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?
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
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

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links