Where the experts holiday: Jax Tranchida, TV travel host

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Food nerd, roaming gnome and host of The Grill Iron on Cooking Channel, Jax Tranchida, talks travel

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What do you like to do on holiday?
I like to eat (I grew up in a home with a Jewish mother and Italian father, someone was always telling me that I needed to eat) but not at fancy restaurants. Rather I like to try food that the street vendors and food trucks are selling. To me, the best way to understand a culture is through its food.
I also like to get lost and basically live as much like a local as possible. When I think back on my most favourite travels, the common denominator is the feeling of being transported. To another world, a place lost in time, or a life unlike my own. When I am lucky enough to travel, I shy away from the comforts of what I know as home. I do what I can to seek out diversity and take the path less Yelped. I choose AirBnbs over hotels in Berlin, crash on just about any couch offered up in France, travel 10 hours on bumpy ‘roads’ to climb newly excavated water caves in Guatemala, invite myself to weddings in India, and stay with friends of friends of family friends in Dubai. And even if only for a week, I get a taste of what a day is like for those who were kind enough to welcome me into their walls. 


Where did you last go?
Two months ago, I travelled to Cuba. I wanted to explore the island before it becomes overrun with tourists. I was/am worried that the opening of Cuba to Americans will diminish the country’s unique character.
I was there two days before Obama’s visit and everyone was so welcoming. We stayed in a casa (private home) in Havana which provided an authentic experience – breakfast and dinner were provided by and eaten with our host family. As well as Havana, we also explored Viñales – a tiny agricultural town that offers a slice of real rural Cuba. It’s a million miles away from LA (where I am based) with its bright lights, big hotels, freeways, smog and super sized shopping malls.

Do you know where you’re going this year?
Yes I am off to Napa Valley with my family to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday. He is a massive music lover and there is a big music festival – the Napa Valley Jazz Get Away – taking place. A weekend of wine and food with the family doesn’t sound too shabby to me…! I’ve been to Napa before – it’s a beautiful spot – but not as an adult…


Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
You know what? I love everywhere I go and always think that I am going to move there! I leave saying: “I am going to live here…”
That said if I have to pick just one place, I’d say Guatemala. I travelled to Guatemala knowing very little about the country and was blown away by the landscape and the Guatemalan spirit. I particularly loved Semuc Champey – a collection of tiered pools in the jungle. Semuc Champey isn’t easy to reach but it’s worth making the effort. It’s one of the few places on the planet that have yet to be touched by tourism. As such it’s also very inexpensive. I went with my cousin and a friend and we had a blast!


Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Hmmm… that would have to be Tokyo. I really want my own Lost In Translation experience! I’ve been to Korea but to be honest, I found it a little… well, Asia-lite. The people were great but I wanted a more jarring experience.
Tokyo aside, I’d also really like to visit Australia and hit the beaches, the cities… Everyone I’ve ever met from Australia is so, so cool.

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
I’d suggest adding Silver Lake – my neighbourhood – to any Los Angeles itinerary. Silver Lake tends to fly under the LA radar – it gets overshadowed by Beverley Hills, Santa Monica etc – but it’s a fabulous hidden enclave on the east side of the city where you’ll find great food, people, parks…
Also Ojai – which is about an hour north of LA – is a very cool town that makes a great weekend get away. You can go hiking, take a dip in the hot springs, hang by the pool (there’s lots of lovely B&Bs…). It’s a top spot to unplug, detox and switch off from the pressures of modern life…

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How do you plan your holiday?
Typically I rely a lot on word of mouth. If friends have been to the destination I’m visiting, I’ll ask them for their recommendations… I tend to find that anything or place that has been featured in a guidebook is over run by tourists.
However while I plan out where I’ll stay, I usually let the rest of my trip just happen. I’ll ask locals were to go and what to see… I always want a locals’ input.

How often do you go away?
I’m always on the road for work… last year I think I was was away seven months out of the year, and this year I’ve been away approximately one-two weeks of each month for work. Then I’ll take around two personal trips a year: they’re usually international trips for around 10 days.

Who do you travel with?
If it’s a work trip, I travel with my film crew. If it’s a personal trip, with friends and family. I travel a lot with my cousin  – I like travelling with a guy – and any friends that are free and down for an adventure…

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
Truthfully, I’m bummed about it [the future of tourism] not just in America, but all over the world. Homogenisation is happening everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you travel, you’ll find the same coffee shops serving near identical coffee in identical cups.
Even Austin, Texas – where for a long time shops and stores were independent in keeping with the city’s slogan  ‘Keep Austin Weird’ – is becoming too much like everywhere else. Condos and Starbucks are sprouting up….
What’s more, everyone is dressing the same because there is now a huge H&M store on every street, in every city. I was struck, when in both Berlin and Mexico City, by the fact that the locals dressed just like we do here in Los Angeles.  It’s disappointing that once-distinctive cities and cultures are losing their character.

Thanks Jax! Follow Jax’s travels and adventures on Twitter, Instagram and at www.jackietranchida.com 

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