Lisa Curry


Lisa Curry


“… I could have witnessed a murder on the way back to my Airbnb, and I would have still held Copenhagen in the highest regard”


By Lisa Curry, comedian and TV writer

The first time I travelled abroad, I was fifteen. In the middle of my freshman year of high school, I explored Beijing and Shanghai with a group of adults my parents’ age. Being a teenager, I was most excited for the opportunity to finally be ‘cool’. After all, what’s cooler than ditching school to leave the country? I’ll tell you what is: ditching school to leave the country in an oversized Tupac t-shirt and yellow-tinted sunglasses. For two weeks, eight of us trekked along The Great Wall, toured a silk factory, and visited myriad historical sites, all while completely untethered to American culture. This was in the times of yore, long before Social Media, so my only connection to my life back home was my Discman and sleeve of CDs.

I returned to school excited to tell my classmates about my adventures abroad. I couldn’t wait to brag about how I had become so very cosmopolitan that I had gone the entire trip without once using a fork. I was filled with delighted anticipation as I imagined my classmates anointing me with the title of, “The Coolest and Most Worldly Freshman To Ever Attend Our High School.”. I settled into my first period algebra class early, giving myself ample time to tell the tales of my travels before class began. As the other students filed in, I pulled some souvenirs out of my backpack: a Snickers bar, an empty Happy Meal box, and other random packaging with Chinese characters on it. I carefully spread them out on my desk as people settled into their seats. “Where were you last week?” someone asked. “China!” I said, thrilled at the chance to clarify that the litter covering my desk had been gathered on location in actual Chinese China. “Yeah, right. Maybe China town,” another kid scoffed. The bell rang and that was that. I had flown all the way to fucking China and I couldn’t even get a round of applause for it.

Today, fewer than half of Americans have passports. Before new laws required citizens to carry them for travel throughout North America, the percentage was one third of what it is today. It is as though we have looked across this vast land of fields and freeways sprinkled with fast food chains and thought, “How could anything get better than this?!” Not only am I a passport holder, but I am also exceedingly smug about my travels. I’m an expert at finding any opportunity in conversations to mention one of the twenty countries outside of the U.S. to which I have visited. In a conversation about the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, I’m quick to mention that I performed my first international standup set in Tel Aviv. Monkeys on the loose in a zoo? That reminds me of the time I fed a monkey out of my hand while it sat on my shoulder in an Indonesian forest. Your entire family perished when their boat capsized in the West Indies? I once went to Antigua for Carnival. It’s pronounced An-tee-gah, by the way (I know this because a local told me).

Last summer, I traveled to ten countries and, thanks to the magic of social media, I was able to streamline the collection of praise for my travels, with each location verified via satelite. My trip began in Machynlleth, an enchanting town nestled in the western crook of Wales. I was there to perform my new hour of standup in the prestigious Mach comedy festival. Established at least as far back as the 13th century, Machynlleth is the kind of place that makes you believe in fairies. Lush, rolling hills surround the town’s charming center and every house has a whimsical, Welsh name. I often say that I want to die there and I mean it. Last year was my second time visiting, as it was my second year in a row of being invited to perform in the festival. Outside of my show, I spent most of the time wandering around town, fantasizing about leaving everything behind in the U.S. and starting a new life in this quaint, little town of 2,000 people.

From Wales, I went on to Coventry, a town outside of Birmingham. A fun fact about Coventry: it is the town where Lady Godiva rode her horse through the streets in the nude to protest her husband’s oppressive taxation. I remember this not because I studied it, but because I walked the same streets where she galloped through town, fighting for tenants’ rights. She was also a mother of nine, and so one can easily correlate pushing nine babies out of your body with having a public, mental breakdown, so it’s hard to tell how much of a champion for social justice she actually was, or if living every moment of her existence surrounded by a classroom’s worth of children finally broke her. While there I performed in their first ever Coventry Comedy Festival.

After Coventry, I headed back to London to drop off my things at a friend’s flat before doing a quick show outside of the city and rushing back again to London to get a bit of sleep before an early day of travel. Why even leave the country if you’re not going to pack every moment with movement? The next morning I woke up at four a.m. to head to the airport for my flight to Berlin. I’d never been to Berlin before and the only German words I knew were the lyrics to Danke Schoen. Did you know it has a total of only four German words, if you count the two at the end that I didn’t even know about until I looked it up for this essay? Actually, after looking it up, I’m realizing I don’t know any of the lyrics past “danke schoen,” but, I digress. Berlin was wonderful. It is beautiful, clean, and very artsy. Whenever the topic of trains is introduced, I’m sure to mention that of all the cities I’ve been to, Berlin is the only city whose train system I found confusing. “I got around Shanghai just fine by myself and they don’t even have the same alphabet!” I proclaim, letting the listener know that whatever travel mixups I experienced in Berlin are the fault of the city, not me.

