Calling Victor Jeffreys an “event coordinator” feels like calling a unicorn “horned transport.” His events for Lifehacker’s parent company Gizmodo Media have featured pole dancing lobsters, high-fashion look books, and an ice sculpture conceived and commissioned in 24 hours. We talked to Victor about why he always arrives a day early, his two must-haves (a jock strap and a Speedo), and the two times he thought he’d get arrested at the airport.
What does your travel typically look like?
I host a lot of things on behalf of the company, on behalf of our 13 properties. Whether it’s hosting readers, or events that are run by our editorial leads. So we do everything from having car shows, doing podcasts, other events run by our editorial leads, to hosting [guest speakers and] readers. We also have a business side of the organisation where we entertain clients, take them out to do fun things.
I usually will show up a day before an event. I hate showing up the day of, just because if something goes wrong, the whole thing could be for naught. I hang out in the city that I’m in, get a sense of what the city is like. We always find ourselves adding little details because of what I’ve learned the day before in the town.
For example, we went to St. Paul, four or five days before the Super Bowl last year with Deadspin for Deadcast. I’d never been there, it was fucking freezing. I was out with our executive audio person, Mandana, we’re just kind of walking around, and suddenly I realise that ice sculptures are a thing here.
They’re building these castles. I never would have thought of this. But that night online I found a dude that carved us a Deadspin D out of ice and it was onstage the next day.
How do you pack for a trip?
Carry-on only. I went to India for three weeks and did not check a bag. On the way back I did, because I basically took an empty bag and then came back.
I’m an avid documenter of everything, and I used to take three cameras, four cameras: the underwater one, the film one, the handheld I take at night, and a DSLR. This last time that I was in India, I took a film camera and a small handheld. The picture’s either good or not. I can’t freak out because of what camera I have.
I’ve gotten better about packing less electronic crap. But that’s a big part of my packing. You have the camera, you have the flash, you have the memory cards. I travel with a computer basically to download the pictures, which is ridiculous. And then the chargers for all of them. So there’s a lot of shit right there.
I’ve gotten much better about taking the exact right amount of clothes, or clothes that I can wash. My favourite is when I somehow wash my clothes while I travel, and coming back with clean clothes.
I will always, no matter where I go, take a jock strap and a Speedo, because I will always want to jump into a swimming pool if there’s an opportunity. You can wear those things all the time and just wash them and they dry overnight.
Is the Speedo for personal taste or because it fits in your luggage?
What’s your luggage like?
I think it’s an Incase roller bag. It’s hard on the outside. You can undo a zipper and it gets fatter. It fits on the aeroplane. It’s got a little pocket for a computer in the back.
I have on the side, basically a man-purse leather thing that I really like. In that would go my computer, camera. It gets heavy, it’s bad for your back to do the one-sided thing. I just found another backpack that I actually took to India with me. Thin, black, I don’t know what it is. Slim, very slim.
Do you bring snacks?
I will get a coffee downstairs, and at the bodega get a banana, a protein bar, orange juice and a yogurt and eat it in the car on the way to the airport. If the flight is a little bit later, I’ll get an egg, cheese, avocado toasted bagel from across the street, and then eat in the car. And when I’m at the airport, at most I’ll get a yogurt, basically. That’s it.
I’m always so impressed by how many people are drinking at all hours of the morning. It’s just something about the airport that allows you to drink. Whether you’re on business or vacation. When I get upgraded, I definitely have no problem having a tequila tonic at nine in the morning before the wheels are up.
How do you entertain yourself?
Usually I’ll draw. I carry art supplies everywhere, always. So at least three paint brushes. I’ve got this little metal tin of water-based wash paints, where you can just take a little dab of water and make something. And markers, always Sharpies, and pens.
I always carry around little notebooks. Drawing, drawing, drawing, drawing. People look and they want to see, especially when I don’t speak their language basically. It’s a fun way to interact with people. I pull out a sheet of paper and a pen and I’m like, “You do it now.” Many times I’ve exchanged little drawings.
I’ll go to a second-hand store, or my closet, and find a plain white button-up shirt. I take it with me. At some point I’m going to see something that embodies the place, and then I just draw it on my shirt and then wear it in the place.
Three years ago I went to Japan, and it was during cherry blossom season. I sat in the park, took my white button-up shirt out and drew these cherry blossoms all over them and painted them, and then I wore that night to a fancy dinner. These Japanese people were loving what I was wearing.
The impetus is to have something from the place. I’m making a piece of clothing from the place that I know I’ll wear at home. I probably have six or seven of them.
I also used to do a series of jumping photos at different places.
Where do you eat when you travel?
I’m a very easy eater. I don’t care that much. The Deadspin crew is like, “We have to go to one very specific place” because [Deadspin columnist] Drew’s there, and they’re foodies. They find the place and I enthusiastically appear, but I don’t really care that much to be honest.
People give me recommendations, or I’ll ask someone in the hotel or something. I like eating by myself. But I won’t eat alone in a restaurant that has no one in it. That’s just depressing to me.
