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She loves Greece, her parents, and coming back to Boston

We caught up with Berklee grad Gabriela Carrillo, who stars in the national tour of “Six,” to talk about all things travel

Gabriela Carrillo in Greece.Handout

When she was a student at Berklee College of Music, Gabriela Carrillo had dreams of becoming a pop star and going on tour. But she also loved musical theater and felt a tug in that direction as well. Fast forward to today, and the 28-year-old performer is able to combine both pursuits by playing Catherine Parr, the sixth and last wife of King Henry VIII, in the national tour of “Six,” coming to the Emerson Colonial Theatre Nov. 9-Dec. 31. “I feel like this is the perfect job for me,” Carrillo said in a recent phone call from Miami, where the musical, which reimagines the six wives of Henry VIII as a pop group, was being performed. “I love that there’s pop music in it, so I’m getting the touring pop star experience — we even have hand-held mics — and the theater experience.” The show, which is still on Broadway, won a Tony Award earlier this year for best original score. This is Carrillo’s first national tour, and while she is enjoying exploring other parts of the country, she is especially excited to come back to Boston. “There is nothing like New England in the fall,” said Carrillo, who vlogs about everything from the show to her travels on her YouTube channel. “I was so focused when I was at Berklee and was in a ‘Berklee bubble’ a little bit. I’m looking forward to exploring … where I can feel like an actual adult and try the restaurants in the city that I couldn’t afford to go to in college.” We caught up with the Chicago native, who lives in Los Angeles with her 7-year-old rescue pup, Mochi, to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination? I’d say my favorite destination I’ve visited to date would probably be Naxos, one of the Cycladic islands in Greece. Less widely known than Mykonos or Santorini — although in the past few years it’s started to attract a lot of visitors — it seems to have maintained an authentically Cycladic, down-to-earth spirit. It’s unbelievably rich agriculturally, which makes the food on the island what I consider to be the best I’ve ever had. I couldn’t get enough of the local cuisine, not to mention the charm of each and every unique village that makes up the island. It’s got everything I look for in a perfect vacation: history, culture, fantastic eats, and places to escape hustle and bustle; simply sit in the sun and sip on a cold drink. My visit to Naxos this past September was extra-special because my mom was along for the trip with me. We spent two weeks in Athens, Naxos, and Santorini. We decided to rent a Jeep on Naxos so we could make the most of our trip, since the island is actually very, very large and our trip wouldn’t have been the same without access to our own car. We had the most wonderful adventures together. I’ll cherish the memories of our mother-daughter “Mamma Mia!” vacation forever


Favorite food or drink while vacationing? While in Greece this past September, I absolutely fell in love with visinada, a Greek sour cherryade of sorts. A syrup is made with fresh cherries and sugar, and then simply combined with water and ice and sometimes lemon juice. In my mind, it’s essentially a Greek Shirley Temple — but unbelievably more delicious because it tastes so fresh and real. I’m already known among my friends as the grown woman who orders Shirley Temples at the bar, so it was only a matter of time until the visinada and I found each other and fell madly in love. I’ll definitely be trying to craft my own visinadas at home this summer — if I can get my hands on some syrup from Greece.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? Two places I’ve felt incredibly drawn to visit have been Tahiti and Japan. I am just such a xenophile, and any place I can travel to where culture is very different than what I know at home is a place I’ve got to go. In my life, I’ve been an admirer – and brief student – of Tahitian dance, and the photos I’ve seen of the landscapes there are almost too beautiful to believe. I guess I’ve got to see it for myself. When it comes to Japan … I was always absolutely fascinated by Japanese culture, cuisine, and media starting from when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I’m so grateful to my parents who always encouraged me to indulge my love of other cultures – helping me look for ways to study Tahitian dance, taking me to every Japanese festival we could find in the Chicago suburbs, paying for all my manga comic books and Shojo Beat magazine subscriptions. ... I just know a visit to Japan would make me and my inner child so unbelievably happy. The food, the temples, the city life, the anime/manga culture, the fashion ... Japan is absolutely still on my list – but I know I’ll need to be prepared to feel the temptation of buying a completely new wardrobe.


