Trav­el­ing to learn about the world

Orlando Sentinel - - TRAVEL & ARTS - By Jae-Ha Kim

Not long af­ter James Lee cel­e­brated his 27th birth­day, the Royal Pi­rates bassist was in­volved in a freak ac­ci­dent in Seoul, South Korea, that nearly sev­ered his hand and left it per­ma­nently dam­aged. No longer able to feel the strings of his bass, he quit his band and re­turned home to Cal­i­for­nia, where he was born and raised.

Lee, 30, is cel­e­brat­ing his bur­geon­ing solo ca­reer, which in­cludes per­for­mances at KCON LA, a pre­miere party for his EP “The Light” and an acous­tic duet of “Let’s Get Away” with his good friend Sooy­oung (of Girls’ Gen­er­a­tion). Though based in Los An­ge­les, Lee is on the road as much as he’s at home and called from Hong Kong for this in­ter­view.

An edited ver­sion of our con­ver­sa­tion fol­lows.

Q: You re­lo­cated to Korea for a few years with Royal Pi­rates. What did you learn from that ex­pe­ri­ence?

A: I got a first-hand look at what it’s like for peo­ple who don’t speak the na­tive lan­guage and how iso­lated you can feel. That gave me so much em­pa­thy for im­mi­grants. And it gave me such re­spect for my par­ents, who left ev­ery­thing they knew be­hind to move to the U.S. It’s rough when you can’t com­mu­ni­cate. In Korea, I had a lot of friends, but noth­ing beats hug­ging mom. I’m so glad to be back home. I’m kind of a momma’s boy. (Laughs)

Q: What’s the most im­por­tant thing you’ve learned in your trav­els?

A: I heard from a pro­fes­sor that if you re­ally want to gain wis­dom, you need to read and to travel. I would say that’s true. I feel I’ve learned more from trav­el­ing than I ever did in univer­sity or in high school. My home­town is iden­ti­cal to how it was when I was grow­ing up. That’s part of the rea­son I orig­i­nally left for Korea. I wanted to make sure I didn’t get too com­fort­able.

Q: What is on your Travel Bucket List?

A: I would like to go to Brazil, be­cause I was a huge jiu-jitsu fan. I love Brazil­ian bar­be­cue. The peo­ple seem to be so happy.

Q: Where have you en­joyed some of your best meals?

A: I love a good bur­rito. But Ja­pa­nese ra­men is so de­li­cious. I would go back to Ja­pan for some re­ally good sushi and ra­men. Also, Ger­many. I went to Mu­nich when I was 16 and the Wiener sch­nitzel was so good. It was also one of the first times I had beer with friends, be­cause it was le­gal (to drink beer at my age) there.

Q: What are some of your fa­vorite places?

A: I love Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The food is in­sanely good. I love the con­ve­nience stores, be­cause you can get ev­ery­thing you need. Tokyo has the best ones! Bangkok is amaz­ing. I also re­ally liked be­ing in Italy. Bei­jing and Hong Kong are great, too.

Q: What is your worst travel mem­ory?

A: Be­ing forced into a men­tal hos­pi­tal in Korea, due to the law­suit about my hand. I had to prove al­most los­ing my hand was caus­ing me to be de­pressed. Af­ter that, I’m at the point where ev­ery mo­ment alive is a bless­ing. There are so many things left to see and none of us are guar­an­teed that we will be around for­ever. It’s good to be in the mo­ment.

For more from the reporter, visit www.jae­hakim.com.

“I feel I’ve learned more from trav­el­ing than I ever did in univer­sity or in high school.”

RIL2CHA PHOTO

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