Go Away With … Ian Harding

By 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 and Twitter.

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.

Also, most of the medical staff in the Reykjavik hospitals wore Tevas with white socks.

Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. Fiji.

Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. I haven’t, really! But I would love to rent out a few cabins at the Hotel Kakslauttanen in Finland for Christmas one year. I went a few years ago and had a wild time. Like, “snowmobiling through the artic tundra looking for the Northern lights all while dodging herds of wild reindeer” kind of a time.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. I suppose this I have to answer with the place I go to most frequently. True, I love to venture to far off places, but there’s a spot in New England I visit every year, and it’s practically a spiritual place for me. So much so that I won’t actually say where it is!

Q. To someone who was going therefor the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?
A. Jump in the water. The area is pretty secluded, and the best way to take in the environment is to submerge yourself in it.

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. Gracias Madre Los Angeles — vegan place with CBD cocktails. Pony Bar, New York City — craft beer joint I visit every time I’m in Manhattan. Virginia Beer Company, Williamsburg, Virginia — because my friends started it and it’s amazing. Gastabud, Stockholm — the best meatballs I’ve ever had in my life. Practically a religious experience. Pamela’s, Pittsburgh — so many tasty memories from college. Casbah, Pittsburgh. Pine State Biscuits, Portland. Public House, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. Salt and Straw — super hipster ice cream place found in L.A. and Portland, but well worth it. The many many hole in walls I’ve found over the years.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. Untapped meaning not really spoken of? Or not as sexy as one might think? When I hear the phrase, I think of some natural setting with very few humans, which is ideal – thus my apprehension in disclosing such places. That said, last year I made it out to Pinnacles National Park in California. It feels like Yosemite lite. Beautiful rock formations, great camp sites where you can buy beer and take a shower at the little ranger station and you can search for the California Condor there.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. National Parks. And Breweries.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?

A. Turtle Island Resort, Fiji; Ace Hotel Manhattan; Fasano, in both Sao Paulo and Rio; Omni Nashville; Hotel Bardesssano, Napa; Hotel Kakslauttanen.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. I hate this question, because there are so many. Five is an offensively low number. Let’s try seven, since its my lucky number! Let me first remove the city I currently live in, which I love, along with Washington, D.C., where I basically grew up and also hold in high regard. In no particular order, Stockholm, Portland, Boston, New York City, Nashville, Rome, Aptos (Calif.), Paris, London, Bend (Ore.). O.K., fine, that was 10.

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. I’ve been to Oregon a few times over the past few years. I have zero family there and had never been prior to the age of 27. Yet there was an energy in the state that I simply jived with. Thinking about it now, I actually get a little teary eyed knowing I will most likely never live there.

© 2017 JAE-HA KIM

Comments (1)

  1. Alice says:

    I don’t usually do this but…oh my god he is handsome!

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