Travis Miller is the type of guy who has a lot to talk about, though he remains a man of few words. Born and raised in Tucson, Miller has worked at Gentle Ben’s since March of 2015, the last year of which he’s spent behind the bar. And though his current place of residence isn’t too far from where he grew up, he actually first honed his skills as a bartender while working in a hostel in Cape Town, South Africa.
After graduating from the University of California in Santa Barbara with a degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Professional Writing, Miller joined the Peace Corps in January of 2011 and served two-and-a-half years in The Gambia, Africa working with a locally-run NGO as a food security volunteer. “They helped women farmers better grow rice,” he says, “and I helped them raise money,” though he says his tasks also extended to teaching locals “basic office skills that haven’t made it over to that side of the world yet,” such as how to open and send emails. Miller was also given a grant while in The Gambia to teach a handful of local farmers how to catch and care for bees, and he completed an oral folklore project that effectively made him a published author. “I even have an ISBN number,” he laughs.
Once his service with the Peace Corps ended, Miller traveled around the continent taking photographs and SCUBA diving before making his way to South Africa, where he acquired his first bartending job. He stayed there for six months until his visa expired, then spent the next five months traveling around Europe on the money he’d made working. Eventually, he found his way back to Tucson, where he landed his current gig at Ben’s. All told, Miller says he’s been to about fifty different countries throughout Africa, Europe, and North and Central America. But, a geography and trivia buff at heart, he says he can name all 196 countries on the planet for you if you wanted him too. “Well,” he cautions, “there are 196 countries that are officially recognized, though you could argue that there are more.” It's a task which he admits is much easier with a blank map in front of him for reference.
Though it might come as a surprise to those that know him best, Miller says that his favorite part about his job is “the social aspect of it” because he says he enjoys “the interesting conversations” he has with his customers. And though his drink of choice is a good scotch or bourbon with a single ice cube, his favorite drink to make at Gentle Ben’s is a Bloody Mary. “We put eight or nine ingredients in it,” he says. “We’re making it from scratch; not using a mix. There’s no fun in that. But I think they come out really good, so I like making them for people.” Still, Miller admits that he enjoys the process a lot more when he’s got the proper amount of time to dedicate to such a complicated drink. It is, after all, much faster to pour a craft beer.