From Berlin, I took the train to another enchanting city, Amsterdam. From the moment I arrived, I was in awe. It’s just as whimsical as you’ve been led to believe it is. Narrow, colorful houses line the canals and bicycles are a main form of transport. While visiting Amsterdam, I stayed in a guest house that belonged to a friend of a friend and I got around town exclusively by bicycle and ferry. It was, perhaps, the most charming time of my life. Whenever I hear someone will be visiting for the first time, I excitedly tell them that, given the option, I would have stayed in Amsterdam and never returned to the U.S.. Oh, and also, you have to book a tour of the Anne Frank house far in advance, as it books up quickly. This is something I learned the hard way when I thought I could simply walk right in and take a look around, like I might had I been Anne Frank myself. I happily share this insight with anyone who will listen, whether they’re planning a trip or not.

After Amsterdam, I continued on to Stockholm, via an Air France flight that had a layover in Paris. Boy, do I love to complain about Charles De Gaulle airport! While my experience there was pleasant, I know that it is regarded as one of the worst in the whole of Europe, so I’m always quick to join in with a vague complaint. “It’s just terrible!” I’ll interject, before going on to explain how easy I found navigating Istanbul’s airport. “When were you in Turkey?” someone will ask, surprised to hear this casual detail from my past. “In 2011, right after the Arab Spring began,” I’ll reply, insinuating that I may have been there on a kind of secret government assignment. “I had planned to go to Egypt too, but then…you know,” I trail off, letting them know that I would have ventured into Africa on that same trip, had it been safe for me to travel there. Stockholm was lovely, although not quite what I had expected. My time there lined up with their holiday, so the city wasn’t as crowded as I’m told it usually is. There, I got to have a friend’s place all to myself, as she was out of town. Living like a local considerably ups your travel bragging rights and so I was thrilled for the opportunity to do so. Hours upon hours of each day passed as I wandered the city in the bright sunlight that seemed to never fade away. If ever a conversation leads to talk of daylight hours or northern cities, I interject, “I’ve always thought I’d love more daylight time, but I was in Stockholm last May and I found it to be really disorienting. The sun didn’t set until eleven each night and was up again by four a.m.” While I did find the lengthened daylight hours to be disorienting, it’s not a lingering concern of mine. I share this information only to let people know I’ve experienced summer above the sixtieth parallel.


Lisa by the Stork Fountain in Copenhagen

From Stockholm, I flew to Copenhagen where I stayed only one night, which is more than enough time to speak about the city with flagrant authority. Almost as sweet as getting another stamp in my passport, my show there was incredible. I performed for a sold out room of nearly three hundred people in a beautiful theater with a proper Green Room. It was such a good show that I could have witnessed a murder on the way back to my Airbnb, and I would have still held Copenhagen in the highest regard.


Lisa being hilarious at Comedy Zoo in Copenhagen

After Copenhagen, it was crunch time as my album recording was less than two weeks away, so I posted up in London to work on my hour. I’ve spent so much time in London that it’s almost boring to me now. I know my way around the city well enough that I no longer have to look at the Tube map to get to where I’m going, and I have punch cards for my favorite stores and coffee shops. What’s not boring is taking every chance I get to tell people that I have a British bank account. I keep my bank card in the front of my wallet at all times, in case I need to pretend to accidentally pull it out to pay for something. The card does most of the talking for me as it is neon orange. “Oh shoot, all I have is this” I’ll lie, holding the card just long enough to open the floor for questions.

The album recording went incredibly well. I had two back to back, sold out shows at my home club in London, Top Secret Comedy Club and I was able to get a great recording of each. It worked out that a few of my friends from the U.S. were in town at the same time and right after bragging to peons about traveling, seeing familiar faces abroad is the second best feeling I’ve known.

With the weight of the recording off of my back, I headed to Le Havre, France to stay with an old friend. We shopped at a local, independent market, ate escargot, drank too much wine, and wandered through buildings that held the memories of WWII. Tucked into an enclave of the shores of Normandy several miles north of where American troops initially landed during the war, Le Havre is a quaint, beautiful city that served as the inspiration for much of Claude Monet’s work. Sitting on the beach with a glass of rosé and an arrangement of fine, French cheeses, it’s easy to see how here is where an artist could be inspired to produce some of the world’s finest art. Had I stayed there another week, I might have claimed to be a resident.

