How I Travel Queen Charlottes Arsema Thomas Listens to Otis Redding to Sleep on Planes
Style & Culture

How I Travel: Queen Charlotte’s Arsema Thomas Listens to Otis Redding to Sleep on Planes

We peek into the airport routines and bizarre quirks of the world's most well-traveled people.

There’s so much to love on screen in Netflix’s Bridgerton universe—the costumes, the music, the notoriously ardent romantic tension—but for travelers and Anglophiles, a top draw is the sumptuous imagery of English scenery. A “hands down favorite” filming location for actress Arsema Thomas, who plays the young Lady Danbury in the prequel spin-off Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, out this week, was the city of Bath. “The entire city is absolutely beautiful. It feels like you’re walking through a ready-made historic set because of how well they maintain everything,” Thomas says. 

Her preferred place to steal away was the city’s pea-green, two-millennia-old waters. “The Roman Baths is this quiet, serene place, which feels quite magical,” says Thomas. Though the actress was born in the U.S. and got a Master’s at Yale, she grew up across several African countries and later studied acting in Paris and London. Ahead of the release of Queen Charlotte, Thomas chatted with us about her deeply well-traveled life, including the spots she’d like to return to, the movies she chooses in flight, and the psychological games she plays at the airport gate. 

A place she’s lived that she thinks more people should visit:

Benin is definitely on that list. I lived in Cotonou, the little capital right by the coastline. Benin is known for its music—it's the home of Angélique Kidjo, one of the greatest African musicians currently performing—and that gives you the vibe of the entire country. It has a really interesting history when it comes to voodoo, and the food is amazing. I love fish, and almost every restaurant you go to, whatever fish you order, they go into the ocean and get it for you. It really goes on island time, too, even though it's not an island; it's just a coastal city. But because it's so hot, there's this kind of laissez-faire attitude, this relaxed sense of time. It makes for a beautiful city for a vacation.

What’s in her carry-on:

Usually in my carry-on are an assortment of snacks that I have compiled walking through the airport. Usually something sweet—I love Haribo goldbears. They're my absolute favorite. Welch's fruit snacks, but you can only get them in America, and then something salty, usually a lentil chip situation. And there’s always three books that I probably don't even crack open over the course of the flight.

Her 1-2-3 flight routine:

If I find myself in the air during the day, it usually means that I've stayed up all night so that I could sleep through that flight, which is—now, thinking about it—not really a good idea. I have a playlist on Spotify so that I can go to sleep, and it just keeps me in a really meditative, zen place. It's mostly Otis Redding. I usually download a couple of podcasts that sound like friends chatting. Then I love watching the [in-flight] movies. I cycle through all three [stages] again and again.

The place she’d like to spend more time in:

I lived in southern India doing an Ayurvedic apprenticeship, and that's definitely one of the places that I would love to explore [again]. It’s so much of India in one place, I think. Southern Indian cuisine is so different than northern, which is a lot of what I get when I'm in London. It's the birthplace of Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic, eastern outlook on medicine and healing. I was there because my dad had ALS, so we took him to a wellness center to experiment, and I found it so interesting. It also has a ton of stunning temples that are architectural feats. It's a beautiful place. I did not get enough time there.

How she manages the lines at the airport gate:

I don't like it when people start lining up to the gate early, because it always makes me feel like I should also line up. Then, because I’ve waited so long, I know that I'll end up at the back of that line. I always want to make it seem as though I'm the smartest person in the room, like I know something that they don't know, so I sit in defiance until the very last second. It always means that my carry-on is going to be checked. It's like psychological warfare.

The two cities she could visit a million times and never tire of them:

Nairobi and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Both have such amazing food and different pockets of life, making them these never-ending fields of discovery. Nairobi has such amazing markets and nightlife, amazing music. I'm clearly a big fan of music! I think that's the number one thing that I enjoy when I travel somewhere—if I can dance and enjoy the country through my ears. Kenya has some of the greatest music coming out of eastern Africa, I think, and Nairobi is the beating heart of it.

The two most amazing hotels she’s ever experienced:

One is the Governor's Camp Lodge, this amazing tented camp in the Masai Mara in northern Kenya. It's stunning because usually, when you go on a safari, you are in a secluded area, and this allows you to be fully immersed with nature. You have zebras coming up to your room! It has a really great way of encompassing architecture with the natural surroundings so that it doesn't disturb. It's one of my favorite places. I love game drives and seeing animals; I think it's such a blessing.

And then, I never got to stay here, but I got to tour it: Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond, had this estate in Jamaica, and it's where Dr. No was filmed. It's the most beautiful property I've ever seen. You can stay in it, but it costs an arm and a leg. I am a massive fan of James Bond—I grew up watching all of those films—so there was a nostalgia to it.

The hotel amenity she adores:

I love when a room comes with slippers. I'm going to take them every time. And I love a free breakfast with so many options. It's just the perfect way to start your day, and always makes me feel like a queen. 

Where she’d like to go next:

I would love to travel throughout Brazil. My father used to live there and he would always rub it in my face, how amazing it was. Since he's Nigerian, he told me about the Nigerian population taken there during the slave trade, and what that has manifested into now. It’s very different from any of the diasporic communities that I've been to, so that's one of the main things that draws me there. I've also been in love with Brazilian music, Brazilian coffee. I love Carnival and the beaches and the movies that come out of there—City of God was one of my favorites—so I would love, love, love to be able to go to Brazil.