One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? My vlog camera. I do try to stay in the moment and be fully present as much as I can while I travel, so recording content isn’t always something I’m thinking about when I travel, but I always bring my vlogging camera to capture extra-special travel moments I want to immortalize forever, both simply on my own hard drive and for my subscribers on my YouTube channel.


Aisle or window? I used to be a window girl, hardcore, because I tend to absolutely pass out in deep slumber on planes. It’s nice to just be able to prop a pillow against the window and drift away, not worrying that my head is going to snap forward and wake me up, or end up on some stranger’s shoulder. Now that I’m older, wiser, and more responsible and therefore actually try to drink enough water every day, I prefer an aisle seat so I don’t disturb my neighbors — or have to crawl over them pseudo-lap dance-style while they’re knocked out asleep – when I need to visit the [bathroom].


Favorite childhood travel memory? Although we traveled to quite a few of the US states and a few countries abroad, I think my parents and I went on about 13 or 14 cruises throughout my childhood, and honestly, those were some of the best memories of my younger years, and partially where I fell in love with performing. We would go to the shows every single night, from the big theatrical productions to the one-man-and-a-piano lounge shows. I was absolutely dazzled. I remember being starstruck seeing some of the singers and dancers around the ship. I also remember eating in the dining room for dinner every night with my parents and finding so much enjoyment trying new dishes. My parents are such a wonderful, happy couple who are such a pleasure to spend time with, and who truly appreciate the privilege of being able to travel. I’m so thankful that through them I was able to experience so much at such a young age. It’s because of them that my love for culture, cuisine, and travel came to be.


Guilty pleasure when traveling? I don’t really feel guilty about anything that brings me pleasure, but to some, I might commit a bit of a traveling faux pas. I’m a sucker for an unplanned and completely laid-back day or two on a trip abroad, with absolutely no solid plans. I know many would see that as time wasted, and believe your itinerary should be packed sunrise to sunset so as to make the most of your time, but to me, scrambling around while completely exhausted and never having time to “stop and smell the roses,” as it were, is a quick way to ruin a day for me – and a quick way to look back and feel like you were never actually present on your trip. In Greece, my mom and I enjoyed a combination of half-day and full-day guided tours to the most iconic historical sites, as well as days where we just walked around villages, sat at restaurants and talked for hours, and even just enjoyed the quiet of our hotel rooms. I found that this way, we were able to maintain a relatively stress-free mood during our trip, feel energized for days when we did have a full itinerary, and leave room for some of the most unexpectedly profound conversations and bonding moments between us. To me, it’s the space for quiet where the real magic happens.

Best travel tip? This may seem old-fashioned, but if you’re going somewhere that you have absolutely no experience visiting, use a travel company. When planning my mother-daughter trip to Greece, because it was a multi-location trip, I was worried about being able to effectively organize travel between Athens and the islands. Planes, shuttles, ferries ... I wanted this to be a dream trip for my mom and me, and was concerned about messing something up. It also seemed like there was so much to do, and every travel blogger had a different list of “must-dos.” With only two weeks there, I felt really overwhelmed by the prospect of planning it all myself. I ended up on the website Zicasso, where you can send in an information brief about what kind of trip you’re looking to take and where, activities you’re interested in, and your budget, and you get paired with two local travel agencies who send you competing itineraries to choose from. I went with Greece Insiders, an Athens-based travel group [that] absolutely nailed our trip to Greece. Because our agent, Eleni, is Greek and lives in Athens, she was able to recommend must-see places, as well as clue us in to local practices and faux pas. We saw and did so much more on our trip than during any itinerary I would’ve been able to organize for us on my own. Plus, being on tour full-time keeps me extremely busy, and it was so helpful not to have to take on planning a two-week international trip all by myself. We stayed within our original budget and both my mom and I ended the trip feeling like all money spent was absolutely well worth it.