Go Away With … Iliza Shlesinger

iliza148 web Credit Robyn Von Swank_low res x640

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
May 10, 2016

“There’s nothing better than getting paid to see my country and connect with the fans who gave me a career,” says Iliza Shlesinger, host of TBS’ relationship-based game show “Separation Anxiety” and a former winner of “Last Comic Standing.” The savvy world traveler says she is up for going anywhere, anytime: “I’m a travel fiend. If I’m in love, I want to go to Paris. And if I want to eat everything and get lost in someone’s culture, I’ll take anywhere in Asia. I loved Cambodia and I can’t wait to go back to Japan. I also loved Europe.”

Fans may follow the Los Angeles-based comic on Twitter.

Q. What are your favorite cities?

A. In the United States: San Francisco, Seattle, New York. Outside the U.S.: Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver, Montreal, Paris, London, Barcelona, Seoul and Delhi.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. I’ve heard good things about Croatia. I’d love to eat my way through the Dalmatian Coast. I would also love to visit Russia. There’s so much history that’s longer and richer than ours. I’d love to get a peek at that and try to understand. Also, Thailand. I just wanna eat everything.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child? And did you love it … or not so much?

A. I remember my parents taking us to Club Med in Ixtapa, Mexico, which, of course, was fun. But that’s just my first travel memory. The first real trip abroad with other kids was to Israel. We got to connect with and see firsthand the country that was at the center of so many debates in our own country. It was my first chance to explore and be part of the energy of another country or city. It was also my first chance to get to be a sort of global citizen on my own — attempting to speak their language, haggling, buying their products. I loved every second of it and it contributed to my sense of independence as I got older and traveled alone more. I also secretly took home some Dead Sea water and it really helped my skin. This was pre-9/11, so I was allowed to take a giant jug of water on the plane.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A. To this day, my favorite part about travel is being a strange person in a strange land and seeing how far I can get. So the affirmation of independence and the confidence that comes from that. There is a sense of accomplishment when you, whether piecing it together word by word or fluently, communicate in another language and catch a train or make reservations or connect with new people. There is a confidence that comes with travel. The world seems less intimidating and, while exploring our differences, you really get a feeling for how similar we all are. Also, don’t drink the water, that’s a huge thing.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. As a comedian, I work weekends. But for the few that I’m home, I like to stay local. What’s great about Los Angeles and California in general is that we are so close to such a variety of towns and landscapes just hours outside of our city. It’s fun to get drunk against the backdrop of beautiful hills under the pretense of wine-tasting. Napa is great for that. But, really, an hour outside of Los Angeles, you can find wine country. Solvang, for anyone living in L.A., is a fun Danish gingerbread-looking town in the Santa Ynez Valley. It’s great for just a quick whimsical getaway for the night. There’s also, not far, The Madonna Inn. But, there’s something just so calming about even a drive to Santa Barbara, as long as you go at like 10 a.m. to avoid traffic. Otherwise, it’s pure nightmare fuel.

Q. What would be your dream/fantasy trip?

A. I’ve been thinking about this. I’d love to start in Buenos Aries, then see Rio again and then fly to Paris for a night, do a week in any part of northern Europe — maybe Denmark — then fly to Moscow to see it and get closer to the rest of Asia. I’d like to do Asia all over again. I’d love to go back through India and try Goa and Bombay this time, then revisit Cambodia and Vietnam and maybe end by revisiting Japan. Last time I was there, I had no money and that was no fun. This trip should take about four months. I’m fine with that. I’ll set an alarm on my house. Oh, also, Tucson. I’ve always wanted to go there. Just kidding.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. I travel a lot but, ironically, I don’t take many vacations. If I’m gonna be a vegetable and want somewhere easy, then Mexico, because it is two hours away. A nice resort, not an all-inclusive where families from Orlando are going ballistic over free watered down margaritas in plastic cups.

Q. To someone who was going there (your favorite destination) for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?
A. I love ensconcing myself in someone else’s point of view so in order to “earn” a relaxation day of nothing, I like to visit museums and get lost in a city, walking around early morning helps get your bearings. There is no point in visiting another country if you’re just gonna sit in your room or just get drunk by a pool. When I was in London, I would get up at 5 am and jog (how annoying does that sound) just to give myself a personal tour of an empty city. I walked everyday and just went into any museum I could find. Walk walk walk, it’s the best way to become part of any city… Just be careful where you walk and… about walking at night. The only place I wasn’t thrilled with that was in Bahrain, I wasn’t into the whole…oppressing women thing.

Q. Have you traveled to a place that stood out so much that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your work?
A. Not per se. I don’t have jokes really about foreign places. Also, with the invention of smart phones and easier access to internet, there is an ease with which we share foreign experiences. When I was in London, I took a day trip to Weston-super-Mare where they had Dismaland and I posted every moment of it on Instagram. That was crazy — to travel to something that popular alone, but then get to be some people’s only opportunity to see the art up close — it felt special and I loved sharing it. I also felt super cool for going alone to Dismaland.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?
A. There is a boutique chain in Texas called Hotel ZaZa. They are sexy and glamorous and they have thoughtful details. I wish there were more of them. The NoMad Hotel in New York has become a recent favorite. When traveling domestically or internationally, you can’t go wrong with a W hotel or a Fairmont or a Four Seasons. Those are always dependable and beautiful. Sofitels are also a favorite of mine. My first thought is always a boutique hotel for the individuality, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting reputation and familiarity when you’re in a new environment, even if it’s just for your sleeping hours. If you’re going to travel abroad, I say do a mix of reputable hotels and, for local flavor’s sake, try to do a B&B or a boutique for a night or two. When I was in Bath, England I took a chance at stayed at The Apsley House — the Duke of Wellington built it for his mistress in the 1800s! — and it was a proper old world British experience and it was so worth it.

