Chicago Tribune

Hailing from Gulf Breeze, Florida, actress Abigail Spencer grew up surfing and enjoying the water. To this day, many of her vacations incorporate her love of the sport. "I'm so thankful that I got to travel from a relatively young age," says Spencer. "Travel is the only way to get empathy for other people's mindsets -- to know their struggles and what they're drawn to." She currently has roles on the Sundance Channel's "Rectify" and HBO's "True Detective." Fans may follow her on Twitter ( and Instagram (

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. My boyfriend and I went to Nicaragua and it became my favorite destination. We went to a little 12-person boutique hotel. The food was amazing and it wasn't expensive. You go there and surf your brains out. We just loved it there. The weather was perfect -- not too humid, not too dry. You can hike around. It was an adventure. It takes forever to get there, but once you're there, you don't want to leave.

Q. What is on your travel bucket list?

A. I'm interested in undiscovered places to go to. I know people have been there and raved about them, but I'm anxious to get to New Zealand, Bali and Australia! I want to go to all three. I've just heard amazing things. My dad and brothers say their favorite place to go surfing is in Australia. I have never been and I know that "Rectify" is playing in Australia, so I think I need to do a "Rectify" tour there. (Laughs)

Q. Did you travel a lot as a kid?

A. I grew up going to Costa Rica. My friend and I went to a place called The Sanctuary at Two Rivers in Costa Rica. You take a little plane that drops you off and a Jeep picks you up and takes you two hours into the jungle. We were dropped off at the base of this river and then walked a mile to this yoga retreat. But it was a surfing yoga retreat so you'd go surfing during the day. I went twice in one year. I brought six of my friends the first time and we had the place to ourselves. We went during the full moon, so the whole week was leading up to the full moon and yoga and five-star vegetarian food. It wasn't a typical yoga retreat that's really pared down. But it wasn't so chichi that you didn't have to work for your food. I love that region because you have the ocean but you're in the jungle and have these amazing views and all the wildlife and waterfalls. After that first trip, I went back with my boyfriend.

Q. It sounds like you prefer to be busy on a trip.

A. I prefer active vacations. I really like the adventure aspect of it and I also like a trip with intentions, where something will be gained on the other side of it. But I also like the option to just be there. I just got back from Miami and it was nice to go home and just lie out on the beach. But, we did compete in the triathlon. (Laughs) I do like a little bit of the hard when I'm on vacation, I guess!

Q. What was your last spur-of-the-moment trip?

A. Last year I went to Tel Aviv. My boyfriend and I stayed at this beautiful place on the beach. It was unreal. We didn't want to leave. We surfed every day, went to Jerusalem for a day and then back to Tel Aviv. The food was so good and the people were amazing. It was Yom Kippur, so it was a very loving time. We just loved being by the water. But again, it took a long time to get there and then rent a car and drive. I am aware that there's a lot going on in that area and we were mindful of that.

Q. Are you an adventurous eater?

A. I am. The majority of my diet is probably vegetables, but I'm not a vegetarian or vegan. Nothing is off the table. I like being immersed and adaptable. I loved that week of being totally vegetarian (at the yoga retreat). I didn't miss meat because the food they prepared was unreal. So good! My friend went to Costa Rica and ate everything and lost 10 pounds. We had good food, walked everywhere and had so much fun.

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

A. I didn't leave the United States until I was 13 and went to the Grand Cayman. My dad and brothers are surfers and traveled the world. We did a lot of traveling in the U.S. At 17, I moved to New York and then I started traveling more out of the country. When I was 15, I had braces and curly hair. I went to Germany for a month with an a cappella choir group and during the day we taught American culture in the school. That was life-changing to me. I loved being immersed in another culture. I can speak a few German phrases here and there. But they only wanted to speak English with us.

Q. What is your worst vacation memory?

A. Well, within some of our best vacations, terrible things happened. My boyfriend was getting out of the water in Tel Aviv and slammed his toe into a cement block and jammed his toe. It was Yom Kippur that night so we went to the one restaurant that was open that late -- this Russian place. I'm not sure what they served us, but we got pretty lit up! We overslept the next morning and missed our flight. We had to sit in the airport for 11 hours until the next flight. When we were finally in line to board, the agent in line was asking us really personal questions and I was just being light and started laughing. She said, "You think this is a joke? I'm trying to protect you." We thought things could get really bad then. We laugh about it now, but nothing will bring you closer than spending 11 hours together in that kind of situation. It was kind of amazing.

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


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