1. What are three things you take on every trip?
Camera, laptop, music from wherever I’m going.
2. What is your best remedy for jet lag?
Make it until at least 9pm local and you’ll be good to go.
3. What is the first thing you do when you get to a new place?
Drop my bags and start walking around the surrounding area until it’s time to eat.
4. What place has the best food? The worst food?
India and Thailand stick out for some of the best east of my travel life. Can’t say I’ve been someplace with terrible food, but I’ve yet to experience the fish balls of Norway. I’m ready when they are.
5. What is one place that changed your outlook on life?
India in that it was my first prolonged overseas experience. But more recently I’d say El Salvador, because so many people who’ve never been warned us against traveling there yet we had a phenomenal experience. El Salvador put me on a personal mission to show some of the good stuff going on in those places you’re supposedly not supposed to visit. I have very little time or patience for people who would completely brush off an entire nation or region because of something they saw on the news.
6. What is your favorite travel quote?
Funny, I just got asked this a couple of days ago. So I’ll say the same thing. Nothing really comes to mind and I wouldn’t want to do something as disingenous as look up some obscure travel quote and pretend I’m that deep. When my brain goes looking for something to do for me what I imagine a good quote does for others, it goes to the final scene in Chaplin’s Modern Times. When Paulette Goddard’s character seems distressed, the Tramp gives her a little pump up speech to “buck up” and “never say die.” Then, as they start walking down the road, he pauses and tells her to, “Smile.” That does it for me better than any quote I can think of.
7. Is there any music that inspires you to travel?
Anything from the region I’m getting ready to visit. Lately I’ve been into Ana Tijoux from Chile, because I found her stuff just a couple of days before my flight to Santiago and have been hooked ever since. I was also recently introduced to Zaz when I mentioned learning French to a friend. Great find.
8. What is your craziest true travel story?
Not sure if this qualifies for “crazy,” but… My wife Melanie, girlfriend at the time, and I were hanging out on an empty beach in eastern Puerto Rico. It seemed pretty rundown with all kinds of branches scattered across the beach. But we made the best of it. We ended up grabbing a coconut and a thick stick. I suggested playing coconut baseball. I told Melanie to step back further before pitching. “A little further,” I kept nudging her. “A little further.” Eventually she just went for it, tossed the coconut over to me and I cracked it. I flashed back to that incredible little league feeling when you get your first great connection with a baseball, like your bat’s an extension of your arm and you’re just throwing the ball over the fence. Back in reality, Melanie was collapsed onto the beach. Apparently I smacked a line drive into her forehead. I can write about this now, because she was 100 percent okay. One of those looks or sounds worse than it was. I helped her up and she was in a mixed fit of insane laughter and shock. There was no more coconut baseball that day.
9. How do you think that travel videos can be useful to travelers, even if they aren’t filmmakers themselves?
Because it gives you a taste of what you’re getting yourself into. Photos can lie, but it’s hard to hide the truth in video — though you certainly can.
10. What is the goal/philosophy of your videos?
I basically want aspects of Bourdain’s job, traveling to places like Iran and Libya, showing another side, and assist in telling international stories. If I had the backing or some kind of budget, I’d love to get more young people from different countries on camera, telling their story, especially in places like Palestine, Latin America and South Africa. Ultimately I guess I want to make people a little less afraird of the world.
11. What advice do you have for someone who wants to make travel videos?
Don’t get hung up on the technical aspects. You can always come up with excuses not to get started if you’re waiting to get the best gear. I don’t have the best gear, but I’ve been working my way up to better stuff. Get started with what you have at your disposal and go from there.
12. What is your best travel tip?
Maybe this is my Chaplin connection, but always smile. Smile when you walk into a shop, smile when you pass a stranger on the street, smile when you feel bad from something you ate. The world is more welcoming when you do something as simple as smile.
Watch travel videos by Joe Baur here.