DHANI JONES: A ROAMING RENAISSANCE MAN
Dhani Jones has it all—an NFL career, his own travel show and a pretty sharp line of bow ties. He’s an adventurer, a talented photographer and even a poet. In fact, he’s the type of guy that it would be easy to be jealous of—if he weren’t so endlessly kind and generous.
Not only does Jones play linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals but he hosts Dhani Tackles the Globe on the Travel Channel and runs Bow Ties for a Cause (a charity that uses his self-designed bowtie line to raise funds for various causes). Needless to say he’s a busy man. But between chasing down quarterbacks and laying out his post-season vacation plans Dhani managed to carve out a little time to share his insight with How I Travel about the fine art of going with the flow, his love for New Zealand and why he encourages people to travel alone.
Getting on a plane, entering a country that you’ve never been to before, listening to a language you’ve never heard, immersing yourself in a culture that you’ve never been a part of—they’re all essentially leading you to a broader worldview.
For me, traveling is about learning, submerging and becoming “a part of.”
My travel style is go-with-the-flow.
I like stepping into a restaurant, enjoying an incredible meal, having a conversation with someone at the table next to mine and saying: “where should I go next?” Maybe I end up at a museum and hear about a musician playing around the corner so I go there. It carries forward, getting to know people at each place and letting my itinerary develop.
Travel is best without “knowing…”
But instead being open to learning as much as possible.
Every time you meet someone you learn more of the intricacies of who you are too.
Travel is actually the opportunity to understand more about yourself.
My trips are born out of not knowing and wanting to know that much more.
When I see something on the internet like “Ten Best Beaches Not to Miss,” that can spark something in me that I follow up on. I might book a ticket with only that little piece of information, then let the trip evolve from there.
If you’re up for an amazing adventure you have to leave everything to chance.
If you want something simpler sure, you might pick out a hotel and a couple of restaurants. But I don’t think any adventure is complete if you plan everything.
Staying healthy and fit while traveling is as easy as making sure that you do it.
There’s no excuse—you might have to improvise but you can always go for a run and use your body’s weight for resistance exercise. Exercise is like eating—a healthy lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle, regardless of the country that you’re in.
I never carry a guidebook.
My guidebook is the person that I haven’t met yet.
I love New Zealand.
It’s a young country filled with non-poisonous animals and basically every amazing coastal landscape there is. I think it’s one of the most perfect places to live. When it comes time for retirement there might be a nice overlook there with my name on it.
Street food is amazing—when done correctly.
If you go by a street vendor and there’s no one in line, they’re probably not very good. Go to the place where people are waiting and you won’t leave disappointed.
When I was in Thailand I found the food getting served on every corner to be incredible.
There are so many variations that you can eat for ages, it’s all fresh and it costs a dollar!
Talk to somebody.
They have the desire to share their culture. Maybe that means that my travel advice is to travel by yourself so that you’re forced into having conversations.
For me the first move is going for a walk.
I like to put my bags down and get the lay of the land without much idea of where I’m going. I call the first day the flustered day. The key is to get settled, start listening to people and wander a bit. Then the next day you can start anew. The goal is that by the end of the trip you don’t want to leave.
Sometimes I’ll stay in places for a day, sometimes for a week, sometimes for two weeks.
And, hopefully, one day I’ll find the right place and just stay there forever.
I won’t leave home without a good pen, my Canon G11, my moleskin notebook and a book.
That way I always have something to remember, I always have something to create and I always have something to talk about.
Peoples’ perceptions are often marred by news reports.
I was just in Beirut—which people equate with a war that is already over. There are new developments there that people should be rushing to see. It’s important to take a country for what it is and approach it with a clean slate.
I wonder who’s making the decisions about “this place is bad, this place is good.”
Sometimes you just have to go there and figure it out for yourself.
I don’t miss very much when I’m gone.
I’m fully focused on where I am in that moment.
Through travel you realize that you don’t live on an island—
You live on an earth, full of amazing and diverse cultures. Traveling opens starts the process of getting to know the real you.
I go right back to the oldies when I start a trip.
I put on The Isley Brothers, Earth, Wind & Fire and Prince.
I’m the person who’s going to talk to someone in the airport, someone on the bus and someone on the street.
I’ll talk to business people and regular folks, fashionable people and the homeless. I talk to everyone.
Best beach? Ipanema.
Mmmmm…Ipanema…Beautiful is an understatement.
I love travel because I have a passion for learning more.
Not only more about the people around me and their cultures but also more about myself and who I am.
“How I Travel” is a new BootsnAll series publishing every Tuesday in an effort to look at the unique and diverse travel habits of some of the world’s most well known and proficient road warriors. Got ideas for who we should talk to? Drop us a note.
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all photographs provided by Dhani Jones & The Travel Channel and may not be used without permission