I had the profound pleasure of interviewing Jack Maxwell at the Travel and Adventure Show in Denver, Colorado. You may know him as host of Booze Traveler from the Travel Channel, or from Travel Channel’s Best Bars. This is my kind of guy, a traveling booze enthusiast!Besides that, he’s also incredibly inspiring, relatable, funny, and charming. In this interview you can read his travel advice and more on his adventures [and misadventures] while drinking around the world.
*This interview was audio-recorded and transcribed for accuracy.*
Jack: Hi, this is Jack Maxwell. We’re in Denver, March 25, post-speech and we’re talking about.. whatever you want to talk about!
Thanks Jack! So first I want to address the drinking around the world thing, because I think that you do it well. How are culture and drinking are related, in your opinion?
Jack: I think it’s such a part of culture. It’s part of the fabric of culture because every culture has come up with a way to drink.
And every culture, I believe, would like to get close to their God, or whatever that means, or their spirituality; and I think alcohol does that. It’s always had that special feeling that it brings you closer to something that we don’t understand, and everybody wants that… Why we’re here or closer to what the truth of it all is.
I think that’s how they are related because you can’t have culture without having that exploration.
Some cultures don’t drink, but most do.
How do you recommend for people find authentic drinking experiences around the world? In terms of your average traveler who doesn’t necessarily have the same connections that you might have.
Jack: Well, whether it’s drinking experiences or travel experiences, I guess you really just want to sort it all out and seek what you want. You don’t have to have money, you just have to have the ability to reach across the aisle to speak to someone that you don’t know and find things in common.
It doesn’t have to be drinking, like I said, just a desire to want to get to know people who are different and why they are different and how they are different.
…And maybe you can find things in common, because I bet you would.
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In terms of destinations, where would you say is an underrated travel destination that more people should consider?
Jack: That’s a great question! Outside of the country, Lithuania was really fascinating to me. I didn’t know anything about it and it’s so wonderful.
Also Croatia, I would put on that list; stunning, stunning place.
…And what about overrated, is there any place that you think is overrated?
Jack: No such thing, and I’ll tell you why: because I’ve had really great, authentic experiences everywhere. No place has disappointed me because the people never will.
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You have been so many places, where is still on your travel bucket list? Do you still keep a list of places you would like to go?
Jack: Well, not really because I’m not interested topography. I’m interested in people and you can get that anywhere so if I never see another country I will die happy. But if I do, I will look at it the same way I have looked at every other one; who are these people? Why do they behave the way they do? I want to know the history, their loves, hopes, dreams, fears.. all of it.
…And maybe if we can have a drink while doing it, all the better.
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If you had to eat food from one place in the world for the rest of your life, where would you choose?
Jack: Italy, I love Italian food; I have since I was a baby. I’m Sicilian and Irish but who doesn’t like a nice marinara, lasagna, ravioli.. salad to go with it, a bottle of wine? …If I had to eat one kind, although there are others I love as well.
I love South American and Mexican food. I love Mediterranean and Greek food; I can eat that the rest of my life!
Italy just happens to be the first thing that popped up, tomorrow might have a different answer.
And what about for a drink? If you had to have one drink for the rest of your life what would you settle on?
Jack: That I don’t know.. because food is something to sustain you. Alcohol is something for your soul, so I drink based on how I feel you know? I love rum because it reminds me of the islands. I grew up in a very cold city and it’s windy and dark, and I grew up in the projects.The islands were the opposite of that; a lot of room, white sand, blue water.
We had the lousy, polluted Boston Harbor and rocky beaches so I wanted the opposite of that. Rum reminded me that, it took me away and gave me an escape. So if something, probably rum cocktails because of the lifestyle that goes with it with or the memories I have from it.
One thing that’s really important to me is to stay authentic, and I think that you do a good job of that. It’s easy for people to see travel as the final end photo or the ‘Instagram photo.’ Do you have any misadventures or travel fails that you could share to show that EVERYONE has that ‘other side’ of travel, that you don’t always see?
Jack:I know people who travel for that reason. So they can go home and say, ‘I can’t wait to show people my pictures.’How about sharing your stories? THAT’S the thing to do.
There’s so many we did an episode on it. But there’s a lot of things, you know; cultural faux pas, I got too close to a bull once, I got too close to fer-de-lance venomous snake. there’s a lot of dumb things I did. Like walk on the bridge I told you about, that was kind of collapsed. Too much to drink maybe… Got too close to the camels, they don’t really kick like horses, but he wasn’t happy. Yep, I’ve done some dumb things and they’re all on that episode if you want to check it out.
And lastly, if you could give some words to people who are in the stages of planning their first big trip abroad… what would that encouragement be? Especially to those who want to take that step to go abroad, but are hesitant.
Jack: I know it can be scary. I know there are financial limitations sometimes.But something inside you is calling you to this distant place. Whether it’s your blood history.. maybe you’re from another place… or wanderlust. But something is telling you to do that. So listen to your instinct – GO- Because you will not regret it.You will not come back and say ‘I shouldn’t have done that.’ What you will most likely say is, ‘I should’ve done it sooner.’
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Thank you so much to Jack Maxwell for the interview and for giving great speeches at the Travel and Adventure Show.
During the interview, a woman approached Jack and said,“I just wanted to tell you that listening to you, you really are inspiring. And to me, that’s the highest compliment you can give a human being.” I have to agree with her. He shared inspiring travel memories of tracing nomads in Mongolia then drinking Camel Milk Vodka alongside them in their yurts. Along with inspiring personal moments of maintaining fierce optimism during his recent fight with cancer.
If there is one thing Jack confirms, it’s the value of having authentic experiences everywhere you go. Comment below and let me know what you think of the interview!
If you haven’t seen his show, The Booze Traveler; you can watch episodes HERE for more inspiration.