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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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
  • Get to the point
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

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-Qualified Accountant) - Manchester

    £23000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat