by Jae-Ha Kim and Tribune Content Agency, Celebrity Travel, June 20, 2017
Former NFL player Akbar Gbajabiamila is the co-host of NBC's obstacle-course competition series, "American Ninja Warrior." An avid traveler, Gbajabiamila says he prepares for overseas trips by researching "language for key phrases, history and what the locals enjoy. Of course, I have my top touristy stuff to do, but that's at the bottom of the list." He interacts with fans on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Akbar_Gbaja).
Q. What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A. From the 40 countries I've traveled to, I've learned that we are all more alike than we are not. At the core of every human being I've encountered in my travels, I whole-heartedly believe that we all just want to matter. That's why I believe God created communities -- so we can learn from each other. Regardless of your socioeconomic background, race, religion and any other difference, we all represent the human race.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Cape Town, South Africa. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to in my life. You experience raw beauty the minute you land on the Motherland. It's a must-see city and country. As soon as you have settled in from the long flight, you have to go immediately to Table Mountain. You will capture the closest thing to heaven on earth.
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. Istanbul, Turkey, has to be one of the most underrated and least-publicized locations. I was surprised at how amazing the city was. I know there has been a lot of unrest in the region, but that doesn't take away from what Istanbul has to offer. The country is rich in religious history. The people were so nice there.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. It was to Washington D.C., in 1991. It was our sixth-grade class trip. That was my first time on a plane and the first time leaving the state of California. On that trip, I experienced a bunch of firsts: First time staying at a hotel, first time on a charter bus and first time visiting the White House. My favorite memory was meeting President George H.W. Bush coming off of Marine One. We did it all in D.C.!
Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. San Diego, California, has to be my favorite weekend getaway. It offers everything you could want to recharge and get ready to attack the workweek. The beaches, the endless outdoor activities and the weather are all you need -- and the best Mexican food you will find in the U.S.
Q. If you've ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. Green Bay, Wisconsin, has the whitest Christmas ever. Plus, the city has buzz to it during the football season. Even if you're not a fan, you can appreciate the Christmas and (Green Bay) Packer enthusiasm. When I visit my brother up there, it's always a good time to focus on family, mostly because you can't go outside.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. San Diego, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Rome.
Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. No place has really reminded me of Los Angeles. It really is a city in its own lane. However, Lagos, Nigeria, reminds me of New York. It's just go, go, go and honk, honk, honk!
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. There are two places I would love to travel to: Antarctica and Australia.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. I must have my clippers to cut my hair, because I am ashamed of my line of demarcation -- male pattern baldness. I hate when I travel overseas because the power outlets don't allow me to use my clippers. The battery operated clippers are too weak to cut my hair clean and bald.
Q. What would be your dream/fantasy trip?
A. Maldives would be a dream trip for me to take with my wife. Sorry, no kids for this trip!
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you're on the road?
A. At the risk of sounding like an old man, my guilty pleasure is reading the newspaper. In the digital age, it's an obsolete thing, but I love the feel and feeling that it gives me. I feel smart and ready to take in the city.
Q. What is your worst vacation memory?
A. Traveling to London after the death of Michael Jackson. I bought tickets to see Michael Jackson for the first time in the "This Is It" tour at the O2 Arena. You could imagine that as a fan, this was a tough trip to take. I watched his funeral from Birmingham, U.K. That whole trip was a fog. I definitely have to travel to London again to properly take it in.
(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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