Name: Kien Lam
Home Base: San Francisco
Last Trip: Roadtrip to Roswell, New Mexico
Next Trip: Spartan Race Cruise to the Bahamas, Mexico Death Race in Mexico or Palau
1. What are three things you take on every trip?
Swim trunks, massage balls, SMECTA.
Swim trunks are a must. I love jacuzzis and if there’s a chance that there’s a jacuzzi somewhere, I don’t want to be standing there in my underwear wishing I had swim trunks. I try to stay in shape on the road so it’s nice to have a pair of these Gaiam massage balls to work out knots and tightness after a good run. SMECTA is a powder medication to treat gastrointestinal pain. I eat pretty much everything on the road and once in a while you have to pay your dues. Raw llama? Why not. If you’ve had some kind of gastrointestinal pain, you know it is absolutely unbearable. I’m not a doctor, so do not take this as medical advice, but this has saved me a few times and I always keep a few packets sealed away in my toiletry bag.
2. What is your best remedy for jet lag?
It really varies depending on where you come from, but my general rule of thumb is If you arrive before 8 p.m, stay awake at least until 8 p.m. Don’t try to overdo it on the first day (if you can). Generally, even if I fall asleep between 8 and 10 p.m, I’ll still wake up at 2 a.m. Don’t reach for your phone, or a book, or walk around. Just do your best to zone out and sleep in for a couple more hours. You’ll wake up at around 5 a.m. wide awake. Start your day. It’s early, but over the next few days, you’ll wake up later and later. The other option is to be zone-blind. Sometimes I have no idea what time zone I’m in or when I’m “supposed” to be awake or sleep. I think even my body is confused so it doesn’t try to fight jet lag and I fall asleep when I want/need to.
3. What is the first thing you do when you get to a new place?
Figure out the quickest and most sensible way to get to where I’m staying. From there, I can orient myself and ask a few questions. I think you’re most susceptible to scammed, conned or being taken advantage of the first couple of hours of arriving anywhere new.
4. What place has the best food? The worst food?
I don’t think there’s any one location that has the worst food across the board. Even in many Central America countries like Nicaragua and Costa Rica, where your taste buds will dull from days of eating just plain rice and beans, you’ll come across shops that serve it with delicious slow-cooked chicken thighs and perfectly fried and seasoned plantains, and all is well with the world again. That said, Asia is generally really good with working in their fresh and seasonal ingredients and that comes across in the food. Go to Vietnam and you can get a bowl of pho on the street that’s just as good as the best restaurants. No high tech equipment or large kitchen. Just a tried and true recipe executed perfectly day in, day out. In Morocco, I could not get enough of the mechoui – a slow roasted lamb, seasoned with each chef’s own blend of herbs and spices carrying so much flavor that it’s hard to comprehend it all in a single bite. So you have to keep eating one tender bite after another. I can go on and on with this question, but I think at the core of it, the best food is about utilizing regionally and readily available ingredients that have been around for hundreds of years and working with a recipe that’s been tested and tweaked until you can’t do anything to it.
5. What is one place that changed your outlook on life?
Australia. It just happened to be one of the first times I traveled extensively out of the country by myself. It was my study abroad semester and was a complete departure both in routine and studies from what I was doing back in the States. It prompted me to think about whether the path I had held so steadfast all the prior years was actually the one that would make me happy. It was all about getting the top grades, getting into the top school, doing well there, and then getting the best job that would make me financial independent as soon as possible. That world made sense to me, but walking barefoot into a grocery store, camping illegally on a beach because I missed a ferry and then nearly getting killed by a cassowary because I chased it thinking it was just a pretty ostrich kind of made me reevaluate the purpose of life.
6. What is your favorite travel quote?
“Wherever you go, there you are.”
7. Is there any music that inspires you to travel?
I wouldn’t say there’s music that inspires me to travel, but I know that music always complements my journey. I listen to a pretty diverse range of music and sometimes it’ll shuffle to the right song at the right time and I’m lost in that moment. From then on, I can always associate that feeling, time and place with the song and it’s a great way of bringing me back somewhere special.
8. What is your craziest true travel story?
I was nearly late to meet the Dalai Lama. You’ll have to read about that one on my site.
9. How do you think that travel videos can be useful to travelers, even if they aren’t filmmakers themselves?
I find travel videos to be most useful when they simply inspire. It could be a second of stunning landscape or the way the history is told, but whatever it is, it captures the viewers attention just enough to plant that desire or need to travel into their consciousness. There’s nothing wrong with informative travel videos, but I don’t think a travel video needs to be informative to be useful. Sometimes, you just need to see a place and you’ll be caught surprised that such a place exists and it gets you to start digging around to learn more about it on your own.
10. What is the goal/philosophy of your videos?
When I make my videos, I want people to get lost for a few minutes and share the world as I was able to see it. It could just be visual eye candy, or it could be a story that elevates what otherwise might be an everyday or seemingly ordinary experience into something that is memorable. If I’ve captured your attention until you get to the end, I’ve done my job.
11. What advice do you have for someone who wants to make travel videos?
I would tell them to not worry so much about equipment. It’s easy to get bogged down with technical specs, making sure you have every lens for every occasion that arises, etc. While that’s nice, it could also end up restricting you as far as mobility or ease of use when something happens that’s waiting to be filmed. By the time you get set up, you will have missed the shot. I think there’s a distinction between making travel videos as a job and making travel videos as a visual diary. If you are just looking to capture your trip and retell it in an interesting way, you just have to be ready to shoot at all times. Nowadays, you can get pretty nice high quality video in even a point and shoot, so there’s no excuse there.
12. What is your best travel tip?
Best travel advice? Just go with it. Don’t overthink yourself out of doing something.
Watch travel videos by Kien Lam here.