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It was never my intention for this issue to be about horses. But as I sat signing off final page proofs in the days before going to print, I found an inordinate amount of the animals staring back at me. There were images of muscular mares in Texas and Montana, horse-drawn carriages trundling along the cobbled streets of Seville, nimble ponies chasing the wind in Tibet – and even a foal learning to walk on its spindly legs in Georgia.
When I first realised the four-legged creatures had hijacked the magazine, my initial reaction was simply to laugh. But the more I thought about what the animals stood for, the more their presence in The Spirit Issue made sense. Associated with mobility, grace and strength, I realised the horse is universally seen as a symbol of an untamed spirit, representing freedom without restraint.
Achieving a true sense of freedom often requires some means of escape or release. Since the 1920s, when Hollywood actors under contract could only stray two hours away from the studio, silver-screen stars have been escaping LA for the quirky desert getaways of Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. Channelling the same journey actors from Ava Gardner to Marilyn Monroe had made decades before, model Suki Waterhouse and presenter Poppy Jamie ventured into the desert for our cover shoot. Between takes, it became clear to our Brand Director Emily that the pair’s friendship was often lifted by shared moments of laughter, which lent them both a very real sense of release.
Especially in the United States, the notion of hitting the open road is seen as a cultural symbol of freedom. From the liberal city of Austin to the truck-ridden roads of the Lone Star State, Texas is a land of open-armed welcomes, spirited traditions and an awful lot of barbecued meat. After one electric night at the rodeo, our Food Editor Meg realised the state has a tempo all of its own, which beats away “like horses hooves on the ground”.
Meanwhile in southern Spain, Seville typically moves to a traditional flamenco rhythm. Beyond its quintessentially Spanish surface, however, much of what makes the city special is its rich and textured past. There is arguably no city which better encapsulates the Spanish word ‘duende’, a term that roughly translates to spirit, but really means a heightened state of emotion and expression.
Then there are the places where time-honoured cultural traditions have endured, in spite of significant political challenges. Around the world people are calling for freedom for Tibet, and writer Monisha Rajesh was able to bear witness to the Chinese occupation of the region. Setting out on the Qinghai Railway, Monisha was acutely aware of the way Chinese forces had seized Tibet and persecuted monks in the Fifties, concerned that all she could do as a visitor was watch and observe. But during her journey she met a guide who assured her that tourism to Tibet remains vital, as discussions with foreign travellers help locals freely communicate with the outside world.
The country today called Georgia has also known decades of political oppression. An independent republic since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the nation is now coming under the international spotlight thanks to its burgeoning cultural scene. Georgia’s rapid artistic expansion has lead to its capital city Tbilisi being coined as ‘the new Berlin’. But as SUITCASE’s newly appointed Digital Editor India points out, this unimaginative label is rolled out any time an ex-Soviet nation has a creative element to its development. Accompanied by atmospheric images taken by Getty Award-winning photographer Robbie Lawrence, her pieces on Tbilisi and Kazbegi offer a far more nuanced portrait of the country.
The restrictive labels thrust upon Georgia remind us of the need to carefully consider the language we use to describe destinations, especially those deemed ‘emerging’ or ‘developing’. Our emphasis at SUITCASE is always on listening to and working with locals, but ultimately, trying to pin down a place in words and pictures does in some way lead to its spirit being bridled and haltered. We hope we’ve encouraged you to go and visit the destinations featured in this issue, and in doing so, have allowed their spirit to run free.
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