My Life In Travel: Benedict Allen

'I'd like to travel by airship and drop into places inaccessible by helicopter'


What is your first holiday memory?

What is your first holiday memory?

I was on a boat off Scotland. I was about five years old, and I remember being violently sick overboard.

What has been your best holiday?

I only travel for pleasure occasionally, but my best holiday was probably in Havana. It was exciting as I knew nothing about Cuba before I went - something very different to my expeditions, which involve painstaking planning. My best expedition was along the Skeleton Coast in Namibia. I walked 1,000 miles with only several camels for company and had no contact with the rest of the world.

Are you a frequent traveller?

Yes, very much so. I was in Northern Cyprus recently with my Dad, which is fairly short-haul for me. I like that spontaneity of just popping off to places, as all my expeditions are for about six months. It is quite traumatic, leaving home and cutting myself off from everyone.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That people are the same the world over. I have spent a lot of time with tribes such as the Niowra in New Guinea and the Matses, or 'Jaguar' people, in the Peruvian Amazon, who emulate the jaguar by sticking spines into their noses and using lots of body paint. They are all just adapting to their harsh environment.

Who would be your ultimate travelling companion?

Captain James Cook. He was a man of great humanity - and a great navigator, which I'm not. When he arrived in New Zealand he was confronted by a group of Maoris. He realised what a threat his huge ship would be to them, so he approached them in a smaller ship and greeted them in the traditional way.

Are you a beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I save the adrenalin for expeditions and culturefor holidays. In Cyprus, I loved visiting the castles that the crusaders built and trying to work out who had perished in the dungeons.

What do you read on holiday?

When I was travelling through the Gobi Desert I took Marco Polo's The Travels to keep my mind active. It was great to have his view of the Gobi, but I found myself infected with his perception because he talks about spirits who lure you off the path. I found myself rather spooked by it.

To where have you lost your heart?

Mongolia - I travelled 3,000 miles through it by horse and camel. I received endless hospitality, with people popping out of their felt tents or gers to offer me a cup of tea and shelter.

What has been the worst thing that has happened to you on holiday?

It wasn't on holiday, but on an expedition. I was shot at by the Colombian Medellin drug cartel just before the death of Pablo Escobar. Two people began chasing me in a canoe, but fortunately they couldn't shoot and paddle at the same time. I was crying and waiting for the end.

To where would you never return?

Singapore. It's a fake place that has lost its soul.

Where is the most underrated place you've been?

Russia is fascinating. I made a terrible expedition through Siberia, it was the worst winter in living memory. The Chukchi people, who are reindeer herders, had lost everything. Despite this, they were able to laugh in the most desperate of situations.

Where would be your trip of a lifetime?

To see the 10 ice dogs that I trained in Siberia, who took me 1,000 miles through the tundra. It was a terrible trip, but after six weeks I was able to train them and they began to trust me.

The world ends tomorrow - where do you regret never having been?

The Taklamakan Desert in western China it's the world's largest waterless place. It is on the Silk Road and is full of lost cities that have been swallowed up by the sand.

Where are you going next?

I still don't know, but I have got this idea of having an airship, like a Zeppelin, and dropping into unexplored places that you can't normally get to by aeroplane or helicopter.

Benedict Allen is an explorer and author

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
i100
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'