I got the idea for Libertad on the hottest, slowest and most uncomfortable train in Myanmar (Burma) in June 2004.
Most travelers are searching for uncommon experiences off the beaten path. As the only foreigner on the train, I figured I was heading in the right direction.
The train didn’t have any A/C and was going so slow through the hills of Shan State that it couldn’t even generate a breeze through the big, open windows. The heat and humidity were oppressive. My legs were pinned back by cargo jammed into every open space. Four passengers were crammed onto hardwood benches made for two.
This was the most painful journey I’d ever been on and I began to realize that it might be off the beaten path for a reason.
With frustration nearing its peak, I looked around to see if anyone else might be able to commiserate. All I saw were smiling faces looking back at me.
Each time it happened, I smiled back and the discomfort vanished for a moment. Genuine smiles are powerful. Coming from another person, they make you feel human and connected to something beyond yourself. So, I kept doing it.
It was tempting to think it was just because I was the only foreigner among them, but they were kind and warm to each other as well. They were unified in the experience. All felt the heat of the sun. All were crammed onto the same hard benches. The swaying passenger car threw everyone off balance. All would arrive at the destination at the same time.
The shared experience made the sense of individual suffering disappear. My impulse was to complain, but the unity made me feel lighter in discomfort.
It was impressive to see these people stay jovial hour after hour under conditions that would break most people.
Coming from a place where a person’s day is ruined if they have to sit on the runway longer than expected, I felt like my fellow passengers had some kind of inner capacity no one else had.
Curious about what my hosts were made of, I observed that everyone was wearing his/her best clothes. Suits, dresses, jackets and nice shoes.
It jumped out at me because a few days prior, I’d arrived on a plane filled with people in ragged t-shirts, shorts, sweatpants, etc. I remember hoping the plane would have plenty of empty seats so I wouldn’t have to sit next to any of them. I was decked out in poly-nylon-plaid-knaki-cargo-pockets, so they probably felt the same about me.
Why would the locals wear their best clothes on a day they knew would be miserable? Why weren’t they dressed more comfortably?
In this forgotten corner of the world, the people treat travel as a special experience; a privilege. They weren’t going to ruin it for themselves or anyone else because of the conditions. They brought a dignity to the journey I hadn't experienced after 20 years of business and holiday travel.
Their appearance communicated appreciation to those they left at the station and respect to those waiting for them at the other end of the line. The hours of misery in between were bookended by the people most important to them and they dressed accordingly.
Realizing this, the contradiction hit me. Leisure travelers, in search of life changing experiences, with trips bookended by the most exciting, fascinating and beautiful people/places in the world, tend to wear utilitarian clothing that focuses on the unpleasant, uncomfortable and inconvenient.
I get it. It’s important to be comfortable. But, why is it necessary that style be sacrificed for comfort and efficiency?
There is no reason for this. So, I started to make travel clothes that could handle the rigors of the road as well as look great in the finest hotels in the world.
Libertad's exclusive lightweight construction of Merino wool makes it possible. Using advanced textile technology, our fabric expands the applicable temperature range of wool. This is not a heavy, itchy flannel. Rather, it is similar in weight to most dress shirts allowing it to be worn in a wider range of temperatures.
It’s luxurious look & feel, combined with its all-natural performance characteristics, form a material uniquely suitable for upscale travel.
Tested through the centuries, various wools still protects Bedouins from the desert sun and nomadic tribes from the high altitude winters.
Month after month, year after year, wool's built in performance never diminishes. It is unfailingly:
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