My Greatest Journey: An Interview with Simon Calder

December 9, 2015 by Flight Centre UK

Simon Calder on Dune 45, in the Sossusvlei area of the Namib Desert, Namibia (Image: Charlotte Hindle)

Simon Calder on Dune 45, in the Sossusvlei area of the Namib Desert, Namibia (Image: Charlotte Hindle)

As senior travel editor of The Independent, and a regular on BBC TV and radio, Simon Calder has accrued more air miles than the average Boeing 747. Here, he reveals his top contenders for the next travel hotspot…

Is travelling something you enjoy or endure?

Enjoy, always – mostly because exploring new places and meeting people is the greatest possible joy. But partly because if things do start going wrong it gives me plenty to write about.

What are your flight survival tips?

Water – and lots of it. I also take a month’s worth of unread trade journals with me, because planes are really good places for necessary but undemanding tasks. I’ve always found that it’s best not to battle with your body clock during or after a flight. Just do what feels natural. Gosh, that all sounds a bit sad. Hope you don’t end up sitting next to me.

Do you prefer backpacking or travelling in the lap of luxury?

Backpacking by a country mile. Five-star hotels might be physically more comfortable, but aesthetically there’s nothing to beat the comfort of meeting strangers. For me, that’s the surest way to guarantee an authentic experience of a place. Stay and eat local.

How does travelling for work compare with travelling for pleasure?

All the travelling I am lucky enough to do is pleasurable, and I travel a lot by the standards of people with ‘proper’ jobs. If I go for a couple of weeks without deploying my passport, I start getting a little bit twitchy.

What’s been your most memorable destination to date?

Being at the top of Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain outside of Asia. I was there for all of 25 minutes, feeling cold, short of breath and using my unique vantage point to find the nearest steakhouse with a decent bottle of Malbec.

And the most challenging destination you’ve ever visited?

Albania. I went there first in the 1980s when it was under a communist regime and found everyone friendly, but having gone back there the place now seems out of control.

Where in the world would you like to return to again and again?

I’m slightly against going back somewhere, because there are so many places to see, but the two vast cities of Mumbai and Mexico City always feel welcome.

What’s the first thing you like to do when you arrive in a new city?

Hit the streets, walk around, check out the cafés and shops and hotels – because normally I’m researching as soon as I land. It’s exhilarating.

What do you have planned for your next trip?

Comparing New England in Maine with New Scotland, better known as the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. It’s going to involve a lot of cycling, driving, hiking and eating – a hard life, I know.

Where do you predict will become the next big traveller hotspot?

Things don’t change especially fast in travel, but I think several places will emerge as prime traveller territory: Western Australia as a stand-alone destination; Zimbabwe, as soon as it can get a half-decent government; and Colombia will finally get the recognition that it deserves.

Follow Simon on Twitter @simoncalder. Or read more about his adventures in Traveller, the Saturday travel magazine of The Independent.


This article originally appeared in Flight Centre UK’s tri-annual magazine, The Experts. Read more here.


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