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Unpacked: Grant Legan on His Drive for Life and First Impressions

Photographer and traveler Grant Legan has been wandering for inspiration since he was a boy. (Photos: Courtesy of Grant Legan)

Los Angeles-based Grant Legan always was, and still is, a wandering boy. Growing up in the small town of Batavia, Illinois he used to wander through the woodlands extending far beyond his backyard. “My brother and I would fill our backpack with Oreos and go into the woods until we got hungry and wanted to go home,” Legan tells the AC Hotels’ “Unpacked Project.”

Since then, not much has changed in the life of the 28-year old photographer. Only now, rather than discovering his local community, Legan satisfies his wanderlust by traveling the globe.

Seven years ago, a college exchange program brought him to Australia for his first overseas experience. That was when he well and truly caught the traveling bug. “Nothing compares to that initial feeling of discovery,” Legan says. And with each culture he discovers, every dish he tastes or friend he makes, he builds upon that feeling: “A drive for life,” he explains over coffee.

Curious to hear what a globetrotter like him looks for in a hotel, we meet Legan in between journeys.

“When I explore new places, I mostly miss the social aspect of being a local,” Legan says. “At AC Hotels, I feel welcomed. They share their personal favorites on where to go for dinner, and give me the lowdown on new art shows that no one else, not even the locals, are catching onto. Being a photographer, I turn all my travels into work, even my holidays. So for me it’s important to feel at home, but I also want to experience something I can’t find at home. Being pulled into a moment of indefinable beauty is a great way to leave a hectic day behind. Simply by noticing the grandness in the smallest thing. That’s what elevates a stay: an impeccable eye for detail and home-like hospitality. Combine those two and you have a better place than home. Sorry mom.”

READ MORE: The Unpacked Project Interviews Nigel Barker, Grant Legan and Erin Spens

Grant Legan’s Travel Essentials

Here are the things he can’t globe trot without:


Hand Luggage

You will never see me entering a plane without this bag. It carries all my essentials. In the odd case my checked suitcase goes missing, I can still work and continue to enjoy my journey.



Whenever I enter or leave a new city my thoughts go all over the place. I channel this and other emotions in my notebook—the analog way.


Hat and Deodorant

First impressions are important. Not just for places, but also for people. When I get off an overnight plane I put on some deodorant, throw on my hat and that’s me. Ready to ramble.


Portable Speakers

My music is a reflection of my soul. Where am I in life? Where am I headed? Traveling heightens these emotions.

Photographer Grant Legan


I see beauty in everything and anyone. One little detail that’s slightly off can make me feel very happy. Maybe because that’s life, I don’t know. I like to share those moments along my journeys.

Embracing these moments are just as essential to Legan as his camera. He shares three ways to fully live the traveling life:

  • Be open to being uncomfortable: Embrace the unknown. Learn about yourself and grow. With every mile you travel, you pave your path to inner freedom.
  • Simplicity is the way to go: Don’t be a pack rat, as my mom used to say. Just bring your essentials and grow from there. If you didn’t bring you favorite sweatshirt, buy a new one – it even has a story behind it.
  • Don’t get tied down to things: Attach to moments rather than a mortgage. Society is not your boss. You are. Do you want to explore life? Go.