Q&A

I came across these questions and answers in Alastair Humphrey’s blog and they got me thinking about what my responses would be. It’ll be interesting for me to look back on them in a year or two’s time and see if my answers are still the same.

Mountain/ocean/jungle/desert – which are you?
I like all of them for different reasons. It’s too hard to call.

What was your first great travel experience?
Either going on a college trip to Russia back in the 1980s when it was still hidden behind the iron curtain, or interrailing around Europe for a month. I did both with the same friend within the space of a few months and I’m not sure which came first.

Favourite journey?
Travelling overland through Africa using of mix of walking and hitching with the occasional bit of public transport thrown in.

Top five places worldwide?
Unst, Shetland; Sydney; Zaire (or the Democratic Republic of Congo as
it’s known now); Iceland; London

Name a special place to stay.
In my tent on the grass in front of the youth hostel in Uyeasound, Unst. It’s peaceful and I can while away the evenings sitting in the conservatory at the back of the hostel chatting to interesting people and watching the sun go down and distant lights come on across the water.

What three items do you always pack?
Decent coffee, something to read and a toilet roll.

Which passport stamp are you proudest of?
The USSR

Which passport stamp would you most like to have?
Antarctica

What is your guilty travel pleasure?
Good coffee – either making my own or finding a really good coffee shop like the minuscule Cafe Haiti in Reykjavik

Which do you prefer: window or aisle?
Window

Who is your ideal travelling companion?
I like to travel alone and meet people as I go.

Best meal on the road? And your worst?
Best – a little breeze block and cardboard cafe called ‘Stop n Eat’ in a suburb of Nairobi. It served the best cabbage in the world.
Worst – Communist Russia back in the 1980s. They had no concept of vegetarianism and so all I got to eat was coleslaw. As the other people in the group didn’t like their coleslaw they would give theirs to me. All I had to eat for the best part of a fortnight was a big plate of coleslaw twice a day. It took a few years before I could even look at it again.

Most surprising place? And your most disappointing?
Surprising – most recently was Minehead. I was there earlier this year when I walked some of the South West Coast Path. I was just expecting it to be tacky, but it really wasn’t bad. The train station area is really nice and I found a lovely cafe for lunch.
Disappointing – I’ve never really been disappointed with a place. I can usually find something to interest or intrigue me no matter where I am.

Where do you NOT want to go?
Although there are places that aren’t high on my list, there’s nowhere I wouldn’t want to go to given half the chance.

Who/what inspired you to travel?
I’ve always had itchy feet. Ever since I can remember I’ve always loved holidays, days out, etc, and would cry when I had to come home.

Any travel heroes?
The travel heroes that have inspired me the most are the ordinary people doing extraordinary things that I’ll sometimes be fortunate enough to meet when I’m travelling.

What do you listen to on the road?
I don’t take music with me, so either the sounds of nature, or whatever music is being played in local cafes and shops.

Does any song take you back to a particular place?
Bob Marley takes me straight back to my kibbutz days in the late 80s.

What do you read when you travel?
Books with a connection to the place: factual books about the place; novels set in the place; books written by someone from the place.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity?
Lots and lots. And hopefully some of them have felt the same way about me!

What’s the most impressive/useful phrase you know in a foreign language?
patatje oorlog met uitjes – it’s my favourite junk food in the Netherlands. This is the colloquial term for it and so I like to think it makes me sound like a local 🙂

What is your worst habit as a traveller?
Bad habits? Me? Never!

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?
Sharing stories.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?
Lots of places, but over the last few years in Unst in Shetland. I feel so relaxed there.

What smell most says ‘travel’ to you?
Smoke from the fires at roadside stalls. I think it’s why I like lapsang souchong tea so much. The smell just takes me straight to Africa.

Given a choice, what era would you travel in?
It has to be a place as well as an era. Kenya, particularly Nairobi, in the 1920s.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, which would they be?
The bustle and internationalism of London with the look of Sydney and the vibe of Reykjavik.

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