Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Content Agency, May 9, 2017
Television viewers know Ian Harding as Ezra Fitz on Freeform's "Pretty Little Liars" -- the role that won him seven Teen Choice Awards. With the release of his first book, "Odd Birds" (St. Martin's Press, $25.99), he can also add author to his resume. In his collection of essays, Harding shares vignettes of his life in Hollywood, interspersed with tales about his hobby, bird-watching. Harding will next be seen in the indie film "Office Uprising." Born in Heidelberg, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, and raised in Virginia, the actor currently resides in Los Angeles. Fans may follow him on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ianmharding) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/IANMHARDING).
Q. Where are some of the places that you've filmed on location?
A. I've spent most of my professional acting career on a sound stage, but the pilot for "Pretty Little Liars" was shot in Vancouver, Canada. At the time, I begged the powers-that-be to shoot up in the blustery north, since I wanted to explore British Columbia and discover -- if only for a few months out of the year -- what it was like to live in a foreign country.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. I was apparently very well-traveled before I could even walk. Having been born in Germany, I was able to travel to multiple European countries while strapped to my dad's back. I'm guessing since I still love to wander so much, I must have had some positive early experiences.
Q. What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A. Perspective. Whether I'm on a three-day hike or on an all-expenses paid island getaway, I can't help but see the world -- and hopefully my place in it -- a little differently.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. Japan, especially Hokkaido, in both the spring for the pink moss and winter for the epic skiing.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. Binoculars, for non-pervy reasons. Running shoes -- they double as hiking boots. Pen and paper; bite plate night guard -- I grind my teeth when I sleep really badly. Nothing kills a trip faster than a shattered molar; one pair of freshly washed, somewhat spiffy jeans. A pair will last you a few days of constant use before they really start to get gross and my SPOT GPS tracker and emergency transponder, because, you know, paranoia.
Q. What would be your dream trip?
A. I don't have one dream trip per se, but I have one, over-arching travel goal: to set foot on every continent before I die, including Antarctica. I figure, I already have three down, so I'm almost there!
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you're on the road?
A. Flying first class. If I travel somewhere far flung, I usually spring for first class. It sounds pretentious, but here's my reasoning -- if I'm flying to, let's say, Scotland to go mountain biking through the Highlands, I want to be as rested as possible. Most international flights nowadays offer lay-flat seats, and sadly, I have trouble sleeping while sitting up. I figure, I would rather spring for a little more for comfortable and useful travel, than for a fancy hotel room at my destination that I'll only use for storing my bags anyway.
Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. Best place for beer, best nature experience, least touristy food spot. If I'm (going) abroad, where is the U.S. Consulate?
Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A. My best and worst vacation memory was one in the same: Iceland. I should start by saying it's a beautiful country and I would love to go back. My girlfriend and I stayed at the ION Adventure Hotel. The food was marvelous and it's a comfortable outpost for getting out into the wild. The staff is also first class, as I learned when they repeatedly helped us get to the emergency room in Reykjavik.
We caught the Norovirus during a layover in Frankfurt, Germany. I managed to get it out of my system rather quickly, but Sophia had to be hospitalized. Twice. What I learned from the experience -- apart from never to eat Italian food in a German airport -- was that people often have expectations of how life is supposed to be, especially on vacation -- "I'm supposed to be having fun ... an adventure ... be relaxed" -- and when things go awry, especially on holiday, all of your inner demons are brought to the foreground, perhaps more vividly than if you were back home.
I found myself in the same position. I was becoming bitter and resentful toward my girlfriend when she could barely stand for more than 20 seconds without becoming nauseous. The question posed by the dilemma was, what's more important? My vacation in Iceland, or the person I love? If the answer was the former, then perhaps I shouldn't continue living and loving her. No vacation, trip, car, house, job, meal or wristwatch is worth the person you share your life with.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)
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