Formula One Legend Lewis Hamilton on the Transformative Power of Travel and Flying With Pup, RoscoeBy Valerie Conners
For Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton, one of the greatest drivers in motorsports history, travel is a key part of the F1 season, with races slingshotting him around the globe — from Singapore and Miami to Budapest and Abu Dhabi. This access to travel, both during F1’s nine-month season and on his personal journeys, is something Hamilton considers transformative.
“When I first flew to Italy to race as a kid, I remember the experience of landing and then seeing a different land,” says the team Mercedes driver and seven-time Formula One World Drivers’ Champion. “The sun hit the planes differently; there’s a different smell, a different aura.”
Hamilton says that in the years since that early trip, his appreciation for the places he visits has only grown, giving him a deeper sense of travel’s transformative impact.
“[Travel] helps you expand your mind and your consciousness,” he says. “Seeing different people and how people live differently, how they communicate differently, how people share their energy in all these different places — I think that’s probably the best part of traveling.”
For fans of Hamilton, this sort of insight comes as no surprise. Whether he’s on the race circuit, on vacation or at home, Hamilton regularly shares nuggets of wisdom and gratitude across his social media channels — reminding his ardent followers to stay present, positive and kind.
“I feel incredibly privileged to have traveled and seen different places,” Hamilton says. “We are all beings of energy, even though we can’t necessarily see an aura of energy around everybody; when you travel to these different places, you pass on that energy. It is a transformative kind of experience.”
Marriott Bonvoy Traveler sat down to talk with Hamilton to learn how travel keeps him present and shapes the way he views the human experience. Plus, we heard what it’s like to travel with his beloved bulldog, Roscoe.
[Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.]
Lewis, you are revered for your speed on the track. How do you slow down when you travel?
When I’m going through the airports, I always pick up a book … I always make sure I have music with me. I think probably the best way to slow down is to have a massage, do yoga or do sound healing. So when I’m traveling, I try and find those things in the locations that I’m going to, or just meditate.
[When I meditate] I’m fidgeting the first five minutes, but eventually I get to a peaceful spot, and it feels like I’ve taken 10 minutes just for me that day, not giving energy to anything else.
You’ve spent a lot of time in Colorado, a place filled with open spaces and outdoor activities. Does being in a setting like that also help you transition and be present?
One-thousand percent. When I was growing up in England, for example, on Christmas day … it was rarely snowing. So my dream was always to have the seasons. I love the different seasons, seeing the leaves change. I wanted to go to a winter wonderland.
Now, when I go to the mountains, it’s the fresh air, it’s the altitude, it’s the silence. When I’m up there, I’m away from the world. I love that I’m able to really unplug from the rest of the world. I’m not watching the news. I’m not on my phone.
There’s no TVs everywhere in the house, so everyone comes together and actually has conversations … So, that’s what I try to incorporate. Let’s talk about something; let’s create a memory.
Conservation is an important advocacy point for you. What have your travels in Africa and beyond taught you about sustainability?
When visiting different African countries, I noticed people were [now] giving up their lives to protect and conserve areas. There are so many great people that are trying to impact the world positively and offset some of the exploitation that the continent has faced.
For example, people in Tanzania are spending every day looking after wildlife, whether it’s elephants or infant giraffes, that have been abandoned by their families. It’s looking at the land — how vast it is, the conservation areas they have there — protecting it and not having it used for farming.
The people there are conscious about their surroundings, protecting their area and the wildlife that surrounds them.
Your diet is plant-based. Are there particular snacks or foods that you like to pack when you travel?
I always take instant noodles with me, like miso soup noodles … I’m relatively particular with food. I would say I’m way more adventurous now than I ever was before going plant-based. You have to try things that you would never normally have.
Before, I would never, ever had hummus, for example. I don’t know why. I’m a very visual person, and I would look at it and be like, “What is that?” But now I don’t see it like that, and it’s delicious, so I eat that mostly every day.
I always take little protein bars with me and protein powder. I just mix that with water anywhere I go. That helps me stay hydrated. I also like to have a canister so I can see how much water I’ve drunk in a day.
Your pup, Roscoe, is a fan favorite. What is it like to travel with him?
Roscoe is the best travel pet. He just sleeps with you. Our first flight was out to Denver, Colorado. I remember him being by my feet. I fell asleep, and then I woke up to him tapping my leg, and he’s looking at me, and it is almost like, “I need to go to the toilet, dad.”
