By Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Media Services
Celebrity Travel by Jae-Ha Kim
9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013
Born in Springfield, Mo., actor Lucas Grabeel is based in Los Angeles these days. Best known for his work in the "High School Musical" series, films and tours, the 27-year-old actor-singer, who also had a role in the critically acclaimed film "Milk," currently, co-stars in the ABC Family series "Switched at Birth."
Q. Is it easy to get jaded with traveling when you do so much of it for work?
A. "I admit that traveling used to be more fun when I didn't do it as much. I've got packing down to a science, so that's not an issue. I will say, though, that once I'm on the plane and we're preparing to land, that's when I get excited. I know that in a matter of moments, we'll be in a whole new world and it'll be time to explore a new place."
Q. How often do you return to a place you've already visited?
A. I love to travel, and I have been to some places multiple times -- like Barcelona and London. I've done mission trips to Guatemala about eight times with my family. But, in general, I rarely go to the same place twice. I really want to see as much as I possibly can. There's so much of the world I still have to cover.
Q. What was your experience in Guatemala like?
A. It was a culture shock. I started going when I was 12. The last time I went was when I was a junior in high school. Before each trip, we talked about what we would see and prepared ourselves so that we knew what to expect. And yet every time, there was something else that would affect you. Coming from America where a lot of us have so much, and then seeing people who were so grateful for life in general -- it was humbling. We saw so many people who were living in poverty, but they were so happy to see us and share their culture. We had the most amazing experience there. We hiked in the middle of rainforests and it felt like a religious thing. My mom is a nurse and had a medical clinic set up and people hiked for miles to seek medical attention. We brought vitamins and other supplies, but my mom worried about what they would do for the rest of the year after we left.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Barcelona. It kind of reminds me of home in Los Angeles, even though it's a different culture and has such a rich history. It has that laid-back feeling that Los Angeles has. Drinking sangria on the beach -- can't really beat that!
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. Utah. I've made eight movies there, so I've gotten to spend a lot of time there and make friends. I have homes in Utah and California. I never bought expensive cars. I invested in real estate instead. Utah is one of the most beautiful states I've been to. Every single day there's a beautiful sunset. I have to pinch myself quite often. Where else? Well, I grew up in Missouri and hated it as a kid, but now I love it. I love the outdoors life -- hiking, skiing. It's a great escape.
Q. What location did you travel to for work that you never thought you'd visit?
A. I've shot in Japan, Canada and all over the United States, but I never expected to make a film in Korea. I ended up having a great time exploring the cities when we had time off. I spent a lot of time in Seoul, where I got some martial arts training. Then we went to Jeju Island, which is kind of like their Hawaii. One side had really nice hotels and casinos. The other side is the industrial fish market, and that's where we shot.
Q. Do you adapt to foreign food pretty easily?
A. I do. I like Chinese and Japanese food, I love Thai food and spicy food is no issue for me. I'm not too particular. But I had a slightly difficult time during my stay in Korea, 'cause I was there for two months and we ate barbecue all the time. I was really craving just some normal, American food after that, which was so strange for me because I really do love eating the local food wherever I am. I had an "Indiana Jones" moment in Guatemala. One year we went on a hike to a remote village, where we were working on a medical clinic for the people. They made us lunch to thank us. We had no idea what it was and didn't want to be rude and not eat it. It was mystery food, but I remember it being pretty good. It was extremely spicy, but that didn't bother me.
Q. What was the first road trip you took?
A. We drove to Colorado. My dad had a college friend in Colorado Springs, which wasn't too far from where we lived in Missouri. I can't remember exactly how old I was, but I'm sure it was before I was five. The trip I really remember is driving to Disney World when I was five. It was our first big family trip. We stayed at campgrounds. There were some stressful moments, but at the same time my family sang songs on the road trip and had fun. We also drove down to Branson, which was about 45 minutes from where we lived, to see country music shows and comedians. I remember meeting Roger Miller and being thrilled. He had written some of the music for Disney's "Robin Hood," and he sang a little bit of the songs for my sister and me.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. I haven't been to anywhere in Africa. I would love to go to Morocco and Egypt. I hear South Africa is beautiful. Also, I've never been to Thailand and would like to get there someday.
Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A. I don't have any horror stories. But on our first trip to Guatemala, one of our members had a heart attack and passed away. That was devastating. My parents were giving him CPR for an hour and a half while we waited for the ambulance to come. It was pretty traumatizing for a 12 year old. The next year, we brought a monument for him. I'm definitely going to go back and look for it and help people again. I'd also like time to explore the country as well. We did a little bit of that, but our job was to help people when we were there. Guatemala's really a beautiful country.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at http://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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