By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
March 12, 2013
Author Matthew Salesses wasn’t sure what he’d do after he graduated from college. When he attended a seminar that basically asked, “What are you going to do with a degree in English?” he learned that one option was to teach abroad. He was 22 and on his own, so he signed up to teach English in the Czech Republic. He loved it so much that he next signed up to teach in Korea. Now 31, Salesses and his wife live just outside of Boston with their toddler daughter and his latest novel, “I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying” (Civil Coping Mechanisms, $13.95), was recently released. For more information, you may check out his website or follow him on Twitter.
Q. What was Prague like for a young college graduate?
A. My year in Prague was one of my favorite years. It was very cheap for Americans when I was there. Beer cost about one dollar, rent was about $600 per month for a four-bedroom apartment and you could get a really good meal for a few dollars. As soon as I ran out of my American money, I had to live off my earnings. I was paid in crowns, not dollars, so then I was even poorer than I am now. It’s not the kind of place where you can make a lot of money and travel around. But it was such a beautiful city and there was plenty to see. There is this great beer garden in Prague on Letna Hill where you can have a drink and look over most of the city. Is it still there? I miss that place. I’d like to go back with my wife and baby.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. Germany — which is my very first memory — at the age of five. I loved it. I love traveling. But it was also for me the first time I was in another culture, when I had always felt like people were thinking of me as separate culturally.
Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?
A. How to think about America. I feel like every American should travel for this reason, among others.
Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. The beach, any beach.
Q. Do you see similarities between Europe and Asia?
A. Yes, in that you really get a sense of their history. America is such a young country by comparison.
Q. What kind of vacations are you not down for?
A. I’m a city person. I like seeing nature from afar. I don’t like camping. I do like beaches and mountains and places that aren’t too buggy. I get bit by mosquitoes like crazy, and that can ruin any trip.
Q. Are you and your wife compatible when it comes to traveling?
A. Yes. I really like being in the same room with her, having our own things going on and also talking to each other. I wish that she was around all the time and I think it’d be great if we did everything together all the time. My wife has a very different way of traveling. She likes to travel in a tour group, where someone else leads and explains the sites. What she likes most about traveling is staying in a nice hotel and eating good food. I like those things, too, but what I like most of all is immersion in another culture and seeing things I can’t see at home. I’d rather stay in a hostel and eat bread and sausage and spend my time and money seeing as much as possible.
Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. We honeymooned in Phuket, Thailand, and it was very romantic. Paris has always seemed to me the most romantic city. How could you not fall in love there? Anywhere that evokes nostalgia is romantic, to me. What does that for me is very old architecture or pristine nature.
Q. What’s it like celebrating a holiday overseas?
A. The most interesting holiday away was New Year’s in Prague. The locals shoot fireworks off, but not as much straight into the sky as down the streets. There’s a real sense of danger and, maybe because of that, of community and renewal.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. So many places. Hawaii may be foremost. If I really think about it, everywhere, I guess. I would love to go to Africa and then see more of Asia. There’s so much of Europe I have yet to see, too.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. Bug spray and an electric fan. I’m a complete wuss about bugs and heat.
Q. What would be your dream trip?
A. Travel around the world with wife and baby.
Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. In the Boston area, we love Chez Henri and M3. In Prague, climb Petrin Hill and walk along the hard-to-reach areas until you find a monastery there that has the best beer and maybe the best goulash in the city. In Busan, South Korea, we like Ira Ira, one of those beef restaurants where they butcher the meat there.
Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. As much and as little as possible. I want to know where to go, but I like to get lost.
© 2013 JAE-HA KIM
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.