,” he says. “I want to get my own view on cultures, countries and conflicts without the distortions made by the media. When I travel by car, it’s absolute freedom. I can stop where I want, smoke big cigars continuously and follow the change of nature, architecture, geography and populations through my open window.”
You might expect a man of his international standing to ensconce himself with the trappings of luxury jet set fashions. Far from it.
He explains why: “Travellers travel with as little as possible. People who travel with suitcases are tourists. I always travel in style, even in the rough places, but with the minimum of luggage. When I walk into one of the ‘Grande Dame’ hotels though, I want to be respected even if I have just come down a mountain. If you look out of place it can have huge implications for your security. If there’s the slightest indication that you’re a tourist, you become a target. So, I try to look strong and sophisticated, never like a potential victim. My look is a deterrent for an attack.
When he says he packs light, Kolja Spöri really does. Alongside some personal effects, including a toothbrush which he cuts in half (that really is a space saving tip!), he says that he keeps everything to the absolute bare minimum: “All you need to do is look proper, clean and appropriate. I like to wear Merino wool (as you don’t have to wash it very often, even after a week), a jacket with oversized pockets (for storage), galoshes to wear over my shoes (if it rains or snows).” Regardless of how light Kolja Spöri packs, there’s little doubt that he expects every stich of clothing to be at the very pinnacle of performance clothing, taking advantage of the latest technologies, pioneering manufacturing methods. It was only a matter of time before he crossed paths with KTC and started developing something with them. KTC’s motto “when only the best is good enough” is particularly apt for someone travelling to some of the most challenging destinations imaginable.
“I was lucky enough to be introduced to KTC through Richard Donovan, the organizer of the North Pole Marathon, recalls Spöri. “UVU was the main sponsor and they were kind enough to sponsor me with an outfit. I have developed a great relationship with them. They wanted me to think on developing something based on my travel experiences.”
“The relationship with KTC is an interesting one. Everyone is brilliant to work with and so creative. They work particularly well with people who are experts or who are from niches with particular skillsets.
KTC likes to invest in products with their time, expertise and ability to respond to any problem you might put in front of them. It’s like a friendship – sharing ideas, which will hopefully be commercialized at some point in the future. They don’t promote their own brand, because by definition they are not at the front line. It’s like a white label for new thinking.”
“There are a lot of brands out there that do luxurious and sports, but not both. What I wanted was to add a conservative classic touch. So we worked on a jacket that’s a mix of business, Asian (because of the Mandarin collar) and safari (because of the voluminous pockets). I would send them an idea and they would send me a prototype. It needed to be breathable, so that it’s not like wearing a plastic bag. So it could go from being business to oriental. It’s incredibly versatile. Because they were so fast at developing their prototypes, it made the whole process really, really rewarding.
“But nothing is fully developed with them. I am always thinking about new ideas and solutions. For example, I only ever really need one pair of shoes, perhaps from John Lobb. But when it’s raining or snowing I might need some extra protection. I really like to wear galoshes as overshoes, as they can be squeezed into my bag - I am working on an idea for them too. We’ve also worked on some durable, breathable trousers that do not crease. Ones that can be worn to a business meeting or on the road.”