Travel: Ten Years After - How the world has changed

IN SUMMER 1989, the man who was to become Britain's favourite TV traveller was about to have his first series launched. Frank Barrett, then travel correspondent for `The Independent', previewed `Around the World in Eighty Days'

Michael Palin seems an unlikely double for the archetypal stiff-upper- lipped phlegmatic Englishman Phileas Fogg, hero of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days.

Palin, ex-Python star, was invited by BBC2 to tread in Fogg's footsteps by recreating the fictional journey. It's hard to imagine Mr Fogg, for example, ever having been a train-spotter: if there was any train-spotting to be done, Mr Fogg would have despatched his loyal French manservant Passepartout to do it on his behalf. Yet young Palin, who grew up in Sheffield, was an enthusiastic train-spotter, neatly underlining each newly spotted locomotive in his Ian Allan book. "I didn't cross them out - that would have been too much like defacing the book," he says.

And while he has travelled a lot since the success of Monty Python, as a child his family holidays were spent in the unadventurous climes of Southwold and East Anglia.

He travelled far, however, in his imagination. "I'd been everywhere in books: I read a lot about exotic places. And I went to church every Sunday where we used to have missionaries who would come and tell tales about how they built churches in jungle clearings with lions gnawing at their legs."

He has no illusions about why he was chosen for the Fogg job: "They thought I was someone who wouldn't mind the suffering involved - and someone who was cheap. They were wrong on the second point at least."

His "book of the series" is a very good read, although he fears that as a TV-linked publication it is unlikely to get serious reviews.

One thing he has discovered since his global circumnavigation is that it's a big conversation killer.

"At parties, if people ask you what you've been doing and you tell them that you've just been around the world, it stops the conversation dead."

One good reason, if you need one, for not going around the world.