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. Abroad? When I went to Italy, we ate at a place called Piperno in Rome. I remember how outstanding it was to this day. In general I love divy places and anything not touristy. When I was in Israel in 1998, I remember being invited into someone’s home for lunch. I don’t know if they were Palestinian or Israeli, but they didn’t care what I was so, I didn’t care what they were. It was so random, but it was such a culture shock — getting a chance to really eat what locals eat, not just the American version. I’ve eaten everywhere from shacks in Phnom Penh and stands in Madras (now known as Chennai) — and, yes, I got very sick, but it’s part of the experience — to elaborate buffets in Dubai. I just like things that are authentic. I’ll take them anyway I can get them.

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?
A. Ugh, I overorder room service and watch “American Greed” on TV. It’s usually on about 3 a.m., which is when I’m awake. I also snack a lot and if there is a can of Pringles in the mini bar, I can’t not eat it. When I’m in a foreign city, I try not to eat meals, because I’d rather just nibble my way through a city. I never wanna be too full from lunch to try a pastry or a cheese. When I travel, my guilty pleasure is snacking nonstop.

Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. Paris and anything in the South of France. It’s just so perfect and exactly how they make it in the movies. Sounds trite, but there is a reason for that. I say that also having been with a boyfriend, who I wasn’t in love with at the time. Watching all the couples who were in love, I was thinking, “I gotta come back here with someone I can stand.” Another great romantic destination is my couch. God, I love being home.

Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. When I was in high school, my mom and step dad took our whole family to Tanzania. Most of my friends go to Hawaii or skiing, which is awesome. But we flew to Dar es Salaam — not directly from Dallas, obviously — and we did a safari. It was otherworldly. Getting to hear and attempt to speak Swahili, getting to see how tribes live or a lion up close. I am forever grateful for getting exposed to that part of the world so early in life. We spent New Year’s Eve in a lodge by the Ngorongoro Crater. I couldn’t believe I was starting a New Year on the other side of the world.

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. Well, I live in L.A., so anywhere in Mexico feels about right. London felt like New York, which is a very familiar place to me. I know this is odd, but when I was in Vietnam — maybe it was the French influence — but it just felt good. Also, I’m from Texas so anytime I can get out into nature and see some big sky, that reminds me of home.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. I am so excited to be asked this question! This is such a celebrity question. Haha! I must have my Mophie, because there’s nothing more annoying than having to stop to charge my phone. Sonicare toothbrush and floss, because travel is no excuse for a gross mouth. Headphones, specifically noise cancelling earbuds, because airline headphones are garbage and noise cancelling are great in case a hotel room/train or airplane are just too loud. A low-cut flimsy white t shirt- these are great items because you can dress them up or down if you are packing light. I think good walking shoes and good work out shoes are essential, the latter in case the mood strikes you. Also? Always bring a bathing suit because you never know 😉 And, this is for experienced travelers — if you are going to a poor country, bring a bag of toys, even stickers or cheap trinkets can mean the world to children who have nothing.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. I like to know what the locals do. I like to find stuff that no one else is doing and immerse myself in as much of their culture as possible. Obviously if I’m going to Agra, I’m going to see the Taj Mahal, but once I’ve done the touristy thing, I like to try and offset it with eating somewhere off the beaten path or finding a dive bar. I like to know a few words of the country’s language. That way, I can at least say basic things. I know most people speak English but I try not to be an “ugly American” and show respect. When I went to Singapore for military shows, I saw some Americans eating at a Hard Rock Café. It was sad when one of the better tofu dishes I’ve ever had was in Sembawang a few miles away. Do research, but always ask the locals, they want to share their culture and they are proud of it.

Q. What is your worst vacation memory?
A. I was given a trip — sounds bratty — through a PR deal. I won’t say the place, obviously, but it was to a warm tropical place and the weather turned out to be freezing and rainy. There was nothing to do at the hotel and they kept pushing their canoeing classes, as if anyone wants to get in freezing choppy water. I felt bad, because everything was comped but, I didn’t want to get drunk for four days straight and sit inside a boring hotel. The town was 45 minutes away and the drivers wouldn’t go over 10 mph, so it was just excruciating to go anywhere and we were just drunk and bored and going to bed at like 9 p.m. every night. I could have stayed in L.A. for that.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. Zanzibar. It’s like taking a step back in time. The culture and history of the island is well preserved and the people were lovely. And when you’re done being cultured, they have great hotels and, obviously, beaches. It is an island after all.

© 2016 JAE-HA KIM


Comments (2)

  1. Iliza Shlesinger says:

  2. Iliza says:

Join the Discussion

Psssst! Your E-mail address will not be published.

Name *

E-mail *