My Life In Travel: Sean Hughes, comedian
'My dream trip would involve gorillas'
Saturday 31 July 2010
First holiday memory?
We were quite poor so we'd go to see my granny; there were no brochures involved. My first proper holiday was when I was 14 and I was sent to the Isle of Man to babysit for a week. My abiding memory was of going on the go-karts. I pretended I had been on one before but I didn't even know where the brakes were. I got flagged down but I didn't know how to stop it.
Trekking to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda. I did it about five years ago and I'd happily go every year. One of them touched me – which they're not supposed to – but it wasn't frightening. I think I look a bit like a gorilla so they must have thought I was part of the family.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
Edinburgh, mainly for the festival, but for other reasons too. It's the place I have been to the most in the UK and it has personal significance. I also love Devon and Dorset, but who doesn't?
What have you learnt from your travels?
I travel a lot on my own and I'm very good at it, except for mealtimes when everyone struggles. You have to go out to dinner with a magazine so you give off that "I'm not lonely" vibe.
Ideal travelling companion?
Myself. Things take forever when you're travelling in any kind of group.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I have Irish skin so I love the idea of the sun, but it doesn't like me. So, sadly, I look for Irish bars – not to hang out with other Irish people, but just to watch the football.
Greatest travel luxury?
Tranquilisers, because I don't like flying. However, once you've done your first trip to Australia you realise you can't be in a state of panic for 24 hours. I find airports very tedious and depressing though.
I have hundreds of books at home which I haven't read, so I take a selection of them and don't read them. I also take unread weekend newspaper supplements.
Where has seduced you?
There's something very special about New York. I'm always aware that people know who I am in London, but nobody does in New York. I have been about five or six times and it's just beautiful. I feel like I know it myself now.
Better to travel or arrive?
One thing everyone should do if they are somewhere with good weather is hire a scooter; it's a great way to see a place and you feel like Steve McQueen.
Worst travel experience?
Being in Galle, Sri Lanka, when the tsunami hit. I was staying on the ground floor at The Lighthouse hotel and when it hit us at 9.10am I was in the shower. I was booked in for a massage at 9.30 and the massage area was completely obliterated. I was literally 20 minutes away from death. But I feel lucky because the water came in at an angle and we survived, but so many villagers behind us didn't.
I did some filming on the Isle of Man and I really didn't like the place. I later did a stand-up show there and it was brilliant. We went to a bar afterwards and someone came up to me and asked: "Are you that Jewish comedian?"
A very quirky hotel in Stockholm, which only had two floors but a choice of five musical genres that could be played in the lift – including jungle music.
The train journey from Edinburgh to Aberdeen is spectacular but then, unfortunately, you're in Aberdeen at the end of it; unless you're looking for oil it's not a great place to be. Biarritz is a brilliant walking town because it's so compact. They have good seawater spas there.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
I hate the mass surge of people wanting to carry your bag at the airport, so I have to meditate to get myself out of the building in a calm state of mind.
Best meal abroad?
One of the reasons I don't like going on holiday is because I'm vegetarian so I find eating out really difficult. Even in Sri Lanka, I found that the hotels didn't cater much for vegetarians. I have wanted to go to South America for years but that's the one thing that puts me off. What fun am I going to have eating beans every day?
It would involve gorillas or monkeys. In Uganda there's a chimpanzee sanctuary on an island called Ngamba. You get there by speedboat, passing the equator on the way. There are just two tents there; we stayed and got to go out with baby chimps in the jungle. There were four of them jumping on us and play biting, which hurt quite a lot. As soon as I started grooming the hair on one of them, he was completely relaxed. That was a magical moment for me.
I love Melbourne. I've been about six times for the comedy festival and it's a great city.
To Edinburgh, for the festival. I'm sure I'll be paying hotel prices for a very dodgy apartment, but I love doing it.
Sean Hughes is appearing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with his new stand-up show 'Sean Hughes – ducks and other mistakes I've made' at the Gilded Balloon, from 4-19 August (tickets: edfringe.com ).
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