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Go away with ... Natalie Zea

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“(In)  2021, I lived in the single most locked down city in the world – Melbourne, Australia,” said Natalie Zea, who stars in the NBC series “La Brea.” “Not only were we not able to legally travel outside the city limits, but we were restricted to being in our homes for all but two hours a day. That experience made myself and my family even more determined to see as much of Australia as we could once the lockdown lifted. This time around, we’ve made sure to take advantage of long weekends and plan short road trips in and around Victoria or even the occasional day trip.” Zea splits her time between Melbourne and Los Angeles.

Q: Did you have to cancel any trips because of this pandemic?

A: We had a friend’s 50th birthday in Mexico planned for May 2020. That obviously got shut down. And once we got to Australia, we tried getting to Queensland twice and both times had to cancel due to snap lockdowns.

Q: Where have you visited for work that you went back to later for a vacation?

A: The only location I’ve ever been to as a vacation destination is New York City. I tend to travel outside the country when I travel for leisure and most of my jobs are either in the United States or Canada. We do talk about going on vacation in Australia long after the show is done because we’ve put down roots there and made a lot of friends.

Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?

A: Costa Rica. I’ve been there three times and while all three experiences were different, they were all so magical. My advice would be, don’t stay at a fancy resort. The people of Costa Rica are so kind and beautiful and interesting. It seems such a waste to not be out among them. It’s the kind of place where you could be staying in a hut with a dirt floor and it just doesn’t matter. I’ve done it.

Q: What untapped destination should people know about?

A: I’m not sure there are any more untapped destinations. We did stay at a place deep in the rainforest near Port Douglas in Queensland (Australia) that was untouched and quite empty. Not gonna tell you the name of it though. I’d like to keep it that way.

Q: What was the first trip you took as a child?

A: I truly don’t remember my first trip as a child! I did a lot of flying by myself when I was really young – like five or six years old. My parents lived in separate towns, so I would go back and forth to see each of them. I know it’s not my first trip, but my dad took my cousin and me to Disney (World) in Florida when we were pre-teens and we really loved it. Looking back on it as a parent myself, I can’t imagine he had as much fun as we did.

Q: What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?

A: I’m a really efficient packer. The downside is that it takes me a literal day to do it. I have to clear my schedule the day before I leave to go anywhere, but I always have what I need and not a lot of excess. I’ve also realized that it’s better to get to the airport earlier than you need to. It alleviates a lot of anxiety. If you can, try and get a credit card that gives you access to a lounge. It’s a game changer.

Q: Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A: Palm Springs is one of my favorite places on the planet. I used to go once every few weeks. I took my daughter there for the first time earlier this year and she loved it, too.

Q: If you've ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?

A: The only vacation I’ve ever been on over the Christmas holidays was a trip to Buenos Aires in 2008. It was my Christmas gift to my husband. We learned that Christmas Day is not such a big deal over there, but Christmas Eve is where it’s at. They do fireworks in the street and it’s nice and warm. Very different experience.

Q: Do you speak any foreign languages?

A: I used to speak French. I lived in Paris for two months in 2006 and got quite proficient. Not great at picking up languages, but I can do accents!

Q: What are your five favorite cities?|

A: Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Paris, New York and Kauai.

Q: Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A: Greece, New Zealand, Portugal, Croatia, Japan, the Virgin Islands, the Florida Keys.

Q: When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A: An eye mask and noise-canceling headphones, at least three pairs of reading glasses and coconut oil.

Q: What would be your dream trip?

A: Every time I go to Kauai, it is my dream trip. I got engaged there, got married there, brought my daughter there on our first family trip and we’ll be spending Thanksgiving there this year. It holds so many beautiful memories for me.

(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow “Go Away With…” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)

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