Susan Sarandon on How Travel Can Make the World a Better Place
In 1997, Susan Sarandon made sure she died before Christmas.
“I was filming Stepmom. As a producer, I was able to schedule it so that I died before we took our Christmas break, so I could eat,” recalls Sarandon, who had to lose a significant amount of weight for her role as Jackie Harrison, a mother diagnosed with terminal cancer.
That Christmas, the Academy Award-winning actress found herself riding camels in Morocco’s Sahara Desert with her three children. Her youngest, actor Miles Robbins, was five at the time.
“One of your duties as a parent is to make memories,” she says, adding that she is a “compulsive scrapbook maker”.
Beyond making memories, Sarandon felt it her parental duty to expose her children to different cultures and experiences from an early age, believing that travel is the key to shifting perceptions and combatting prejudice.
“Experiencing Fez, the desert and the call to prayer really made a difference in my kids’ attitudes towards the Islamophobia that was developing back home in the United States,” she says. “It was really important for them to have a big view of the world, to not be afraid of or threatened by people who were different than they were in terms of languages, customs, the way they dress. Any kind of hatred is based on fear.”
Sarandon is an outspoken advocate for equality and human rights. In December 2015, she spent time with various organisations helping refugees in Lesbos, Greece, who were fleeing the conflict zones of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
“I did it because I felt that they were being dehumanised,” she says, adding that she also felt her involvement in some way honoured her grandfather, who fled to the United States from Sicily as a teenager because the First World War was underway and the government was trying to place young boys in the army.
It was really important for [my children] to have a big view of the world, to not be afraid of or threatened by people who were different... Any kind of hatred is based on fear.— Susan Sarandon
When we speak, it’s an October morning in New York. “It’s a beautiful day, blue skies. I love when the leaves change. I would get so cranky working in California in the fall and missing the turning of the leaves,” says Sarandon, who is well known for her activism on a range of causes including environmental protection. Born in New York on October 4, she says she associates the East Coast’s dramatic autumn foliage with “rebirth”.
“No matter what’s happening, nature keeps trucking along,” she says in her unmistakable husky voice. “Unless we mess it up so badly that it stops.”
Recently, Sarandon was made a global ambassador for Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, which she praises for its sustainability efforts, citing Fairmont Maldives for its coral reef conservation programme, although her favourite Fairmont property, of course, is The Plaza in New York.
“What I like about these iconic hotels that have been around forever is that they’re now addressing their conservation efforts,” she says. “It’s easy for new hotels to see what the neighbourhood is doing. But it’s harder, when you have these magnificent old hotels, to find a way to do that.”
There are two things the 75-year-old actress considers when choosing hotels: sustainability and impact on the community. “How [a hotel] treats their workers and the community that surrounds the hotel are really important,” she says. “You want to make sure that you’re a welcomed presence.”
Susan Sarandon's Travel Picks
Best place for food?
Italy. Pretty much everywhere you eat in Italy is good except the Vatican. I went there once for a conference on refugees, and the food was pretty disappointing.
Favourite trip to Asia?
I went on an Indonesian sailing ship called Silolona through the Ring of Fire, which was just extraordinary. It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip that I took with a few friends. I slept on deck, watched the sunrise and sunset, and went snorkelling with whale sharks.
A sleeping aid of some sort. I’m terrible with jetlag. Other than that, a moisturiser, sunblock, a good book and pictures of my kids.
Most underrated destination?
Portugal. It was very relaxed and the food was great. They also have something called fado, a style of singing that happens spontaneously and emotionally in restaurants or cafés. It’s specific to Portugal; that was quite something.