What’s the best meal you’ve had on the road?
At A Reverie, it was effectively a mushroom soup, but it came in the form of tea. So it was in a tea kettle and you served it into cups and you drank it like tea. They called it mushroom tea.
I liked the ceremony of it. The menu was all puns. It was ridiculously crazy puns. The space itself was weird, they had too many things going on. But the food was really good.
Where do you stay?
I’m back and forth. I like the idea of the Airbnb. The tricky part, especially if you’re going to a place that you don’t know, is how far you actually are from things. If I have friends who live in town, I’ll ask where’s the gayborhood, what’s around.
As the trip gets longer, I’m less likely to do an Airbnb. If you’re there for a week for work, suddenly you’re cleaning up all the time.
Whenever I travel, my bedroom in my home must be totally clean. The bed must be made. It’s got to be clean, because the worst is to come home, late or early, to an insane apartment. I hate that.
What do you do when you’ve arrived?
I’ll definitely check out the bathroom. Figure out where I’m going to take the dirty picture of myself in the hotel. Connect to the internet. And if it’s a long flight I’m going to take a shower.
If I’m there long enough, like three days, I’ll probably take my clothes out of the bag and put them in stuff. But if not, it stays in the bag, bag stays closed. People are already cleaning up after me. I want the room to look nice. Not with all of my shit everywhere.
Then I go outside and start walking. Find somewhere to eat, or find the big art museum. In Philadelphia I went to the Barnes Foundation. There’s a really good Netflix documentary about this. In his will, he left a house with everything in its spot; and he said in his will, here’s all the money to keep this thing running, don’t fucking move it, just leave it here. Philadelphia somehow figured out a way to ignore his will, and they took all of the shit out. They built another fabulous museum, and they tried to replicate the house inch-by-inch.
What travel apps and gadgets do you use?
Grindr is great because that’s a great way to use all aspects of your hotel room, but also to figure out what is going on. This is how I find out, what is the party to go to together.
What souvenirs do you pick up?
I’m really good about writing postcards. So I buy tons of postcards and write them to my friends and I always write one to myself. Just so I don’t forget that I went there. I wish I could tell you I had a box with all of them, I don’t. Who knows where they are?
I send lots of postcards. There used to be mail drop boxes in airports, and they’ve basically stopped that. Just because of bombs. I’ve given people five dollars—“they’re already stamped, can you just drop them off at the post office for me?” And then I hope that they do it!
What was your biggest travel splurge?
Probably this last trip to India. I went up to Pushkar. As in many places in India, there are all these very old palaces—I think a lot of them are still owned by the royal family—but they’ve been turned into hotels.
U.S. dollars go pretty far there. So, in New York City, for example, for $US300 ($418) you can get a decent room in Union Square out of the W Hotel. Here, for $US350 ($488), I was staying in the prince’s bedroom in these buildings that are just incredible. Marble walls, gardens, swimming pools, peacocks.
What was your biggest travel emergency?
I did have a little scare recently. I went to India and I got a one-time entry visa. My friend saw all these Instagram posts. He’s like, “You should meet me in Sri Lanka for the weekend.” I looked it up and it’s $80 round trip, like an hour flight, hell yes. So I went to Sri Lanka for the weekend and when I landed in India, I was like, “Oh my god, I have a one-time entry visa and I just left the country. Fuck, fuck, fuck.” I thought that I was screwed…and the visa actually lets you in twice. So that was a close call.
I snuck into Cuba in 2005. This is under Bush. I was working in finance at the time. My portfolio manager was worth more money than God—very good friend of mine—he sat me down the day before I left. He’s like, “OK, Victor, you’re going to have a great time, but I just want to remind you that if you are caught, they could in theory put you in jail and/or fine you $US250,000 [$348,589].”
I went to Mexico, left the airport, came back into the airport, took a Russian propeller plane from Mexico to Havana.
It’s the U.S. that doesn’t want us to go to Cuba. Cuba couldn’t care fucking less. So you get there, and whether you have a Turkish passport or an American passport, whatever, they don’t stamp your passport. They stamp a sheet of paper that’s not stapled in your passport.
Cuba, Cuba, fun, fun, fun, great. Flight back into Mexico. Of course when I flew the first time into Mexico, they stamped my passport, “Welcome to Mexico.” When you fly back into Mexico, they stamp your passport, “Welcome to Mexico.” So the only way that you get caught is if the immigration officer notices that you have two entries into Mexico but you didn’t go anywhere in between.
I sat on the back of the aeroplane going from Mexico to New York, coming up with a plan with my friend—“What the fuck are we going to say when we get caught?” I was freaking out.
I stand at JFK at immigration for however long. I walk up there and I look this man in the eye, and I try to keep my eyes and his eyes locked, and I’m talking about the weather, and I just don’t want him to look down at my passport.
He just stamps it. It was great.
I canceled that passport as soon as I got home.