Fly Guys: Keiji Valera
Soul Society 101: Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
Keiji: I’m originally from the smallest state in the union, The Ocean State, Rhode Island (yes we have black folks). I have lived all over the US and abroad but currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Soul Society 101: What are some of your favorite places to visit (restaurants, bars, lounges, sites) in your hometown and your current town?
Keiji: San Francisco is a foodie town (we have the most restaurants per capita just shy of NYC) and arguably one of the most diverse regions in the US. I love a good lounge, I’m a foodie and love to cook. We have lots of Jazz clubs and plenty of beautiful naturescapes. Rhode Island was a great place to grow up and the seafood is super fresh (I love Lobstah) and has a good nightlife. I love to throw get-togethers and dinner parties for my family and friends!
Soul Society 101: What inspired your interest in travel?
Keiji: I was inspired at a very young age my parents loved to travel so I’ve had a passport since 4 or 5. First trip abroad was to Cancun in the 80s, when Cancun was much more exotic and far less commercialized. Come to think of it today, I love traveling to regions that are far less commercialized and untouched by foreign culture or commercialization. So thanks mom and dad for summers in the Vineyard (Martha’s Vineyard) and trips to Cancun, Canada and Bermuda.
Soul Society 101: Does your travel have to do with your career, or is it mostly personal?
Keiji: Somewhat, not going to lie here folks, traveling abroad often is a blessing, especially when someone else is paying for it and all first class! I’ve worked hard over the last 13 years to move into a global role within my company who has operations in 150 countries. We have lots of opportunities to travel, live and work locally or globally. I’ve moved within the US 9 times. I’m ready to pick up and move abroad (coming to a city near you)!
Soul Society 101: What was the first stamp in your passport?
Keiji Cancun Mexico circa 1986, swam with giant sea turtles and sand sharks and had my first shot of tequila.
Soul Society 101: What are your top 3 travel experiences to date and what did you love about each of them?
Keiji: Dublin, Ireland – such a surprise, the Irish can party! I was traveling through Europe for about a month (a brutha needed a fade desperately). While walking through Temple Bar in Dublin I came across a barbershop that had a dude with a fro as a logo. Walked in a got a fade from a barber who lived in Bedstuy for a few years. It blew my mind, and the fade was decent. Lots of historical places to check out, plenty of taverns, lounges and bar to entertain.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – besides being a bucket list destination for a lot of folks, I always tell folks interested in Rio to check out Lapa. Lapa is a section of the city where all the creolas and cariocas go to party in the samba halls. This reminded me of a giant street party similar to the French Quarters in New Orleans. I had the time of my life partying in Lapa amongst the locals.
Durban & Cape Town, South Africa – Beautiful and breathtaking views, amazing wildlife (from sea, land and air) and lots of fun things to do. Had the time of my life exploring all over South Africa. Safari was amazing in the north on the border of Mozambique (Hluhluwe Game Reserve), Great white diving was exciting in Gaansbaai and Dyer island and paragliding off of table mountain in Cape Town. South Africa, particularly Cape Town is a “hidden gem” of the world, I will visit the rest of my life.
Soul Society 101: What is on your travel list for 2015?
Keiji: A few trips to Brazil, South Africa, Dubai, Thailand, Vancouver and hoping Paris. 2016-2018 is nonstop global travel I will be on the road a lot for work. Domestically I will be all over as well (DC, LA, ATL, Boston, Charleston, Tahoe, Miami and hoping to finally get to check out Chicago more.
Soul Society 101: What's your dream location to visit within your lifetime?
Keiji: Nepal, Maldives, Seychelles, Italy and Japan (to visit my family there and explore my Japanese Heritage)
Soul Society 101: If you could live a parallel life anywhere in the US or around the world, at the same time as your current life in your current city, where would it be and why?
Keiji: Italy, such a beautiful and diverse country from the north Turin and Lake Cuomo to the southern warm beaches. Love to ski and love me a beautiful beach. The food is great and Italians in general are very happy in life, relative to other nationalities. I have an amazing view from my home in San Francisco Bay but some of the photos of villas in northern Italy are amazing.
Soul Society 101: What has your biggest learning experience from traveling been?
Keiji: There’s so much out there to explore and experience. I think personally, traveling abroad and seeing and experiencing life in different places enriches your soul. God built this beautiful planet, why not see all His masterpieces? I love music, food and the hospitality I’ve received out there and I definitely have become a global citizen from all the love I’ve received.
Soul Society 101: What are some travel tips that you can share to help novice travelers create the best deals/experiences possible?
Get currency before you get in country, thieves are everywhere and prey on tourists
AirBnB is a Godsend. I’ve stayed at some pretty amazing penthouses and mansions
Link up with others who travel often. I have a set of travel friends and we always plan trips abroad