Did your parents travel much ? They went to the Canary Islands a couple of times and went to Morocco. Mum went to Norway, Barbados and Canada by herself as Dad wasn’t overly keen on travel and being away from home comforts. My sister was never inclined to travel.
Worst Holiday experience ? Dysentery post India 1990. Off work for months, lost a lot of weight, almost constantly on the loo. Horrendous and, given it was my first holiday, it might easily have put me off travel for good.
Being ill in Burma was the scariest experience though. Projectile vomiting and diarrhoea after food poisoning from dodgy river prawns. I knew instantly it was going to be bad. I have never felt so ill and utterly wiped out. Thankfully it only lasted 24 hours.
Passport stamp you are most proud of ? Iran. I felt like a pioneer because it was so isolated from the West when I went. Stunning country, amazing sights, the warmest welcome.
Group or Solo ? Always group although there were only two of us in Burma. I can mask less on holiday and be more natural and people tend to look at me as knowing stuff (I really don’t) and being organised (I am). I enjoy organised tours. I like knowing where I am going and what I am going to see.
Fancy a job as a Tour Leader or Director ? My dream job. I would love that.
How far in advance do you book ? Normally 6-9 months. I love the build-up. I love the growing anticipation and organising the car parking, choosing the seats on the planes etc. All the planning soothes my autistic soul. Getting visas sorted can be time consuming and stressful but nothing beats seeing them in your passport!.
Favourite Hotel ? I have stayed in quite a few now and most are much of a muchness, just a base in which to sleep and eat. The Steigenberger Nile Palace was nice as a base when we spent a week in Luxor and Fateh Garh, Udaipur had a spectacular setting. However, overall I’d say the Angkor Paradise Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Great food, lovely pool, wonderful staff.
Flying is ? Boring. Taking off is really exciting and landings pretty cool but the bit in the middle is just tedious. I am 6’4” so cramming myself into an uncomfortable seat with little leg room for 5-14 hours is no fun. If I can get the emergency exit row then I get more legroom but you have to book early. I find most in flight food unpalatable and can’t sleep or settle into the entertainment. But it’s a necessary evil if you want to see the world.
Best/Worst Airline ? A bit like hotels these. Much of a muchness. Wouldn’t like to use Jet Airways again though as the flights to and from India were just nasty. Rude cabin staff and the most uncomfortable seats. Emirates and Virgin Atlantic were decent.
Airports and Autism ? Get into the zone. Focus on the end result. It can be very hard and last time we used passenger assistance to get through security and the checks. I do find them quite intimidating simply due to size and people and the lighting and the noise. I had a nasty embarrassing security experience when I was searched and my trousers fell down in front of everyone so that was a little off-putting. Again, necessary evil if you want to travel and it can be exciting watching the planes land and take off.
Scariest flying experience ? Not really had one. I suppose coming in to land at Luxor airport and seeing a plane on fire on the runway was a little odd but flying doesn’t scare me and I have every confidence in the pilots.
Any holiday regrets ? Oh gosh, yes. I shouldn’t have spent so long away from India. After being ill in 1990 it took me 24 years to summon the courage to go back. Now I have been back twice to both North and South and I love it.
The knock on effect of 1990 led me to another regret. I booked for Pakistan in 1995 and then got cold feet about going so I cancelled. I just had visions of “another India”. Now it’s pretty much a country you can’t visit due to terrorism concerns.
My biggest regret has happened twice. Twice I booked to visit Syria and Lebanon and twice the holiday fell apart. The first time a civil war broke out so all flights were cancelled and the second time my dentist gave me a raging infection and abscess the day before I was due to fly and my doctor ruled me unfit to travel. With all that’s happened recently I doubt Syria will be a safe country to travel to in my lifetime.
Any holiday coincidences ? Yes. An Australian Pilot in remote Burma who had trained at Bournemouth where I was currently living; crossing a bridge in Isfahan when one of our group bumped into a neighbour’s daughter with her Iranian family and meeting two Australian ladies in North India 2014 only to have them as part of our tour group again in South India in 2016.
Countries you wouldn’t want to visit ? I am not a beach person so any country that predominantly offers those doesn’t appeal. I have never fancied Cuba or a safari type holiday eg Kenya and I have no desire to visit America. Closer to home I must admit that most of mainland Europe isn’t on my bucket list although Italy, my partners favourite place, will get a visit one day.
Eaten anything strange ? Fried grasshoppers in Mexico. Tasted like salty, crunchy fish, a bit burnt around the edges. Nothing too bad or too good.
You love India but don’t eat Indian food ? True. I don’t cope with spicy food. My partner says that I eat it but what I actually eat is salt and pepper flavoured stuff so the combination of spices I just find unpalatable. It’s definitely, to me, a case of Autistic sensory overload as quite often the sight and smell of the dishes makes me feel queasy.
So, if you don’t eat the local food, what do you live on ? Breakfast is easy as there are always pastries and fruit available. Most places do omelettes and there is usually a fish dish available. Of course if it’s a buffet then that makes life easier. In India they do a lot of Chinese food so I ate quite a lot of Egg or Chicken fried rice. I survive.