By Jeanne Millsap Correspondent April 25, 2013 2:36PM
Chris Sarcletti, author of book See, Live Eat. SUBMITTED PHOTOS
Updated: May 28, 2013 5:45PM
Chris Sarcletti has white water rafted in West Virginia, paraglided in Argentina and canoed down the Zambezi River in Southern Africa with hippos and crocodiles swimming in the water beneath him. He has traveled to six continents — with no plans at all for the seventh, Antarctica — and also relishes exploring his home country of the United States.
Sarcletti’s roots are humble. He grew up in Shorewood, attending Troy public schools, and graduated from Joliet Catholic Academy in 1992. He always loved to travel with his family. They took vacations mostly in the Midwest and also in Florida where his grandparents had retired.
His interest in international travel was piqued when he dated a girl in college who was from Argentina and had studied in Japan. But as a student, he could only dream of faraway lands. His first employment out of college, though, was with a large international company where he worked side-by-side with foreign-born co-workers.
“I was exposed to people from different cultures,” he said. “My first project was with a co-worker who traveled extensively. It spurred my interest so much.”
He let his supervisors know he was open to work travel, and next thing he knew, he was sent to Amsterdam, where he lived and worked for two years.
“I had a month to move,” he said with a laugh.
The experience was just what Sarcletti was looking for. While there, he took the opportunity for weekend jaunts and vacations all over Europe. He took trains and buses, but he soon learned the best way to travel internationally was to rent a car and drive.
“I find you can see a lot more when you’re in control and can stop in these small towns,” he said. “You can’t do that on a bus or train. The benefits definitely outweigh any inconvenience.”
Sarcletti’s first big adventure trip was to Vietnam. He chose the country because his father was a veteran of the Vietnam conflict and he had always been drawn to travel in Asia. It didn’t even stop him that he couldn’t convince any of his friends to go with him. An explorer at heart, Sarcletti signed up to see the country through an adventure travel group. He will always be glad he made that decision.
“It was a two-and-a-half-week vacation to Vietnam,” he said, “and it was amazing. It was a life-changing experience. As an American, it was disturbing and eye-opening on a whole other level than anything I’d ever seen before. ... It was so different from Western countries. The food was completely different, the people were completely different and the way they lived was so different.”
Sarcletti kept an open mind with the food opportunities, too, such as when he drank a wine fermented with snakes and mice.
“Don’t ask me why I tried it,” he said, “but if two guys in their 80s were willing, how could I say no?”
Over the years, Sarcletti has traveled through the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Istanbul, most of Europe, Australia, Thailand, Costa Rica, several South American and African countries and honeymooned in Argentina.
The best experiences he has are when he avoids the touristy hotel restaurants and the typical tourist destinations.
“The best foods are the street foods,” he said. “They’re the most authentic, and they’re everyday food — something everybody eats. We will eat it walking or sitting on a curb.”
The best street foods he has eaten were doner kebabs, which he said were similar to a gyro in that they had a meat sliced from a vertical spit. They are served on a bun with different pickled vegetables and were common in Germany. Another was the varieties of empanadas in Argentina.
“It was a pastry filled with just about anything, sometimes with a green garlic sauce,” he said. “They could be filled with cheese and chicken or cheese and spinach or ground beef and green olives ... They eat them all over the place.”
Sarcletti writes about his travel experiences in his newly released book, “See, Live, Eat: Globetrotting with a Fork and a Conscience.” It is available at http://bookstore.authorhouse.com and in e-book format at www.amazon.com.