Frank Turner: My life in travel
'A guy was sprawled naked in the hotel corridor. We decided to sleep in the van'
Saturday 26 July 2014
Musician Frank Turner performs at Kendal Calling in the Lake District from 1-3 August (kendalcalling.co.uk).
First holiday memory?
I have an uncle who lives in the north-west Highlands of Scotland, near Drumbeg. My mum and dad would shove the whole family in the car and we'd drive up there from Winchester to spend a summer running around the lochs and mountains.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
I'm an adopted Londoner. I have family connections with Holloway and I love it around there. I'm doing everything I can not to quote Samuel Johnson here, but the man had a point.
A few summers ago, I walked the South Downs Way, from Winchester Cathedral to Beachy Head. It was amazing – I didn't take photos, I went on my own. I turned my phone off and it was blissful.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Life as a touring musician has taught me self-reliance. If you're out on the road, with no money, no back-up plan, no safety net, then you just have to solve problems as they arise.
Ideal travelling companion?
My production manager, Graham, and I have been touring together for over a decade now and we still haven't killed each other, so I think that's a pretty solid vote of confidence.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
A bit of a beach bum – I like to sit by a pool with a good book and a cocktail and do nothing when I'm on holiday – and a bit of a culture vulture. Recently, I was in Budapest for the first time. I studied Eastern European history at university and was pretty much able to tour guide myself using things I learnt then or since. It was great.
Greatest travel luxury?
A proper bed. I spent years crashing on the floor, in the back of vans or sofas on a good night. These days, I'm often in a tour bus bunk, which has its own appeal, but is pretty cramped.
Recently, I've been reading Tom Holland's Herodotus and a fascinating biography of Houdini. I also read a lot of travel writers – Paul Theroux in particular fills me with a raging desire to travel more.
Where has seduced you?
Prague managed to steal my heart in a day on tour, my first time there. It was enchanting. I felt like I was chasing the ghosts of Kafka and Havel.
Better to travel or arrive?
To travel. The real Zen of travelling is to give up on arrival as a concept. Life on tour is a long succession of one-day stops.
Worst travel experience?
I spent a long time touring right at the bottom of the scale – taking the train with a guitar case, playing squats and house shows. It had its own Woodie Guthrie-esque charm in places, but there were some pretty miserable nights as well.
I don't really care about hotels that much. It's a place to sleep. If it's warm and quiet, and the bed is comfortable, great, but I like to get up and out of there as soon as possible.
I remember pulling in to a hotel in Liverpool to see someone selling drugs out of the downstairs window. When we went inside to check in, there was an unconscious naked guy sprawled in the corridor and no one at reception. We parked in a lay-by and slept in the van instead.
The Pacific Coast Highway in California is one of my favourite bits of road – the scenery there is sublime.
Best meal abroad?
I once spent five weeks driving across the US playing shows with my friend Chuck Ragan. We started in Portland, Oregon, and finished in Gainesville, Florida – his hometown. The whole way, Chuck was telling me that the steak we'd eat in Gainesville was the best I'd ever have. It got to the point where it was boring to hear about. Then finally, on the last day, we had that steak. Best piece of meat I ever ate.
Other than London, I have a lot of time for Austin, Texas. I have a lot of road friends in town and there are good places to eat, drink and watch bands.
I'm on the road now in the US and have a busy festival summer. I'm always keen to break new ground. I've never been to South America, but I get a lot of fan mail from there, so I'd love to work my way south sometime soon.
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