My Life In Travel: Alek Wek, model

'The travelling process is all in the anticipation'

First holiday memory?

I grew up in a small town in Sudan. There weren't many cars, so we did things in the countryside near where we lived. When I was 14 I came to school in London. I remember it was very cold, but also having to adjust and become fluent in English. It was less of a holiday, more of a culture shock.

Best holiday?

Rincón in Puerto Rico. I went to visit a friend who moved there from New York to set up a surf school. I stayed at The Horned Dorset hotel nearby, where I went to sleep every night to the sound of the waves. I hired a car and travelled around the gorgeous countryside, stopping along the way at little street stalls to get fresh lemon juice.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Hertfordshire. I recently went for a friend's wedding shower. We stayed at The Grove hotel, where they have a fantastic sculpture exhibition on. About 80 artists have their works placed throughout the grounds. The curator did such an amazing job – she planned it all earlier in the year so that the art would be surrounded by flowers when everything bloomed in spring.

What have you learnt from your travels?

All the exhausting aspects of my job are made worthwhile because I get to experience so many different cultures. It makes you really appreciate the memories. It's sometimes tiring to get off a long-haul flight and go straight to the studio for a shoot, but if you really plan everything well, you can get so much out of combining travel with work.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm a city person. I like it when everything is compact and accessible. That's why I love living in New York. You can get to places like Long Island with a short train or car ride, and if you head upstate it's full of writers and artists, and there are places like Woodstock, too, along the Hudson Valley.

Greatest travel luxury?

I always travel with one of my favourite blankets on the plane and take candles for the hotel room. When I'm travelling so much, it's nice to have that scent that reminds you of home.

Holiday reading?

At the moment I'm reading a collection of poems by the Polish writer Wislawa Szymborska which someone recommended. I like things that I can just dip in and out of.

Where has seduced you?

Baden-Baden – I went there earlier this year and it's really charming. There are beautiful houses on the hillside and I was there when all the flowers were coming out, so I took lots of walks.

Better to travel or arrive?

The travelling process is all in the anticipation. I like seeing all the sites as you fly into the airport, or taking in the countryside if you're travelling by train to somewhere like Paris. But arriving is also magical because you don't know what to expect. Especially if it's somewhere completely new.

Ideal travelling companion?

Ideally, my dog. I adopted her last year and they really do become your best buddy. But I'd feel awful making her go on a 15-hour flight to Japan or South Africa.

Worst travel experience?

I'm a trouper, so it takes a lot for me to really complain. However, once I was coming back from Germany to New York with another model on a small charter flight. It was lovely until about two hours in, when it turned into a rollercoaster ride. The plane was shaking, everybody was screaming – they really tried to keep us calm, but it was terrifying.

Best hotel?

Blakes in South Kensington, London. It's my home from home. The rooms are cosy, with personalised touches. The service is impeccable and I've known the staff there for years.

Worst hotel?

A place in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It looked good when I Googled it, but we got there, and the pool was really dirty. They had all these chairs around it as if everyone was going to jump right in. I like vintage when it comes to clothing, but not in swimming pools. It was like time had stood still. They opened the doors, ready to welcome us in for business, and we just turned around and left. I didn't want to see the state of the bathrooms.

Favourite walk?

I recently did a charity walk around Central Park to raise money for Aids. It was only about five miles, but I did it with my friends and my puppy. It was memorable for the reason we were doing it.

Best meal abroad?

Kozue, the sushi restaurant in the Park Hyatt, Tokyo. I went there a year ago with my manager. It has amazing views and we really went for it. I ate tuna sashimi, salmon rolls, California rolls... pretty much everything on the menu. It was so fresh and casual; a really great memory.

Dream trip?

Tswalu in the Kalahari. I went there last summer just for a couple of days on safari, but I definitely want to go back for longer. You take a small charter plane from Johannesburg out to the middle of nowhere. They pick you up in a 4x4 and you drive way out into the bush to this private residence with only a few rooms. You wake up early in the morning to look for wildlife, surrounded by beautiful landscapes. It's so peaceful. I've never seen so many stars at night.

Favourite city?

I love San Francisco, for the community atmosphere. Berlin is really alive, the architecture is amazing and there's a real sense of history everywhere. And Dublin as well – it feels like a small town and the countryside just outside is beautiful for walking.

Where next?

I'm going to Ston Easton Park hotel in Somerset soon – which I'm really excited about. A friend of mine is getting married near there so I can't wait.

Alek Wek is a guest judge on Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model, which starts on 4 July on Sky Living at 9pm

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'