It’s been almost nine years since Pavia Rosati set out to create a travel publication tailored to the “native, trustworthy and credible” travel site she so searched for, yet couldn’t seem to find — so she created her own.
“There wasn’t really anything that spoke to me as a traveler, that gave me exactly what I needed,” says Rosati on the early stages of designing a travel publication. “So I set out to build it.”
Cue the birth of FATHOM. Designed to allow readers to, “indulge in a passion for travel,” it’s no wonder that a peek into Rosati’s apartment reveals her enthusiasm for travel. “Almost everything here has a travel story,” she says as my eyes bounce from souvenir to practical baubles—collectible momentums that seem to signify more than just an “item.”
Ornately patterned glasses from Syria, a hand painted water decanter from Mexico, stacked trays from Italy, art from Marrakech, tea cups from France, basket-woven frogs from the Peruvian Amazon, and no end to the bowls, spoons and ceramics of the world showcase Rosati’s past itineraries without having to explain much.
I catch Rosati on her work-from-home day (always Thursday), with Napa in her recent rearview and Mexico on the horizon. She turns up the low hum of Van Morrison and sits back on a burnt orange chair, aligned next to a table scattered with globes and magazines—fitting. The FATHOM founder takes a moment to explain that these chairs are originally from her dad’s law office before we lose ourselves in travel talk, Rosati brimming with excitement to tell the story behind each decorative piece as she transports me to Italy, India, England and beyond; capturing her enthrallment for the industry right there in her Chelsea apartment, all with the crystal clear image and words she paints from experience.
As I listen in wander, sipping on her go-to English Breakfast tea, we talk through FATHOM’s journey; from the early beginnings of taking a leap to go “all in,” to the naming process, to today, where I get to experience what a day in the life is like for this nomadic storyteller when she’s not on the road.
What inspired you to start your own digital editorial? And what was the first leap you took in order to achieve this?
For all the travel websites that exist, way back when (that is, in 2009) there wasn’t anything that really spoke to me as a traveler, that gave me exactly what I needed. On one end were exhaustive sites like TripAdvisors, Hotels.com, and OTAs like Booking.com; on the other were personal blogs. Where was that middle ground? That digitally native, trustworthy, journalistically credible site that covered the most special places and experiences around the world? It didn’t exist, so I set out to build it.
There was no great leap. There were small steps. Telling Jeralyn Gerba about my idea and convincing her to build this with me. Quitting DailyCandy. Finding UI, design, legal, financial help. And ultimately having the faith to say, “okay, it’s go time.”
Why the name “Fathom”?
Naming things is hard! To say nothing for finding available URLs. Jeralyn and I were playing with the idea of a compass — because there’s no more time-tested and trustworthy guide than a compass. Plus, visually they’re beautiful. The idea of a compass led us to tools of navigation, which led us (which is to say, my husband) to “fathom.”
I love the double meaning: “fathom” as a noun is an actual unit of measure, originally defined by the width of a man’s outstretched arms and typically applied to depth. “Fathom” as a verb implies understanding and comprehension. And that’s what we wanted to do — provide actual measurable direction and also understanding to help travelers go deeper, actually and metaphorically. Yes, I’m a total sucker for symbolism.
Describe your style of editorial.
Welcoming and insider. Smart and friendly. Knowing and curious.
How has the platform evolved since you first began?
We’ve stayed pretty true to our original mission of storytelling through inspiration, destination, and intelligence. Social media is a much bigger part of what we do now, especially our outrageously awesome Instagram feed, and we now have a travel agency to book reader trips and a consultancy to help companies connect with audiences through travel. We’re all about turning inspiration into action.
How do you start your mornings?
By hitting the snooze bar way too many times, much to my husband’s annoyance. And a cup of tea.
On a work-from-home day, how does your routine differ? And how do you motivate yourself to have a productive day?
Thursday has always been our work-from-home day at Fathom. If I’m not taking meetings, I’m at my dining room table (the original Fathom HQ), totally focused. I tend to be a voluble person in the office.
Do you have a favorite spot in the city to do work? What about to unwind?
I work at Primary, a beautiful co-working space, so I like being in the office. I’m not a cafe worker type, but I do love the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library on 42nd Street. I unwind at dinner with friends.
What’s one thing you couldn’t make it through a day without?
Way too many cups of tea.
Who do you consider as your role model?
I continue to be guided by so many people I’ve worked with and seen in action — clever writers (especially those who write for Fathom), inspired creatives, technical wizards, and innovative problem solvers — everyone from whip-smart interns to trailblazing CEOs.
If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go and why?
This list is too long. Norway to see the fjords. Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Scotland, to walk a misty moor. And Italy because I always want to be in Italy.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? How do you apply that to your life today?
There are two. One from Bob Pittman, who I’ve worked with at my last three jobs: No one sees your product as closely as you do. You see an earthquake; they can barely detect movement. The takeaway here is to know when to let go, which is useful to remember if you tend to be a control freak. (Ahem.)
The second came from a trashy novel I read when I was too young for such a book: If you do what you love, you’ll never feel like you’re working. This is true. I love connecting people to pleasure, which is essentially what I’ve done my whole career, whether as the entertainment editor at AOL or as executive editor at DailyCandy where, among other things, I covered restaurants. Now at Fathom, I cover culture and food, and more through, travel. This means the world is my beat, and how awesome is that? The downside is that I’m sort of always working. I don’t know what it’s like to travel without a notebook. But, damn, do I treasure my notebooks.
Photos by Philip Nix