Five Miles Up with … James Lesure

Bekah Wright
five miles up

When asked how he might compare himself as a traveler to the character he plays on “Men at Work (TBS, Thursdays), James Lesure says, “Gibbs lives life on the edge; I’m more of a fearful, conservative traveler who plays it safe.” So where did Lesure’s recent travels find him? Military bases in the Persian Gulf, of course.

What’s something you never fail to pack in your suitcase?
I like to brush my teeth every four hours, so a toothbrush and toothpaste that’s under three ounces; I’m all about following the rules.

Carry-on or check-in?
Depends on where I’m going. If I’m traveling to Vegas, which is only an hour and 15-minute flight for me, then strictly carry-on. Anything over that is slowing the party down. If I’m going to the East Coast, I usually check-in.

Window or aisle?
I prefer the window.

Tell us about your trip to the Persian Gulf. Why were you there?
It was a thrill to do something so different. It was my first time traveling to that part of the world. I went to thank the troops for their service, to wish them peace to protect them and good health – mentally, physically and spiritually. I was grateful for the opportunity to tell them that personally.

Where were you while in that part of the world?
Part of the two weeks I was there was spent in countries like Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. After visiting the troops, I stopped by Dubai to see what was what. That place is fly and futuristic. I’ve heard it’s only 25 years of age. The things they’ve imagined and manifested are breathtaking. It’s like if they can imagine it, they’re going to build it. They have the tallest building in world, the Burj Khalifa. Right across from that is a magnificent fountain that goes off every half hour. There’s even a mall with a ski resort inside it.

Was it jarring to go from visiting troops to high-tech Dubai?
Definitely. Visiting the troops was a reserved experience, more thoughtful and low-key. The military bases are in heavily religious countries and very dry regions with miles and miles of sandstone. Everything is tan so it blends into the background. Dubai has a Vegas feel; it’s where adults go to party.

What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Someplace where, by day, you enjoy white sand beaches and warm, clear water. Then, at night, there’s a social scene with nice restaurants and good lounges with soulful music.

Tell us about a vacation you’ve taken that’s come close thus far.
Vacations in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

Where’s your favorite destination for filming on location?
New York City. It has so much flavor and diverse people. There’s electricity to the city – it always seems plugged in to an energy that’s creative or frenetic. One of my favorite places on planet is Central Park.

What's the silliest souvenir you’ve ever brought back?
One that’s lasted the longest is a $5 banana leaf hat from Acapulco that I bought over 10 years ago. It’s traveled with me to many different places.

Ever try a food that you wished you hadn't?
Raw oysters.

Fave restaurant you’ve discovered while traveling?
I just discovered Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami, South Beach – the food and ambience was great. In New York I like Beauty & Essex.

Favorite hotel, resort, yurt, train, boat you've ever stayed in/on?
The Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta and in New York, The London, NYC and the Omni Berkshire Place.

Biggest regret you've ever had while on vacation
I studied for a year in England. During that year I had opportunity to travel to different countries, including Spain and Belgium. In hindsight, I should have visited Italy and France, too.

Have you made up for it since?
I’ve traveled to Colmar, France, a beautiful town that’s quaint, clean and has a dope vibe.

The one thing you're willing to splurge on above all else
A good meal.

Three artists on your travel playlist?
Prince has a song for every mood. Recently, I’ve been rocking out to Drake’s Started From The Bottom. Ani DiFranco, Jay-Z and Kanye West to round it out.

Where would you take someone visiting your hometown of Los Angeles?
My backyard – it’s a very pleasant place; I spend a lot of time there.

You only get one more trip in your lifetime. Where will it be?
Australia for kayaking and to enjoy the landscape and soulful nightlife.