Frequent Flyer: Karen Kwan of Health & Swellness

This freelance writer also happens to be a foodie who is an avid runner.


As a freelance writer whose byline can be seen at some of Canada’s top publications including Elle Canada, Glow, Canadian Living and Travel + Escape, Karen Kwan of Health & Swellness, knows a thing or two about variety. “I love that my work changes every day — one day I’m testing out lash extensions, the next I’m eating some incredible tapas in Spain or running a marathon in Philly,” she says.

When it comes to travel Karen often finds herself on the road for work, but makes sure she tacks on personal time too. “I’m often travelling on press trips to explore destinations, or on junkets that take me to different cities to learn about new products.” explains Karen. “I’ll often try to tack on some personal time onto these trips, but I also travel personally, too, when I can.”

A serious foodie who can be found training for her next marathon (she’s currently training for number six), she has an enviable Instagram feed (@healthandswellness) that will make you both hungry and guilty that you skipped your last workout. Read on to find out some of Karen’s travel musts, how she travels comfortably but still stylishly, and her most recent celeb-spotting concert experience.

Last trip you took was for?

The last trip I took was a press trip to Roanoke, Virginia — I love getting the chance to explore small cities I might never get the chance to otherwise.

What’s your carry-on bag?

My carry-on bag is by Rimowa; it’s sleek and super light and I love that each side has panels that zipper closed — it keeps things from tumbling out when I open up the suitcase — my carry-on is always jam-packed!

Travel & Style’s Pick: Rimowa Salsa Air Multiwheel in navy blue,

Top three carry-on essentials?

Top three essentials in my carry-on: my iPad so I can watch movies I’ve downloaded. A magazine; and a notebook so I can organize my trip during my flight and make notes for work.

Travel & Style’s Pick: Rifle Paper Co. Bon Voyage Journal, $15,

Travel accessory you can’t live without?

My unlocked Samsung Galaxy S4. With a SIM and a prepaid plan, I love that I can roam and always have access to my emails (essential when you’re a freelancer!) while also being able to look up addresses and maps or find a spot for lunch while also Instagram-ing and tweeting.

How do you kill time waiting for your flight?

When waiting for flights I’m usually catching up with friends over text, killing time on social media or catching up on writing.

Favourite hotel?

Ugh, tough question. The Viceroy Riviera Maya is up there, though — although i guess that’s more of a resort than a hotel. The luxe room with its oversized doors, the outdoor shower, delicious Mexican dishes and even more delicious cocktails, the superb staff and the luxe chaise lounges and pristine beach — everything there is positively dreamy.

Hotel amenity you can’t live without?

Free Wi-Fi. I find it offensive when hotels charge guests for Wi-Fi.

Best meal on your last trip.

I was recently in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the fried chicken at Zingermans Roadhouse was life changing. Its crispy batter clung to each piece in just the right amount, while the chicken meat itself was beyond juicy.

Current travel reading material.

Best American Food Writing.

Travel music playlist.

I tend to listen to podcasts like This American Life and The Moth rather than music when I travel.

Window or aisle?

Window seat — I like being able to lean against the window when I attempt to sleep.

What your airplane style?

My outfit choice is all about comfort and saving space in my carry-on. So I’ll usually have a loose-fitting top, like my boyfriend-fit TNA denim shirt from Aritzia, with a sweatshirt overtop, a pair of Uniqlo skinny pants, Nike Dunk Sky Highs on my feet and my knockoff Foley and Corinna City Tote. Wearing the Dunks and sweatshirt, both which are bulky, saves me room in my carry-on. In my faux City Tote, I can cram my laptop, iPad, two cell phones, notebook, and magazines into it.

Travel & Style’s Pick: Nike Dunk Sky High, $150,

Do you have any favourite products you like to carry when you travel?

I always travel with facial cleansing wipes. Super quick and easy to get ready for bed after a long day out exploring a city.

Any travel beauty tips?

I’ve learned the hard way (messy spills in my luggage) that beauty products in pump dispensers and powder blushes are never a good idea for travel. So I stick to foundations in tubes and cream blushes when away from home.

Travel & Style’s Pick: stila Convertible Color in Petunia, $33,

How do you stay fit on the road?

I’m almost always training for a marathon, so I’ll usually pack my running gear so I can fit in a run. It can sometimes be hard to find time to (press trip itineraries often call for you to be working from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.) in which case, I just catch up on my training when I get home.

Travel & Style’s Pick: Under Armour Fly-By Stretch Mesh Tank Top, $35,

Most memorable souvenir?

I tend to buy food souvenirs, such as coffee in Jamaica, and pasta from Florence, but i also love to buy jewellery as it’s something I’ll keep forever and it brings back sweet memories of the destination whenever I wear it.

Where was your last vacation and who did you travel with?

My last true vacation was to New York City with a good girlfriend of mine. We over-shopped, overate, and went to the Kanye West concert in Brooklyn (and spotted Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington there!).

Best thing you did on your last vacation?

I’m a lucky girl because so many things come to mind. My last true vacation was a week in New York, and in NYC, I love visiting the High Line, going to exhibits (the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the David Zwirner Gallery was phenomenal) and catching up with friends at great restos like La Esquina.

Dream destination.

New Zealand. Bali. Malaysia. Croatia. Kenya. The Greek islands. Impossible to name just one!