Travel Blog of the Day Interview: La Carmina
Photo courtesy of La Carmina
The Travel Blog of the Day has been going strong for more than six months and we are continually finding bloggers worth the read. Every once and a while we come across a blogger that is more than a blogger, they are a brand. They truly embody the idea of uniqueness and Traveling Forward. As we come across these amazing individuals, we will share them with an in-depth interview as opposed to our normal blogger showcase. Have a suggestion for us? Find us at #travelblogoftheday.
La Carmina is a TV presenter, fashion blogger, travel journalist, author, and self-proclaimed subculture aficionado. She is law school-educated, Canadian by nationality, and her folks hail from Hong Kong. She has appeared on the cover or inside of The New York Times, Vice, Washington Post, The Guardian, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Vanity, WWD, The New Yorker, and the LA Times. She has spoken and traveled around the world, and concentrates on Japanese subculture (and others) as well as Goth and Harajuku fashion. We sat down to talk a little bit about where she has been and who she is.
TravelPulse: What are your two favorite destinations and why?
La Carmina: I've had wonderful, transformative experiences in so many places around the world that it's impossible to play favorites. However, I must admit that the Maldives live up to their reputation as a tropical paradise. I've been to many beach destinations, but there is something otherworldly about the untouched waters, nature, and ocean life here.
In addition, I never grow tired of going to Tokyo, Japan. Every time I visit, I discover something new, inspiring, and usually a bit bizarre. On my last trip in February, I visited a Pokemon pop up café, and went to a Suspiria-themed horror bar in Shinjuku. I could go on and on about why I love Tokyo. The locals are welcoming, the food is phenomenal, and there's something for every type of interest — theme parks, hiking, Buddhist temples, you name it.
TP: Jap-Pop is starting to make its way over to the States and Canada, what is your feeling about where the trend is now, and where it is going for the future?
LC: Without doubt, young North Americans adore Jpop culture. Anime (cartoons), manga (comic books), cosplay conventions, Harajuku fashion, and Hello Kitty have become very popular outside of Japan. I think the stories and visuals — particularly the “kawaii” cute aesthetic — strike a chord because they're so imaginative and different. However, Kpop culture has been blowing up in the past years, and after visiting Seoul last summer, I’m certain that the Korean influence will keep on rising.
TP: I think when we [North Americans] travel overseas we typically find the cultures to be considerably different, especially the pop cultures. Where have you felt the most disconnected or the most stranger in a strange land?
LC: I purposely sought out this experience, in my Coolhunting travel video series for AOL. I went to destinations where I assumed I would stick out like a sore thumb — starting with Milwaukee, Wisconsin! However, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found here, and had my expectations reversed. We shot at locations including a spy bar filled with booby traps, and a kitschy love hotel with swings and handcuffs in the rooms. You can see my travel TV clips on my site.
TP: In your recent travel destinations you have visited Tokyo, Seoul, Cape Town, Israel, and Portland, Oregon. How the heck did Portland get all up in the middle of that?
LC: Portland rocks! It’s a hub of creative, alternative, offbeat culture — and that’s exactly my travel niche. In fact, my trip to “alternative Portland” for Halloween remains one of my favorite recent adventures. My filmmakers and I stayed at the space-y Jupiter Hotel, danced at the Lovecraft bar, dressed up at the Steampunk store Wells & Verne, and saw avant-garde performances at a party called The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven.
TP: Some people say that Portland is a little strange; did you feel that it is any stranger than anywhere else?
LC: At this point, “strange” is my normal. I’ve been fortunate to participate first-hand in fringe cultures and events. In the past few years, I covered the world’s largest Goth festival, bagelhead body modifications, drag queens in Israel and Cape Town … You may be surprised by the underground culture found in your own hometown.
TP: How about a couple of quick hits: beer or wine?
LC: Wine all the way.
TP: Black or white?
LC: The Goth in me leans towards black, but I wear a lot of white too, styled in an edgy way.
TP: Favorite hair color?
LC: I’ve dyed my hair every color of the rainbow, but I think purples and blues suit me best.
TP: Fast food or fine dining?
LC: Depends on the specifics. I adore “fast” local street food like falafel in Jordan, and takoyaki in Osaka — but I stay away from junk food chains. Fine dining is fantastic if it’s a special experience, such as the time I ate the freshest sashimi while seeing the sun set over the ocean, in Maui.
TP: What do you like to eat on the road?
LC: Local all the way. For example, in Cebu, I drank calamansi juice with gin, and ate mantis shrimp (a lobster-like creature) grilled on the beach.
TP: How long does makeup and hair take you when you are out on a gig?
LC: Not as long as you might expect. My hair stylist, Stephanie Hoy of Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver, does such an expert job that my hair will stay in place for up to a week. For makeup, I’ve gotten quite efficient and can finish in 20-30 minutes. Or 10, if I’m wearing sunglasses.
TP: What is one of the coolest traditions that you have come across in your travels?
LC: When I was in Jerusalem, I saw Hasidic Jews in black suits and hats, swaying their heads and praying over rectangular graves. I was immediately intrigued. Our local guide explained that they were “shuckling” back and forth as they prayed in a traditional funeral. Idolatry is a no-no in Judaism, hence the plain tombs. What an incredible moment to witness a ritual like this, right by the Wall of Jerusalem and Temple Mount.
La Carmina in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of La Carmina.
TP: What was the best city for eating?
LC: You can’t go wrong by eating in Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Singapore. However, I’d like to give a shout-out to my hometown of Vancouver, Canada. Travelers can find the freshest sushi and seafood here, and authentic cuisine from all over the world. There’s a big Asian population in Vancouver so the dim sum, Japanese, Korean, and Southeast Asian restaurants are particularly outstanding.
TP: After having all of these amazing experiences, do you think you could ever go back and be a lawyer?
LC: A resounding no! I’m glad I went through law school, for the education and analytical thinking it helped me with, but I’m best-suited to a creative, story-telling career.
TP: Best travel advice someone has ever given you?
LC: No matter how well you plan, you will encounter unexpected difficulties on the road. It’s simply part of the experience. Buddhist teacher Joseph Goldstein spoke about finding peace in the words, “Anything can happen anytime.” There is relief in letting go — in accepting these inevitable changes, and not getting hung up in the little fiascos that arise.
TP: Best destination tip for travelers for 2015?
LC: Ever since I visited Cebu in the Philippines, I’ve been encouraging travelers to come here. Unlike at busier Asian beach destinations, such as Phuket and Bali, I encountered white sand beaches and almost no other tourists around. I loved trying the local seafood, sailing in the clear waters, and riding around the colorful streets packed with Jeepneys and motorcycles.
TP: So…what's coming up next?
LC: I'm heading to Reykjavik, Iceland for the first time — excited to see this mysterious country for myself, and do editorial shoots here for magazines. Then I'll be discovering underground culture and art in Manchester, and attending a massive Gothic music/culture festival called Whitby Goth Weekend. My film team and I are also beginning to offer virtual reality travel videos, which let viewers get immersed in a 360 degree, 3D experience — as if they were right there, in the destination.
La Carmina certainly has a lot going on, so make sure you get on her newsletter list or hit her up on the following social media sites:
Do you have a favorite La Carmina video or blog post? Do you have a place that you would like to see her visit? Let me know in the comments below.
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