Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.

Name: Keith Jenkins
Title/bio: A travel blogger based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I’ve visited more than 60 countries (and counting) across six continents
Twitter/website: @velvetescape |
Born in: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Currently living in: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

1. Where would you rather be right now?
Exactly where I am right now. It’s always tempting to look ahead, to an upcoming holiday, an event or my next meal, but I’ve (thankfully) discovered the joy and contentment that living in the “now” brings.

That said, the weather in Amsterdam isn’t always a delight – on those days, I sometimes find myself dreaming of lying on a sun-kissed beach complete with crystal-clear water and swaying palms... and a cold beer at my side.

2. Famous person (dead or alive, real or fictional) you’d most like to go on a trip with:
Sir Richard Branson for sure. Fun-loving, adventurous and a great person to exchange travel and life stories with – I bet Sir Richard would make a terrific travel partner! Sir Richard, if you’re reading this, I’d love to join you on a Virgin Intergalactic flight.

3. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3?
Madagascar. I’d love to experience its unique flora and fauna, the glorious white sandy beaches, its fascinating multi-ethnic mix and the enchanting baobab forests one day soon. A good friend of mine was there recently and I was completely blown away by the wondrous images.

4. Your most stranded, “oh-my-[deity]” travel moment:
I was in Vancouver in 1999 to usher in the new millennium. The day before my flight back to Amsterdam, I went to the VAT office to claim my tax refund. I filled in the forms and the lady at the counter remarked that I’d incorrectly stated my departure date. We had a brief argument about the date of my flight until she pulled out my flight ticket from the pile of paperwork and shoved it under my nose. I looked at the date on the ticket, then moved my gaze to the calendar on the wall and froze. She was right and my flight was, in fact, leaving in twenty minutes! I’d somehow mixed up my arrival date in Amsterdam (a day later) with my departure date. I stood there in silence for what seemed like an eternity. I wanted to scream, but instead burst out laughing until the tears ran down my cheeks. There wasn’t anything else I could do but purchase a one-way ticket back home. Needless to say, it was a pretty costly mistake.

5. Best (or worst) person/people you’ve had to sit next to while travelling:
I was fourteen and flying from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur. An elderly lady sat next to me and we struck up a conversation almost as soon as she sat down. Her name was Renate and she was on her way to visit her relatives in Germany. We hit it off instantly and we had a fun time talking about travel, growing up, family and friends, until the plane landed in Kuala Lumpur more than eight hours later. We’ve become close friends over the years and she’s the only person that still sends me hand-written letters and home-made Christmas cards via snail-mail.

6. Strangest meal abroad:
Licking a green ant’s derriere in Australia, munching on grilled bull’s testicles in Brazil and chewing deep-fried spiders in Cambodia - I’ve eaten some very strange things during my travels. The strangest and most nerve-wracking meal I’ve had was one in Japan that involved a deadly fish. The pufferfish or fugu is a poisonous fish which can paralyse a human being, leading to asphyxiation and, eventually, death. Despite the dangers, it is a popular dish in Japan. Only specially-trained chefs are allowed to prepare a fugu dish. It was ordered for me at a restaurant in Tokyo. It arrived at the table and I prayed that the chef had done his job well in preparing the fish. The wafer-thin slices of fugu sashimi (raw fugu) arranged in the form of a chrysanthemum flower looked beautiful. It tasted, well, like fish. I wasn’t paralysed and I didn’t get a stomach ache – the chef did a brilliant job!

7. If someone was visiting your town, what’s the one thing you’d show them?
The Begijnhof or Nunnery, a tranquil oasis in the heart of Amsterdam

8. Most unique souvenir:
A glass rhino from Swaziland, made from recycled Coca-Cola bottles by local glass-blowers.

9. Most unusual item you have travelled with:
That would have to be when I suffered from severe back pains several years ago. I would travel with a tennis ball in my suitcase. I discovered that a tennis ball is the perfect way to give my back a soothing massage. Hold the ball on a wall with your back, lean with your body weight into the ball and roll the ball up and down your back by bending/straightening your knees. An unusual travel item but oh so effective when you’ve got a sore back.

10. Coolest mode of transport you’ve taken:
Segways. I had my first Segway experience on a tour in Barcelona and it still ranks high in my book as one of the coolest tours ever.

11. Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom:
Travel with an open mind. Leave your home-grown judgements and expectations behind. It certainly has helped me learn about and understand myself and the world quite a bit better.