Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.

Name: Andy Jarosz
Title/bio: Freelance writer and travel blogger
Twitter/website: @501places |
Born in: Nottingham, United Kingdom
Currently living in: St Albans, United Kingdom

1. Where would you rather be right now?
In northern Canada, wearing my trusted down jacket and looking up at the aurora borealis on a clear cold night. Please pass me a hot drink too.

2. Famous person (dead or alive, real or fictional) you’d most like to go on a trip with:
Vasco da Gama -- I think I’d take him on a world cruise. I suspect he’d be one of the few people who would find it harder to bear than I would. He’d probably be a real pain to the crew, always wanting to go onto the bridge and bother the captain. Going onshore with him and checking out the local towns would be an adventure though.

3. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3?
Iran. I’ve seen photos of the stunning Islamic architecture and would love to see it up close. Persepolis also fascinates me; I’ve wanted to wander through the ruins of the ancient city ever since I read Travels with Herodotus by Richard Kapuscinski. Everyone I’ve spoken to who’s been to Iran tells me about the fantastic hospitality they’ve received. At the moment though, the government is not best friends with the British, so I might leave it for a while.

4 . You’d be mortified if people knew you did what when you travelled?
I carry a luxury toilet roll from home in my backpack. Sometimes I bring it home almost untouched; other times it’s the most valuable item I pack. There are times when certain home comforts are very important; enough said.

5. Best (or worst) person/people you’ve had to sit next to while travelling:
Back in the days of Yugoslavia, I shared a compartment on a night train with six men who must have been returning victorious from the Yugoslav Smelly Feet contest. The stench was unbearable, but I was wedged in by the window (which they kept closing every time I gasped for air). Given the choice of standing in a packed corridor or putting up with the Stinky Six, I chose the latter.

6. Strangest meal abroad:
Fruit bat in the Seychelles. I saw it on the menu and figured I’d probably never get the chance to try it again. It’s a chewy meat that is packed with small bones. I would never order it again even if I could.

7. Travel-related invention you wish existed:
Long-distance high-speed rail. Going by train is so much more pleasant than flying, and if we could get to anywhere in Europe in four hours or to China in a day, I’d never need to fly again.   

8. Your most embarrassing travel faux pas:
Arguing with a taxi driver over the cost of a fare in Istanbul. He had over-charged me, and we were both shouting at each other. I offered him a note and he seemed far angrier than I expected. We kept on gesturing, pointing and cursing in our own languages before I suddenly noticed that the 10 lira note I thought I had in my hand was actually a one lira note. I was mortified, quickly gave him a 10 and disappeared. He had demanded 20 for a seven lira journey so I didn’t feel too bad.

9. Most unique souvenir:
A polar bear warning road sign from Churchill, Manitoba. It hangs with pride in our downstairs loo.

10. Best celebrity encounter while travelling:
We upgraded on a flight from London to Sri Lanka and we were surprised to find the rest of business class empty. Just as the doors were closing, we heard a round of applause from the back of the plane as the entire Sri Lankan cricket team came up and sat in the seats around us. Over the next 13 hours I made small talk with several of the guys I’d paid money to watch only a few days earlier.

11. The place you don’t want anyone to know about but are willing to divulge here:
Barra in the Scottish Outer Hebrides. It’s a gorgeous little island with stunning sandy beaches that are perfect for hiking or cycling in complete isolation. It’s also the only place in the world where scheduled flights land on the beach; perfect for a plane geek like me.

12. The travel story you’ll never stop bragging about:
Running out of money in Geneva when I was 16 and not having a ticket home. I met a guy with a guitar and sang Beatles songs with him, making enough for some dinner before hitch-hiking my way back home. From that moment on, I was hooked on travelling whenever I could and I knew that lack of money was not a barrier.

13. Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom: 
Step away from technology for the best travel experience. If you sit on a bus with your iPod blasting out your favourite tunes, you’ll miss out on the sounds of the place you’re visiting. Why spend time updating your Facebook page when you could be exploring your temporary surroundings. We’re too keen to share our travel moments instantly with others and as a result, run the danger of diluting our experiences.

If Marco Polo didn’t need wi-fi to see the world, neither do you.