After spending most of her career — including a dozen years at CNN — covering hard news, Daryn Kagan launched her own award-winning website (DarynKagan.com) to showcase “hopeful” news. Her goal is to show the world what’s possible, one story at a time. Kagan, 47, has traveled extensively to cover the war in Iraq and shine a light on hunger and AIDs in Africa. A resident of Atlanta, Kagan says that if you were to come to her home you’d be served a cup of tea from one of the mugs she picked up on her travels.
“Everywhere I go, I buy a coffee mug,” she says. “It’s really fun to pull one out and see the ones I brought back from Nairobi, Venice, Kansas City or wherever. I get to live my travel adventure every morning when I get a cup of tea.”
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Anywhere with a warm beach. I grew up in Southern California boogie boarding in Santa Monica, so if I see sand and ocean, I’m happy. Right now I like the Isle of Palms outside of Charleston, S.C.
Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. I love to go to sporting events. I was in Augusta, Ga., for the Masters Golf Tournament. It’s an easy two-hour drive. Augusta is right on the Georgia-South Carolina border. Actually, there’s a lot to do around Atlanta for a good staycation. I enjoy hiking at the Amicalola Falls and walking my dog around the Chattahoochee River. Right here, you just call it the Hooch.
Q. What are your favorite hotels and restaurants?
A. I can be happy at the Peninsula Hotel (www.peninsula.com) in Beverly Hills or sleeping at an orphanage in Africa. I’m really happy that my life brings me full range. Baja Fresh (www.bajafresh.com) is my favorite restaurant chain. There’s a little mom and pop place in Atlanta called Jalisco where the food is so fresh and good. And Miller Union (www.millerunion.com), also in Atlanta, has a Harvest Dinner where they serve you this multicourse gourmet meal family style. You get to try a lot of things like pheasant, grilled Vidalia onions, a special kind of polenta and a pound cake and lemon sorbet that I still have dreams about. The adventure of trying new things is half the fun.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. My two must-haves are my cell phone and my MacBook Pro laptop, which allows me to update my website from wherever I am, whether I’m in Africa or in Sun Valley skiing. I like being connected. Some people want to vacation where there is no Internet or TV. That’s not relaxing to me.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. Atlanta, Charleston, Rome and anywhere in Hawaii like Oahu or Maui. I also really like the South of France region.
Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. I like to read about where I’m going. I love to take tours. I’m a tour junkie, so I could do a whole trip of tours. I love learning about history, myths and food from local tour guides. In Chicago, I took a really fun river architecture tour. In Charleston, you can take great walking and ghost tours. I love tours. I just think they make the places come alive.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. I’m a big sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I have been to San Francisco before, but never with my little sister, who has never been on a plane before. It’ll be fun to teach her about travel. She wanted to know where we would park our car, what should we pack and what hostess gift should we bring to my friends who we’re staying with.
Q. What is your best vacation memory?
A. Christmas 2008. I spent it outside Nairobi, Kenya, at a home for orphaned girls called Hekima Place. I still remember how wonderful it was to laugh and play with the girls and see how happy they were to receive a single present on Christmas morning. I love that travel can bring adventure and the opportunity to give back at the same time.
Q. How do you try to fit in when you’re a tourist?
A. Whether I’m on vacation or covering a war, I find out how women are expected to dress and try to respect that country’s culture. In Kenya, I was told to make sure that I brought a one-piece bathing suit. Women would wear that with bike shorts underneath.
© 2010 JAE-HA KIM
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(Photo credit: Annette Biggers/Triple Cord)
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