Away: A Traveler’s Oasis in Lower Manhattan
Last week I changed my route to my writing partner’s house, and it took me past a store I hadn’t seen before with the name of Away. Usually, I don’t get excited about new stores – living in Manhattan I have neither the space nor the funds to acquire material goods – but Away featured brightly colored luggage arranged amid travel guides and related products.
A new travel store!
I stepped inside. The scented candles created an inviting, relaxing atmosphere. Just inside the door were tables and a coffee and water bar, free for customers and visitors. On the shelves were two different guides to cities around the world. One was the quirky Lost In… guides, with interviews with and articles by local celebrities, nationals and expats. The other was the Pantone-aligned Wallpaper city guides published by Phaidon, with their focus on the art and architecture of cities famous and obscure.
The print travel guides are attractive, but an inherent problem with print – and the reason my guide will be e-book only – is that they become dated. For instance, one of the editors’ favorite restaurants in Lisbon is De Castro in the Praça das Flores. Among our favorites, too, it is now one of the dearly departed.
In addition to books, Away sells noise canceling headphones, scented candles, and skin creams – products designed to calm the nervous traveler or refresh the weary one. Having spent the better part of last month working on a story about an autistic child on the road, I know the value of these products to reduce the noise level and noxious odors that can lead people on the autism spectrum or with anxiety disorders to avoid travel altogether.
But the guidebooks and travel products are secondary to Away’s principal offering – colorful lightweight plastic rolling suitcases. The come in four sizes – small carry-on, large carry-on, and medium and large checked baggage – along with a cute kids’ bag. I had visions of someone accidentally stepping on a bag and putting a hole in it, but the salesperson assured me that the bags are guaranteed for life, excluding the standard caveat of “normal wear and tear.” Inside the hard shell are compartments for toiletries and garment bags.
Although I’m not in the market for a suitcase, having bought a guaranteed-for-life set 25 years ago, I spent a lovely afternoon camped at one of the tables drinking iced coffee and writing this blog post. Soon I’ll ask for the wi-fi code to post it and the pictures. I appreciate this oasis in the middle of the bustling city, a refuge for local and traveler alike, with the vibe of an upscale airport lounge. No luggage purchase or business class ticket required.
Away currently has four outposts; in addition to New York City, the company has opened locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin, Texas. More are planned, both in the United States and internationally. The New York store is on Lafayette St. just north of Bond St. Stop in and look around. You may even find me, at one of my blogging homes away from home.
Note: I received no compensation for writing this piece, except for iced coffee that’s available to anyone.
I can’t help thinking of the movie NOTTING HILL which involved a man who owned a bookstore that sold travel books.
There is a bookstore in Lower Manhattan, Idlewild Books, that sells travel books, two-way dictionaries, and literature both in the original language and in translation. They moved a few years ago from fairly near me to a long walk away, but I’m planning to feature them as soon as there’s a nice enough day for a long walk.