Sonia Gil is the host of a weekly original web travel series called Sonia’s Travels. We caught up with Sonia on her travels and got the inside scoop……
Tell us about Sonia’s Travels.
Sonia’s Travels is about trying to find the secret code behind the most unlikely places. This is about looking at the stuff no one notices, or looking again at something everyone visits to find the twist that’s missing. In Venice while everyone is looking up at the monuments I’m looking down at the town’s dogs, which turns out to explain much about the beauty of that city.
In Valladolid, Mexico, I just sat at the town square and watched children play while everyone was running around from site to site. This tiny plaza in a small Mexican town is the perfect example of a place that one might simply walk by, say “oh how nice” and move on, yet it’s richness is in the details, in the people walking around, kids playing, birds chirping, showing me a real life picture of what life should be like.
How did it all begin?
I come from a family of travelers and after college I seemed to be on the move all the time. At some point it dawned on me that I had a way of traveling, an attitude and a way of seeing things that might be worth sharing with others. The web video revolution exploded and it just seemed as if the planets had aligned. But the one who makes the magic happen is Mariana Hellmund, my partner in crime. I am blessed to have her. She is an award-winning filmmaker with incredible sensitivity and who understands my take on things to the dot. Her work says it all (watch the trailer in http://theaspernpapers.com/). I wanted to share that way of traveling, and once she came on board, Sonia’s Travels was born.
Of all of the places you’ve made videos, where did you most enjoy filming?
That is one tough question. I can tell you where it was really tough to shoot: Venice. Because there are no cars and boat transportation is not the fastest or most comfortable, carrying all the equipment around plus really discovering the island meant innumerable amounts of hours walking. But that’s what makes it wonderful, and ultimately, that’s the secret code. Venice is the most misunderstood major destination in the world. All our episodes there are part of our mission to stop looking at Venice as a huge museum or a living theme-park, and to start seeing it as one of the coolest living cities anywhere.
Are you on the road full time?
I wish I could travel all the time, yet I love to be home, workout and spend time with my dog Macho. It’s a tough one. Ultimately I try to have it both ways. I also work full time on Fluenz, a language learning company I founded several years ago, and when I’m on the road that’s the toughest part of my day. We get back to the hotel exhausted and I still have to open my computer and put in the hours. But it’s all worth it and it’s all connected. To me the experience of learning languages myself and helping others learn languages is key to my approach to traveling.
Have you visited all of the places in your videos in the past or are you visiting some of them for the first time?
Some places I know well and many of them I’ve never been to before. I’ve lived in Paris but then again, Paris is changing so much that on my last visit when we filmed there I could sense a huge transformation. I think that’s the code I’m trying to crack in the Paris episodes: the beloved city we almost think of in terms of postcards in the midst of a huge changes. I asked myself, What is this “Next Paris” going to look like?
The crew is not a crew. It’s just Mariana, someone who drives, and someone who does sound. Very tiny. For instance, I don’t think that our Mexico Meat Market episode would have worked if there were too many people there.
What are your upcoming projects?
Project number one: keep improving Sonia’s Travels. We’ve just started and in many ways we’re trying to figure out the whole web video revolution. The new medium really means that you have to tell your story differently, and I think it’s a work in progress for all of us. At Fluenz, we’re always busy adding new languages. I’m trying to learn German, or rather, I’m working hard at making time to learn German.
Bio: Sonia Gil hosts a weekly original web travel series called Sonia’s Travels with episodes shot in Mexico, Italy, Berlin and Paris. Each trip turns into a series of shows in which Sonia offers a small idea or tip about a place and the people who live there. New Episodes Premiere Every Thursday at 12 noon (9:00 am Pacific).