I don’t know if he did, but this was three hours into a 10-hour flight. I said, “Go back to sleep,” so he goes back to sleep. Then he woke up again, did the same thing. But all he really wanted was to get on my lap and hug — and he is not the smallest of dogs. So I was sleeping in a seat with him like a baby on my lap.
If I have a race, I say bye to him in the morning, and he’s sad that I’m leaving. But when I get back, he’s the most excited. It’s like, “I’ve been waiting to play with you all day.”
Then I get the Frisbee and play with him, and that’s, for me, the biggest highlight. The unconditional love you get from a pet like that.
You’re constantly changing time zones during the F1 season. How do you manage to stay at the top of your game while dealing with sleep disruptions?
It’s definitely tough. I’ve done quite a bit of reading about what you can do in terms of shifting your body’s circadian rhythm. It’s really dependent on the time zone that you’re going to. When I’m going east, I really feel heavy jet lag. When I’m going west, it’s much easier for whatever reason.
So if I’m going out to Asia, a lot more preparation needs to be done. When I’m going out to Japan, for example, I need to get there way in advance [of a race]. If I can, I’ll start sleeping or eating on the time zone [I’m traveling to] one or two days before I go. I also always use melatonin.
I try to book flights that are not during the daytime where you’re fully awake the whole flight. When it’s nighttime and the [plane’s] lights dim out, everyone’s going to sleep. I try to do that.
When I’m in places like Singapore, the hotels always take care of me, make sure to black out the windows, keep the curtains closed because of the sunlight. I have to go to bed at 6:00 a.m. and wake up at 1:00 in the afternoon to stay on a U.K. time zone.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, you said, “Music saves me every day.” What’s on your travel playlist?
I literally don’t go anywhere without my headphones. I’m just always looking for new music. I don’t really care what kind of music it is. If I have a go-to, it’ll be Afrobeats, R&B, or old-school stuff. I love listening to a lot of the older bands, whether it’s Prince or Michael [Jackson].
On the playlist that I have today, FKA twigs has got some great new music out. I love Jorja Smith. She’s got such a great vibe. There’s so many great U.K. artists. Every now and then, when you’re in London, you get back into your grime. Because that’s what I grew up around when I was up in Stevenage and traveling to London.
When I’m on a flight, reggae really helps chill me out … You can never go wrong with Bob Marley. I really like listening to Tame Impala. When I was in Africa, I didn’t even put two and two together and didn’t realize that the animal, the impala, was there. Then I was like, “Oh, that makes sense.”
You’re immersed in the world of fashion as a designer and style icon. So, what is in your travel bag?
I don’t count myself as a style icon. I think everyone is a style icon because everyone’s unique in their own way … I think that trying new things and wearing bold looks that people will question hopefully encourages people to go and try new things and not care what people think. As long as you like what you are wearing, that’s all that matters.
Simple, easy things for me are denim. I love my denim jeans, denim jacket. If I’m ever really struggling to find something to wear, that’ll be something I just throw on. I generally have quite a lot of vintage denim stuff that I’ll go and buy. I love vintage clothes. Whatever’s comfy, I like comfy wear. I don’t like being uncomfortable, ever. And J’s, you’ve got to have a really good pair of Jordans if you can.
Travel can serve as a source of transformation; as we intersect with people and new cultures, it opens minds, it reduces prejudices. Has travel transformed you in that respect?
It’s mind-expanding when you realize there’s so many people in the world and when you also realize that everyone’s trying their hardest to get by every single day. Everyone’s struggling with something.
I’ve found it incredibly humbling and grounding when you go somewhere like Peru or Philippines maybe, where people greet you so kindly. They’re so caring and generous with their energy, never asking for anything back. Those have been transforming experiences for me.
Experiencing different cultures, realizing there’s a different love language in every single country that you go to, in all different cultures. But at the core of it, we’re all very much the same.
And the power of a smile goes a really long way.
A long way, yes. I try to surround myself with really positive people. I don’t think there’s really anybody around me that’s not smiling when we see each other.
But also just asking, “How are you doing today?” I don’t know how many people get asked that every single day. But it’s good to tap in with people and see how they’re doing. That can go a long way, as well, I think.