Behind the Scenes

Wanderlust: Top Travel Tips from Photographer Jesse Leake

Summer’s almost over — it’s time to start daydreaming about next year’s trips, don’t you think? We’ve got a serious case of end-of-summer wanderlust thanks to the beautiful travel photography of Jesse Leake — one of the newest additions to our photography shop.

Jesse travels the world year-round to a variety of locations — some of which might border on remote, and others that rival the most bustling cities we’ve ever seen. We sat down with this world traveler to get the scoop on his favorite places to travel, his tips for finding the perfect hotel and restaurant, plus lots more. Quench your wanderlust (for now, at least) by reading his Q&A, below!

(Above: Munnar, India by Jesse Leake)

Pottery Barn: What’s your favorite foodie travel destination?
Jesse Leake: It’s hard to beat the food available in San Francisco. Meals in Italy are fun, too — amazing pastas, the best tomatoes and great wine!

PB: What’s the secret to choosing a great restaurant in a new city?
JL: It depends where you’re traveling. I’ll ask friends who have been there before. I always travel with a Lonely Planet guidebook in hand, which is a great reference that’s usually budget minded for accommodations, restaurants, sights, etc. I’ll also ask locals what they recommend — look for the restaurants busy with locals.


(Above: Hoi An, Vietnam by Jesse Leake)

PB: How do you find just the right hotel in a new city?
JL: Location is always important for me. I want to stay somewhere that is conveniently located, near an area where I will be photographing a lot, and within walking distance of restaurants and sights. Most of my trips are 3 weeks to 2 months, so I’m usually looking for budget accommodations. Again, I resort to the Lonely Planet guidebook. Travel + Leisure magazine and Condé Nast Traveler are also great resources.

PB: How do you narrow down souvenirs to take home?
JL: I look for art or merchandise that is unique to the region or that they are known for. For example in Cuba – cigars, Ireland – crystal, Morocco – rugs, etc. Paintings are great, as they can be rolled up, tubed and carried on the plane. If you can afford it and have a use for it, it’s good to support the local economy by buying souvenirs.


PB: What’s your #1 shopping secret while traveling?
JL: In a lot of countries I visit, bargaining is expected. For example when buying rugs in Morocco or Turkey, cut the quoted price in half and that is generally a good place to start negotiating. Don’t show too much interest when you are bargaining for — be ready to walk away. In fact, if you do walk away, the price will drop as the seller follows you out the door.













(Above: Varanasi, India and Woman in Ranakpur, India by Jesse Leake) 

PB: How do you like to choose your next destination?
JL: I look for a place I haven’t been to that is rich in culture and off the beaten path.

PB: What’s the 1 dream trip you haven’t taken yet?
JL: RV camper trip across the US.

PB: What’s your favorite city that you’ve visited this year?
JL: My favorite city this year was Havana, Cuba.

PB: What’s your secret to looking like a local?
JL: Pack light on clothes, so you can buy locally once you arrive. Bring loose breathable clothing. Many locals in various countries won’t wear shorts. I recommend dressing down, leaving the designer clothes and flashy accessories behind. Most tourists will stand out regardless of their local attire. To blend in is more an attitude that anything else. Being humble, respectful and open minded with an adventurous spirit will open doors to a more intimate local experience. You may never look like a local, but you can befriend a local and gain access to local life. Learn how to say hello and thank you in the local language.

PB: If you could only visit one city for the rest of your life, where would it be?
JL: Country: I love Morocco for its beauty, adventure, food and people. City: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the active beach life and the Brazilian people.

bio.portrait-3(Above: Photographer Jesse Leake

See more of Jesse Leake’s photography in Pottery Barn’s photography shop.


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