My Life In Travel: Ralf Little, actor
'Jamaica is the most magical place'
Saturday 03 July 2010
First holiday memory?
My sisters and I used to go camping with our grandparents every year to places that, at the time, seemed incredibly exotic – like Kidderminster. That's the magic of holidays as a child, you have no concept of where you're going, just that you're going. They are some of the happiest childhood memories I have.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Another place I went camping with my grandparents was Cheddar in Somerset, and I've kept a soft spot for it ever since. Having said that, they took us around all the sights including Cheddar Gorge and the cheese-making factories and, of course, at age 10, all I wanted to do was stay on the campsite playing football and catching fish in the stream.
I've never been the type to just lie around in the sun – it makes me exhausted and gives me a headache – so a holiday needs to involve activity and distraction. Because of this, I love skiing. My favourite trip so far was in Tignes at the end of the ski season this year. I went with a friend and we got to ski a huge area, and enjoyed the great nightlife in Val d'Isère and Courchevel.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Pack light. If you're going away for a week, you only need one pair of jeans, one pair of shorts, a couple of T-shirts plus clean socks and underwear for every day. If you can manage it all in hand luggage, it's really satisfying walking past everyone else at the baggage reclaim at the end of the flight.
Ideal travelling companion?
My mum has always been someone who is great to travel with. She used to drag me out of bed and insist that we went out to sample the culture, learn the history and sight-see. At the time, it always seemed like a nightmare, but now I feel major gratitude that she forced me to make the most of my time.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
Adrenalin junkie first, then culture – mainly out of a sense of duty, but I always feel a sense of satisfaction having done it. Then, a definite last – beach bum. I do like the sun and sea, but only for a couple of hours, at which point I have to seek out snorkelling, scuba diving or jet-skiing.
Greatest travel luxury?
My laptop. I almost don't go anywhere without it. It's a luxury because I don't really need it, but it's great to be able to stay connected to the wider world whenever I need to.
I love Terry Pratchett's books. What makes them so incredible is how re-readable they are. Even if you remember certain plot lines, it's the wry asides and observations that make them so engaging. They're perfect for holidays, because you can dip in and out without having to focus too hard, and they always raise a smile.
Better to travel or arrive?
I always feel suspicious of people who claim to enjoy the journey – who wants to sit cramped in a plane, bus or boat for hours? When they invent teleportation, sign me up.
I've never really had a bad holiday. Even if it hasn't always gone to plan, the people I've been with have usually sought to make the best of things. However, I once went to Florida and halfway through the holiday, I majorly fell out with the person I was with. Four days of frosty glares later, I was more than ready to come home.
Where has seduced you?
Jamaica, for the vibrant culture, the incredible scenery and the island attitude. The food was sensational and I learnt to scuba dive there; it's just the most magical place.
I once stayed in a caravan in Rhyl for a week with some friends when I was 18. The accommodation wasn't the most luxurious, but it was one of the most fun holidays I've had.
The Caves in Negril, Jamaica was pretty special. It was very luxurious and in the most picturesque setting. Also The Residence in Tunisia; it was more grand and opulent, but still exceptional.
Favourite walk/swim ride/drive?
The most incredible thing I've ever done was being dropped out of a helicopter at 15,000ft and skydiving down the north face of the Eiger in Switzerland, landing, and then skiing down to the bottom.
Best meal abroad?
Again, in Jamaica, the food was absolutely unbelievable. Saltfish and ackee was entirely new to me then, but now you'll see me in Caribbean takeaways in London from time to time, trying to relive the experience. The most important thing is to seek out local, traditional dishes.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
Get lost. Don't dress like a tourist, find out if there are any areas to avoid, and then, armed with no other information, strike out on your own. There's no better way to feel part of a city.
I recently returned from an incredible trip to Rio de Janeiro with ActionAid to see some of the work that they do there with under-privileged children. It was one of the best experiences of my life – not always in a good way – but it was a real insight into how hard life is for some people. The most amazing thing I found was how strong and resilient they could be, and how welcoming and generous they were. Despite all of the squalor and poverty in one of the poorest and most notorious favelas, the City of God, the people were kind, dignified, and proud.
I've always had a soft spot for Barcelona. I love the architecture, the culture, the food, the people – and the football.
I'll be skiing again as soon as the season starts, but before then I quite fancy the Maldives. Apparently they're really beautiful and relaxing, although I reckon after two days, I'd be twitching to go and do some scuba diving.
Ralf Little is an ambassador for the anti-poverty charity ActionAid. To find out more about ActionAid's work in the developing world visit actionaid.org.uk
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