I recently spoke with the people behind the #TRLT Twitter chat about my travels on The Road Less Travelled. The interview can be found in the chat’s Facebook group, and is also copied below.
– Why do you like taking the road less travelled?
JC: I’ve always been drawn to unknown places. I had a very comfortable childhood in the south of England, but understood that I was living in a bubble. It made me want to see as much of the world as I could, and to live differently, so that I wouldn’t have the same stories, the same photos of the Eiffel Tower and the Acropolis, as everyone else. With a mixture of all sorts of support from my family and outrageous luck, I’ve been able to study and work in the same obscure places that captured my imagination when I was young.
– What are your top 5 destinations?
JC: My absolute favourite place on earth is the Caucasus. I love being in the mountains in the north of Georgia, where time seems to slow down, the pure air makes my body and mind feel stronger, and there is always a huge meal waiting at the end of a day hiking.
I love neighbouring Armenia even more. Yerevan is a gorgeous little city and its people are hilarious. The mountains in the south, by Iran, are spectacular. Armenia’s story is often tragic, but always inspiring; in the western part of the country, which feels abandoned, there are reminders of Armenia’s recent and ancient past.
Away from the Caucasus (Azerbaijan has its moments, but doesn’t make my top 5), I really enjoy spending time in Bulgaria. Besides its Black Sea beaches and mountain ranges, Bulgarian food and drink is phenomenal.
Travelling in Russia always makes me happy, especially overnight train journeys, where my sense of adventure – and need to see places that no-one else has – really kicks in. This year I woke up in the Republic of Mari El, and in the town of Kandalaksha in the Arctic Circle.
Finally, the Isle of Mull, one of the islands in the Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, has hundreds of childhood memories, as well as beautiful wildlife.
– What destinations are you most keen to visit?
JC: Spending some time in Kazakhstan this spring has made me even more desperate to explore central Asia. I’d love to get into Turkmenistan somehow and feel what it is really like, or wander through Tajikistan, which seems stunning. As I travel to Almaty for work, I have a better chance of catching a day or two in Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan – I have dreamed about them both for years.
Another dream is to watch a game of Test cricket in Port Elizabeth in South Africa, with the local gospel choir and brass band playing in the stands, and the Indian Ocean in the background.
– Share your story of one of your favourite travel photos?
JC: This one [the photo above] isn’t one of my favourite photos to look at, but it sums up my travels quite nicely. I was in Athens’s Plaka district – The Road Travelled By Millions – and turned into an empty courtyard to get away from the crowds of tourists. I saw a derelict staircase in the corner and couldn’t stop myself from climbing up the steps inside. I was sure I shouldn’t have been there – there were sinister drawings of ravens on the walls and it felt like the building was ready to collapse. But at the very top of the staircase I found a corner that looked out over the Parthenon through a broken window; a view of the Acropolis that tourists never see.
– How did you find out about #TRLT Twitter Chat and what is it about the community and joining you love the most?
JC: Shane – The Travel Camel – and I used to write travel blogs on the same website (in the years before social media, when sharing travel stories and photos still took days to do). We met at World Travel Market in London and he let me sit in as he set up one of the early #TRLT chats from a bar nearby. Nowadays most of my Twitter feed is taken up by depressing news, so lurking in the chat on Tuesday evenings is a highlight of my week: my timeline gets ambushed by positive people, and cool photos from places I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.
– What is the best piece of travel advice you can share?
JC: I’m learning not to measure my adventures in things I can’t feel, like kilometres from home, numbers of countries, or ‘likes’ for my tweets, but to enjoy the life-affirming moments for what they are. I try to take these moments home with me and find a place for them in my day-to-day life: taking some time each day to remember the things I’ve done, or turning songs that I’ve heard in cafes and taxis on my travels into a playlist for the gym. I treat people better now for having lived in places where hospitality and generosity are fundamental to the culture.
– Look out for the #TRLT Twitter chat every Tuesday evening at 6pm UK time.