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When I first started at Condé Nast more than 20 years ago, I was an intern at Glamour at 350 Madison Avenue. Four years ago, when I walked back into the company’s offices for my first day at Allure — this time at 1 World Trade Center — I was struck by a familiar scent. In an entirely different building in an entirely different decade, I was immediately drawn back to memories of those early days. I don’t think it’s one particular fragrance per se, but rather a sweet blend of hundreds of perfumes in the beauty closets of different magazines wafting through the hallways.

It’s no secret that scent has a powerful connection to memory. Unlike sound and touch, smell is processed in an area of the brain that has a direct connection to the amygdala, which plays a role in emotional memories.
Michelle Lee In Tokyo entrance
Courtesy of Michelle Lee
Today, when I travel, I try to take advantage of this. If I’m staying at a hotel that has a signature candle, I’ll buy one for home. Pro tip: The Edition hotels have some of the best candles, which were created in partnership with Le Labo. Whenever I light mine, it instantly transports me to the time and place of my stay.

The effect doesn’t have to arise from a resort’s signature scent. When I was in Spain this summer, we sun-dried our own sea salt in Majorca, then went to a little shop near where we ate dinner to buy flor de sal harvested from the same Ses Salines salt flats. When I popped open the canister back at home, my kids shouted, “It smells like Majorca!” Every morning I sprinkle a few of the chunky crystals on my eggs and have a little Spanish vacation.

selfie of Michelle Lee with a peace sign in front of a sea
Courtesy of Michelle Lee

In Tokyo last summer, my daughter and I treated ourselves one afternoon to tea at the Peninsula hotel. Now the scent of not only jasmine tea but also jasmine fragrances brings me half a world away to that fancy dining room, nibbling on tiny sandwiches and cakes.

Michelle Lee with a cup of tea in hand in Tokyo
Courtesy of Michelle Lee

Our out-of-office issue celebrates global beauty in all its rich diversity. If the essence of travel is discovery, the thrill of new experiences, then collecting those memories is one of its lasting rewards. Sometimes the best way to go is to follow your nose.

Source: Scent Memory: The Power of Fragrance as a Nostalgia Collector | Allure