What’s in Loan Dao’s Carry-On?

By Clare

Brooklynite and Founder of Theory of Place, Loan Dao, dishes on carry-on essentials, packing strategy, and what it takes to be a New Yorker. 

Flipping through a giant volume of travel photography and admiring Loan Dao’s meticulously curated collections of plants, jewelry, and decor, I starting getting a sense for her obsession with interior design, and more specifically, the small spaces that inspire us daily. This room really was a calming escape from the Prospect Heights street and liquor store below. Everyone (ideally…hopefully) has that one homey place she feels completely at peace- be it her bed, vanity, fire escape loaded with plants. For Loan, travel veteran and founder of Theory of Place, it’s all about workspace.

As she put a batch of homemade granola in the oven and walked over to join me on the couch, she reflected on her first few months in New York, noting with a laugh, “I created Theory of Place as a way to live vicariously through people and see what inspires them and their work.” In 2015, Loan founded Theory of Place as a way to liberate herself from her broke grad-student reality. As many of us in New York can relate in one way or another, Loan moved from a spacious apartment in San Francisco to a literal janitor’s closet in New Brunswick, New Jersey (I think we can give her a break for living in Jersey for a bit, right? It was only for like 5 months.) And on top of living in a bedroom covered in bathroom tiles, she hit the horrible-apartment jackpot and also discovered she lived in a building with horrendous plumbing. Think: after her bathroom flooded, the plumber pulled a tampon that had traveled down the pipes from her upstairs neighbors out of her SINK. Yeah. Let’s move on.

Because of this more-than-unfortunate living situation, Loan began reaching out to professionals, creatives, and strangers, asking them to send her photos of their desks and workspaces. She figured, if she had to live in a shithole (or perhaps, tampon hole would be more appropriate?) she would at least like to be inspired by what other people have created. And boom! Theory of Place was born and Loan is now successfully hosting events focused on empowering women through conscious consumerism, interviewing some seriously cool young professionals for her website, and of course, basking in good design on the daily.

Here’s what she packs in her carry-on.

What are your carry-on essentials?

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Tell me about your travel/packing style.

“I like to schedule everything. I’ll plan my clothes per day and then per event.” And all that scheduling is noted in her very detailed calendar long before her trip begins. Loan then picks her minimal wardrobe a few days before take-off. “I try to carry just one jacket- leather jackets are always good because they can be casual or classy depending on the event.” And she tries to only pack clothes that are versatile and can be worn in multiple ways for multiple occasions.

Any exciting upcoming trips?

“Paris for a half marathon!”

Best travel tip.

“Don’t worry about fitting too much into your schedule or worry about seeing every attraction a place has to offer. Pick a few things and allow yourself to REALLY experience them and talk to the locals.”

Shopping List:

  1. Tiny Cocoa Butter Vaseline 
  2. Journal
  3. Polaroid Camera

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