And answers to other questions…
The short answer is ‘because I am a passionate traveller’.
I have spent the whole of my adult life either travelling, or arranging travel for others. Core to my belief is that the act of travel should remain, at all times, positive in the act of enhancing responisible tourism practises. Thereby benefitting the overall sustainability of the destination one is travelling to, as much as the mindset one is travelling with.
I am often asked ‘what is your favourite country?’
And that’s a tricky question. Since travelling has been a constant element in both my personal and working life, there are literally hundreds of places which are favourites in their own way. Growing up in an army family, I moved home every couple of years. My first memory is of peering down over a sea of heads while flying to Malta; my first school in the Nilgiri Hills, South India, starting me off counting in Hindi. By the time I was a teenager the desire to explore different countries overtook all my other interests. On my sixteenth birthday my first independent trip took me by bike to the Benelux countries, before hitch-hiking across Belgium, West Germany and France to explore the Mediterranean further south.
Leaving school aged 17, I spent the next eight years travelling and working to finance trips across every continent. In the early 1980s, travelling mainly by local transport and thumb, I journeyed through Europe, from the north to the south of Africa, across Asia and on to Australia. This trip took over two and a half years and cost £4,000 (six months’ window-cleaning in London). I was travelling on a shoestring, but I can’t help thinking that however careful you were, it would cost substantially more today. In contrast, though, a round-the-world flight ticket or package holiday to Spain are cheaper today than they were thirty years ago.
As I highlighted in my BBC Radio 4 ‘Four Thought’ Presentation, I sense that the spirit of ‘up-sticks-and-go’ travel is less prevalent than it was, perhaps because of the decline of hitchhiking over the years.
Financing my travels around the globe took me into a heap of diverse jobs. Travelling between the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South Pacific I cut and carried bananas, drilled roads, targeted squidgy dates on a factory floor, worked as a window-cleaner, nightclub bouncer, laundry man, courier, car-parker, builder’s labourer, restaurateur, door-to-door salesman, fire expert, deckhand, roofer, barman, electronics trader, hotelier and even as crew on the world’s largest private yacht.
I set up Nomadic Thoughts in 1987 on my return to the UK. Over three decades later, my passion for travel has not diminished. As a travel company we remain focused on assisting people with their desire to travel, and a primary function of this is establishing what they want from their holiday. Over the years we have had people eyeballing mountain gorillas, feeding great white sharks, husky driving, cowboy ranching, high altitude trekking, reef diving, painting, cooking, visiting ancient tombs, underground caves, underwater volcanoes … as well as soaking up spa treatments, beautiful beaches and luxury jungle hideouts.
During this time the travel industry has seen widespread global changes as politics, economics and technology have impacted on how and where we go. At Nomadic Thoughts we have noted how people’s travel aspirations change and traditional booking patterns have altered to match today’s diverse range of holiday options. We can now fly long haul in any direction at the drop of a hat. Specialist activities, adventure, culture, wildlife, hobbies and new hot spots dominate every travel brochure, website, blog and chat room. Hotels spring up daily as flight and accommodation promotions blow across our desks almost every hour. The environmental impact of how we travel is of huge significance too.
Knowing how, when and where to travel is as important as understanding what destination suits which person. People’s horizons have opened out as their interests and aspirations for real experiences have broadened. We have sent eighty year olds to the Sahara and eight year olds on safari. People well into their seventies inspire us by trekking in the Himalayas and primary school children now visit some of the most harrowing war memorials.
Despite all these changes our most precious commodity is still time. Time to research, time to evaluate the best options, time to actually go away. This is where we, at Nomadic Thoughts, come to the fore. With so many opportunities out there, our ability to access accurate travel information is invaluable. Moreover, while we already know the world’s best & most exclusive hotels, working out which one actually suits you is even more important.
Professionally, nothing gives me greater pleasure than hearing how a returning client has enjoyed and embraced a destination close to my own heart.
So choosing a favourite country out of so many, all with such colourful and extraordinary memories, isn’t easy. Writing a weekly Blog which focuses on the unique and timeless charms – both spectacular and subtle – of many countries, cities and landscapes is the only way I can attempt to answer the question. I hope you enjoy this Blog – feedback is very welcome. Remember, it’s all out there, so don’t be scared to put life on hold and get out there.
Meanwhile, I am still trying to work out for myself which is my favourite country.