Anne Enright on County Clare, hand luggage, and her life in travel

‘Sometimes I write on the go but only to show off’

My first holidays were in Kilkee. 

It’s a great tourist town, where my father grew up. He used to lie about what town we were in so when we were passing Ennis he’d say we were in Limerick and when we were passing Kilrush he’d say we were in Ennis, and suddenly the sea would appear one town early. We used to swim in rock pools and stay until we were beyond cold – teeth chattering was nothing.

I’m pretty hardy.

I do, as they say, swim through the winter – well, swim would be an exaggeration, but I do take a plunge.

I wrote some of my last book in County Clare and I haven’t let go yet.

It’s my favourite place in the British Isles. It’s the landscape. As soon as I put my bare feet on those rocks I feel completely happy. I’m sure it’s something to do with my childhood holidays, which were only a little way down the coast. It brings me back.

Sometimes I write on the go.

But only to show off, not by choice. Actually, I finished my last book in Ubud in Bali. Bali is a really beautiful place, and I wrote at the Four Seasons, where Julia Roberts stayed during the filming of Eat, Pray, Love. I sort of drifted around and typed.

The first transatlantic flight I took was when I was 16. 

It was only the second aeroplane I’d ever been in. I flew to Amsterdam and from there to Vancouver – I was going to an international school on Vancouver Island – and that was a life changing journey. I remember passing over The Rockies, and everybody talking and smoking,  imagine that in a Jumbo jet! I do go back to Canada now and then and find it very moving  and wild.

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Take note: Enright finished her book in Ubud, Bali

I’m a complete control freak in airports. 

I can go anywhere with hand luggage for any amount of time, so I’m incredibly impatient with people who put bags in the hold. If you take more than one pair of shoes you’re a fool. I made my whole family go away for 10 weeks with just hand luggage – they didn’t thank me for it. My husband walks about 500 metres away from me in an airport because I do queues in a particular way too. I always turn left to get into security, for example. And I get cross with people who allow too much time in an airport.

The only time I’ve heard my children go silent was in Hanoi. 

There’s a river of motorbikes on every street; you walk out into the stream and they go around you so you have to keep walking at the same pace, it’s kind of terrifying. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen them do exactly what they were told. It was wonderful. They really loved Hanoi though.  

Mumbai is a crazy city.

There are just so many astonishing differences from street to street and from house to house. It’s polluted and everything gets stuck but I just love the madness of it and the feeling that everybody is busy and engaged and full of opinions and talking about politics. I do feel slightly guilty going on holidays to where people don’t have much money, though.

I don’t travel with any expectations.

I never count the number of hours on the plane, I don’t live in a huge state of anticipation. I’m rarely disappointed – I’m always surprised.

You can’t go down the Amazon and  complain that there are no washrooms.

The things people usually complain about are facilities and delays and things not being exactly like at home. I went down the Amazon with my husband in 1998. There were challenges physically and a lot of mosquitoes and it wasn’t the most hygienic six days I’ve ever spent in my life. But it was utterly wonderful; we saw some beautiful giant otters, capybaras and macaws.

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