International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.
1. Famous person (dead or alive, real or fictional) you’d most like to go on a trip with:
I think I'd want to go on a trip with Harriet Tubman. I'm interested in learning more about the Underground Railroad (a network of secret routes and safe houses in the US used by 19th-century slaves to escape), and who better to share the stories and secrets of that journey than Ms Tubman.
2. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s
I need to go to India (#1), I'd be thrilled to travel to Brazil (#2), I'll gladly take a trip to South Africa (#3)
3. You’d be mortified if people knew you did what when you travelled?
People are usually mortified for me when I admit this, though I'm quite proud of it. When I was travelling around the world on a 15-month surf trip, I used to eat meals off of the free food shelf in hostels. Essentially it was rice and spice.
4. Your most stranded, “oh-my-[deity]” travel moment:
I spent one week camping alone on Great Barrier Island, a 285sqkm island, four hours by boat from Auckland, New Zealand with a population of only 1,000. During my week-long surf trip, the only time I encountered people was when I hitched rides to the north of the island to a wave at the end of a river mouth. The wave is called Okiwi. On my last day of surfing, I sliced my head open. When you're surfing a river mouth on a barrier island way out at sea, you're kind of invading shark territory. Bleeding from the head and being unable to paddle to shore due to strong currents didn't help assuage my fears. After failing to reach the shore on numerous attempts and getting pushed out to sea by the currents, I managed to find enough strength to make enough forceful strokes to get myself back to the beach and hitched a ride to the island's medical centre, where two clueless, but lovely nurses stitched me up.
5. Strangest meal abroad:
Last summer in Thailand I sampled a menagerie of fried insects – crickets, grasshoppers, silk worms, beetles and juicy whirligigs.
6. Travel-related invention you wish existed:
7. Coolest mode of transport you’ve taken:
An aeroplane. After you’ve listened to comedian Louis CK tell his Everything is Amazing and Nobody's Happy joke, you realise that you should always answer “aeroplane” to this question.
8. The place you don’t want anyone to know about but are willing to divulge here:
A town on the west coast of Ireland called Bundoran. When I visited Bundoran, I was broke. I walked into a bar, found myself a job, got a free room at the bar manager's house – and somehow got fired two days later. But the manager still let me stay at his house and I spent the rest of the week enjoying the quiet town, along with one of Europe's best waves, the Peak. After surfing this cold green wave, I spent my days hiking along the bluff or chatting with the locals over a pint of Guinness.
9. The travel story you’ll never stop bragging about:
When Hurricane Katrina devastated the US South in 2005, the Adirondack Mountains in New York experienced tropical storm conditions. My friend and I were in the middle of a 50-mile hike. On the worst day of the trip, the trail had become a river and stagnant pools of water that were normally a few inches deep had risen to our chins. (We had to hoist our 30lb packs above our heads just to get across). After hiking 12 miles that day, we finally reached the river that was only a quarter mile from our shelter. Our map showed a bridge. There was no bridge. The gentle river had become class five rapids and we learned later that it had knocked out the bridge. It was already twilight, so we decided to camp out on a 10ft-wide patch of land, the only ground available. We cleared away some snakes, pitched our tent and hoped that the river didn't rise any more. It did, and our tiny campsite was even tinier by daylight. In the morning, we celebrated survival, had breakfast and spotted a group of hikers crossing the now shin-deep river with ropes. We cleaned our dishes, packed our tents and started across the river. "You should use a rope," the hikers warned as we passed them in the water. You should have seen it yesterday, I wanted to say. I nodded and we trudged across.
10. Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom:
It's important to pack bathing suits if you're vacationing at the beach, unlike my wife during our honeymoon.