My Life In Travel: Chris O'Dowd, actor
'In India, I gave this guy my shoes and when I turned round ... he was gone'
Ben Ross is Head of Travel at The Independent. He has worked for the paper for over a decade, and began reporting on travel in 2001. Before joining the travel desk full time, he ran The Independent's special projects department. He started his journalistic career at the BBC working for its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.
Friday 20 July 2012
First holiday memory?
We used to go to a cottage in Donegal every summer. My dad was a sign-writer in County Roscommon, and we'd all load into the back of his van. There were five kids, so he'd nail down a couch into the back and we'd hit the ocean roads.
Rajasthan was like nowhere else I've seen. It just felt like the edge of the world, up by the deserts, sleeping in tents. It's fabulous.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Galway is one of my favourite cities. They call it the artist's graveyard, because people decide that they're going to spend six months there in their twenties after visiting the Galway Arts festival. And 23 years later they're still there. It's a very pretty city but also it's very relaxed and has a real arty vibe. It's also got the best pubs in the world.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Travel light. I'm good; I've nailed it down. If at all possible I try to make sure everything is carry-on. Also, never travel with anything that you like, because you'll never see it again.
Ideal travelling companion?
Marco Polo. He'd know some good routes. And I always insist on using an elephant in my travels.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
Certainly not adrenalin junkie. Probably culture vulture, with a little bit of beachy stuff. I'm arranging a honeymoon at the moment and I haven't taken a beach holiday in a long time. So I'm thinking we're going to do that.
Greatest travel luxury?
The iPad is great. It's one of those things that's important but it's replaceable. It's also a great travel tool – some of the apps are terrific. And it's a camera and it's a music player. It's fab.
I'm going for a big autobiography stage in my life – obviously searching for guidance in some respect. I'm reading Keith Richards' Life at the moment. I went into it thinking it's going to be so rock'*'roll and so debauched. But I love the lyricism of it. He's got such a way with words.
Where has seduced you?
If you can manage to get round the streets without being knocked over by a motorbike, there's something interesting about Saigon [Ho Chi Minh City]. I've done a bit of India, Thailand and Laos, but what I found in Saigon is that the poverty wasn't nearly as prevalent. I don't know whether it's because of its socialist past, but they seem to take better care of the more needy in their society.
Better to travel or arrive?
To arrive. I was doing a film in Australia last year and doing a film in LA at the same time. I had to take six trips in a month, over and back. I could live without doing that again in my life.
Worst travel experience?
You get accosted by a lot of people in Indian railway stations to polish your shoes. I gave this guy my shoes and when I turned round … he was gone. So I took a 14-hour train with no shoes in a carriage full of chickens. That was a hell of an experience. When you're walking in chicken s**t you want to make sure that you've got no shoes.
In Goa. It wasn't actually a hotel, it was a hostel. While I was there I got "Delhi belly". I remember being so dehydrated and so empty inside that I was lying on the bathroom floor in these communal toilets, thinking: "Oh my God, I don't think things can get any worse." I managed to summon the energy to open my eyes – and saw a dead rat floating out of the hole in the ground of the toilet. And I thought: "Oh, I was wrong."
Close to where I'm from are the Curlew mountains between Roscommon and Sligo, which look over these glistening little lakes – you can walk or cycle up around there . The west of Ireland has a landscape like nowhere else in the world. It's really quite magical.
Best meal abroad?
Keep it simple. Pizza on the Amalfi coast: delicious.
We're talking about going to Bora Bora at the moment and then popping over to New Zealand.
I'm going over to Ireland for a while to work and for a little bit of pleasure, and then I'll be over to LA again for work.
Actor Chris O'Dowd is supporting Discover Ireland's "Escape the Madness" campaign. Visit discoverireland.com or join in @GoToIrelandGB
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