Tripper of the Week: Stefan Oswald - pilot, magician and card player

He's been to 105 cities, performed magic tricks around Europe and won thousands of dollars at cards, from Vegas to Monte Carlo. Meet Stefan Oswald, our Tripper of the Week.....

Tell us a bit about your background.

My real name is Stefan Oswald but my magic name is "Oz". After serving five years in the Air Force and bouncing around six universities, I have found my true calling as a magician. I have decided to follow my heart and devote an entire year to performing street shows visiting 50 cities along the way. I got bit by the travel bug when I first visited Europe in 2009 and since then I've been to 17 countries and 105 cities.

What is it about travel that you love most?

I love meeting new people and being opened up to different ways of thinking. I continually grow and learn from each person that I meet.

I also love to enjoy the unique cuisine of each place that I visit.

What has been the most exciting experience you've had while traveling?

When in Madrid, I was faced with the challenge of a language barrier. My show relies on audience participation and if they can't understand what I need them to do, the magic just doesn't happen. I found a prime location near the shopping area where about 300 people walked by every minute. I would start to gather a crowd and when they heard me speak English, they would walk away. I felt ignorant for not brushing up on my Spanish before the trip. I had to do something because my goal was to support myself and my travels from tips alone.

I didn't want to use my emergency credit card on the very first day of my adventure so I had to act. I knew that I needed to bring in English speaking people if I wanted to kick off a show. I went ahead and sang the Canadian National Anthem, "Oh Canada" as loud as I could. Out of the thousand people who walked by and heard me, about twenty stopped and watched my show. I had similar success with the American National Anthem. This was such an exciting experience for me because it allowed me to get over my fear of acting like a fool in public.

Of the 104 cities you've visited, which one was your favorite and why?

Amsterdam was my favorite city. I had trouble finding the hostel when I first arrived and I didn't even have to ask directions. A friendly local went out of his way to show me exactly where I needed to go. The entire city seems to be in a very good mood and they are so easy to get along with. The second time that I visited was for magic. I had a lot of fun performing in front of the Royal Palace, Dam Square.

We hear you're good enough at playing cards to make a living from it. What's the coolest place you've played cards? Or in what casino would you most like to one day play cards?

I made my living playing cards for a year along the east coast of America. However, my favorite and most memorable place was in the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco. I felt like James Bond as I suited up to visit the luxurious Grand Casino. When I went in there were about a hundred people and only a dozen were playing craps or roulette. Not a single person was playing cards.

I sat down to play and was soon surrounded by a gaggle of onlookers who were excited to finally see some blackjack action. It was very scary playing the minimum bet of 50 euros ($80 at the time). I soon started winning and a man sat down next to me and decided to bet on me instead of playing his own hand. I had never seen this happen before as it is not normally allowed in most casinos. He risked ten times the amount that I was willing to and left with thousands. Monte Carlo was a gorgeous casino.

You have a passion for magic and took a summer off from your studies to perform as a street magician in various cities in Europe and the United States. What was your favorite/most memorable performance?

The Navy Pier in Chicago was great. It was so beautiful there and the people got very involved and everyone had so much fun.

I got my start in Dupont Circle in DC and have some very memorable performances from that place. There was once a crazy lady with a shopping cart who saw the end of a show and then freaked out. She went all around the circle yelling "Witch!, Witch!" and pointing at me. It was free advertising for me and I had a huge show after that because everyone wanted to see the "Witch".

You're taking your magic act on the road, to 50 different cities. Where do you start and how long will you be traveling?

I started in DC in January and will be traveling until Fall semester starts down in Fort Myers, FL.

Happy travels Stefan!

Trippers, you can get tips on any of the 105 cities Stefan's been to or meet up with him and even catch one of his shows. Just click on the link to his Tripping profile here.

Interview by Anis Salvesen