Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Traveler Spotlight: NIGEL

Nigel's back.


One of HI-Chicago's most devoted guests, Nigel Jenkins from Cardiff, Wales, beams on the topic of Chicago. "I feel at home here,'' says the 44-year old intrepid traveler. "The people are friendly. The city is easy to get around on foot, bus and "el". And for a cinema buff like me, there are so many theaters.''

A tourist hitting the movies? Nigel isn't typical. This is his 16th visit to the city in 18 years of travel in Europe and North America. He's enjoyed all the tourist attractions of the city, and prefers to live it as a resident. We caught up with him a day before he headed off to Los Angeles on what he calls his annual Fall visit to the US. This one stretched for 17 days. His work as a therapist for adults with special needs allows him to schedule vacations twice a year.

What's your travel lifestyle?

I've been doing hostels for years by myself. The people you meet are of all ages but have a similar mindset. I love the downtown location of HI-Chicago. I've know Chicago well before Millennium Park. The city has really changed, and it's beautiful. The hostel in Santa Monica, Calif. is a favorite. It is so close to the beaches. And in Los Angeles, you can get cinema passes like they have in Britain and France.

I stay in all sorts of hostels. But the network hostels have high standard of operations. The service and facilities are first-rate. I like such consistency and familiarity. I've had all sorts of experiences. I remember one in St. Louis, Mo., where I was the only one there. At another hostel in Santa Fe., NM. you were expected to do chores. Sleeping in a room with 10 bunks in Chicago is fine. I'm not sure if I snore or not. No one ever complained. A favorite hostel is one in France, in a little town of Saint-Malo (a walled port city in Brittany).

What's your take on Chicago food?

I'm a vegetarian, so in Chicago it is easy. There are so many grocery stores. I love to go to Kramer's Health Food Shop (230 S. Wabash Ave.). I love their veggie bean burrito and beetroot juice. When Cultural Kitchen students here in the hostel were cooking a meal recently, they invited me to dinner. It was Chilean food and really good.

What's special for you about Chicago?

Running the lakefront. When I'm fit, I do marathons. I've done five marathons. Three Londons and two Chicagos (1999, 2000). But I'm out-of-shape at the moment.

What are your travel must-haves?

I never go anywhere without packing a couple of my Spillers Records tee-shirts into my backpack. I have 23 in different colors. Spiller's is the oldest record store in the world, since 1894. It's in Cardiff. I take Welsh cakes (a type of fruitcake biscuit) to have with tea. I don't go anywhere without my cell phone. It's loaded with photos of my nieces and nephews. I have five sisters and one brother, lots of relatives. I always buy extra Air Waves, my favorite chewing gum (anise-flavored). You can't buy it here. I give some to the staff (at the hostels). We know each other, they're like family.

What's on your dream travel agenda?

Easter Island. Australia. China.

What's on your near-future agenda?

Coming back here next March or April. I'd better make reservations now. You get really busy here.

-Margaret Sheridan, Volunteer

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