From Le Havre, I popped over to Paris for a few nights. I had been once before, but being able to say I’ve been to a foreign city multiple times is invaluable in the world of travel bragging. I had a show in a strange basement venue, hiked up the Eiffel Tower and took a dozen selfies with strangers’ skulls in the catacombs. A childhood friend was in the city for work, so I met up with him for a dinner where I made use of the handful of French words I know. “Je T’aime!” I exclaimed when the waiter brought me my beer. He playfully responded with a bit of French which I cannot recall, as it wasn’t one of the ten phrases I had memorized before the trip. We all had a laugh and I continued smiling to myself, overly pleased with my dumb joke.


Lisa in Jordan

My trip to Paris was unfortunately cut short, but for the best reason. At the last minute, I was asked to perform for the U.S. troops in Jordan. When I tell people this, they almost always ask “Jordan…the country?” as though there might be a Jordan – the theme park that I meant to reference. With all the festivals, friend meet ups, and even the album recording, being flown to Amman to do a show in Jordan was the most exciting part of my trip by a mile. I flew into Rome from London, where I met up with the other comic, Daran who was booked on the show. From there, we flew together to the Queen Alia International Airport, where travel visas awaited us at the check-in desk. A Jordanian liaison met us at the airport and instructed us to disable all location services on our phones before taking us on a two hour drive through the desert to an undisclosed location just miles from the Iraqi border. Once there, we were shuffled onto the base by military personnel and assured that we’d be safe, as there had only been one suicide bombing on that base. This thrilled me, as any potential for danger tends to do. The weekend on base was a lot of fun. Our show went well and the troops were incredibly gracious. The morning after the show, a lieutenant drove us back into Amman and dropped us off at the airport. I wasn’t quite ready to leave Jordan behind, so I spent an absurd amount of money to change my flight at the desk and I grabbed a cab with Daran and headed into the heart of the city. We checked into a hotel to have somewhere to stash our things and Daran immediately went to sleep. I couldn’t stand the thought of missing out on an adventure, so I headed downstairs to assess my options. The front desk clerk (who I am still in touch with because I can’t stand the thought of not knowing people in every country I visit) suggested I pay a cab driver to show me around the city. “How do I call a cab around here?” I asked, “Just go outside and call for Muhammad?” The clerk, Fawaz, laughed and said, “Yeah, pretty much,” before setting me up with a lovely cab driver named – you guessed it – Muhammad. Muhammad was gregarious and funny and we bonded quickly. When I told him I was visiting from the U.S., he called his brother (who’s a cab driver in New York City) and put him on speaker so we could all chat. He took me to the Citadel, the King Abdullah Mosque, and showed me around a handful of local shops before returning me back to the hotel.

Once I returned, Daran had finally gotten out of bed and it was time for dinner. I insist on eating like a local when I travel, so I returned to the front desk to get a recommendation from Fawaz. He sent us off to a spot called Ajyad in a multipurpose strip mall sort of situation across town. A restaurant I’ve since happily recommended to friends, but this time because of the food more so than the opportunity to mention that I know a good place in Amman. For what worked out to about $8.00, Daran and I enjoyed the most tender lamb I’ve ever had in my life. Across the street from the restaurant was a carnival and so I dragged Daran over and for $0.25 each, we were admitted into the carnival where I then dragged Daran onto the Ferris Wheel. I’m scared of Ferris Wheels. The entire time I’m on one, I think about plummeting to my death in a metal cage, but I will always ride one given the chance because I think they’re cute. After the carnival, we headed back to the airport where I boarded a flight to Rome en route to London.

Rome was fine. I was there for all of eight hours on two hours of sleep, so in my delirium, I only had enough energy to grab a quick lunch before heading back to the airport to catch my flight to London. I’d love to say I know a place in Rome, but I can’t, in good faith, as I ate in the food court of a mall.

As I headed back to New York from London a few days later, I couldn’t believe all the places I had visited and performed in such a short amount of time or that I had had the energy to pull it off. Eight weeks, nine countries, fifteen cities (I left out a few), two continents, twelve passport stamps, and two work visas later, I made it back to the States with enough bragging rights to carry me for a year. If it wasn’t for Instagram, I’d have stayed home.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lisa.curry/

Twitter: @lisa_curry

IG: @olympianlisacurry

High definition video: https://youtu.be/ck257ooubq4


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