By Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Content Agency
Celebrity Travel by Jae-Ha Kim
December 3, 2013
"Traveling is good for the brain," says musician Jonathan Butler, 52. "The mind needs it. I can't imagine life without getting to see all the amazing, different parts of the world." Born in Cape Town, South Africa, the Grammy-nominated singer-guitarist-songwriter lived almost two decades in England, before moving with his wife to California. He is currently on tour supporting his latest CD, "Merry Christmas to You." For updated concert dates, check out Butler's website (http://www.jonathanbutler.com) and Twitter feed (https://twitter.com/JButlerGuitar).
Q. What are some of your favorite vacation destinations?
A. One of them definitely has to be South Africa. The other is St. Barts. It's just one of the most beautiful places I've visited in the Caribbean. It's just gorgeous and really nice. Australia is gorgeous as well -- Sydney and Perth are some favorites. And New Zealand -- wow! It reminds me of South Africa. It's amazing.
Q. Are you homesick for South Africa?
A. I love South Africa, but I'm not homesick for it. As you get older, you appreciate where you came from more, I think, and fall in love with your country again -- the memories and friendships that you had made. You don't necessarily appreciate those things until you're older. Cape Town is a very romantic and vibrant city. It's very picturesque. I think there's everything there that you could want.
Q. Which American cities remind you of Cape Town?
A. San Francisco, a little bit of Santa Barbara and New Orleans. They all have that vibrant feel.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. I was maybe 7 years old and we did a two-day drive by car from Cape Town to Durban in our Barracuda Valiant GT. That was one of those moments I'll always remember. It was an incredible adventure. The landscape changed every 50 or 100 miles and that just blew my mind.
Q. When you came to the United States, was it what you had envisioned it would be like?
A. It's completely different from any other part of the world. Americans are very open and confident. Everything here is twice as big. The stores are 10 times larger than anywhere else. Coming from a different country, it's definitely overwhelming. I think America does blow one's mind. It's a wonderful place. When I was little, I remember hearing the Jackson Five and Stevie Wonder on the radio and thinking, "I want to live where they live one day." I didn't know about the different cities. I just knew they lived in the United States.
Q. In which city did you have your most memorable performance?
A. I sang "Happy Birthday" for Nelson Mandela's 70 birthday at Wembley Stadium (in London). I remember standing backstage with Denzel Washington, Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole and Stevie Wonder and hearing 100,000 people in the audience chanting Nelson Mandela's name. It was an honor for me to be a part of something for a man who meant so much to me. When I was a little boy -- maybe around 8 or 9 years old -- I was doing a cabaret show and a lady showed up and gave me clothes, a ring, a watch and a toy car and said, "See you at Wembley Stadium." I had no idea what she meant, so I just said, "OK. Thank you." I never saw her again, but I remember thinking about that when I was at the celebration all those years later.
Q. What's on your travel bucket list?
A. Bora Bora. I'd also love to visit Thailand, Singapore, China and South Korea. There are so many places I want to visit, but those are some of the places I'd like to get to the next time I have the opportunity for some time off.
Q. Where will you be traveling to next?
A. I'm going to the Philippines to do a benefit concert for the disaster that happened. Then I'll go off to Indonesia.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at http://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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