I've been looking back at my life, this past week. I'm not in therapy or anything, although hints to this effect are constantly being sprinkled all about me by the people who know me best.
I've been editing some of the best bits from my various DVDs with a view to writing some kind of "show and tell" lecture that I can tour the country with. In some senses it's no more than a slightly ambitious version of a bore showing their friends all their holiday snaps. You know the type, he turns up with some kind of amateur slide-show and you have to sit through an hour of every single move he and his wife made on their recent birdwatching holiday to Costa Rica.
I'm fortunate in that travelling for television nearly always puts you into extraordinary or at the very least interesting situations. On top of which you have the benefit of a professional team recording your "holiday snaps". If the truth be told, I now find travelling without the back-up of a production team a big let-down. It's like once you've turned left on a plane – it's always difficult to go back.
Travelling with a TV show comes with all sorts of fringe benefits. You have a ready-made gang to hang out with. Camera operators and sound people are very much of a uniformly gregarious type – they have to be to survive and be rehired. As well as this bunch of instant friends, you normally get a local fixer. Not only are they the butt of most of your jokes, they also get you into places usually well out of bounds to tourists. You're allowed into national monuments before hoi polloi and always travel about in some fun and "colourful" vehicle as television doesn't like mini-buses. Basically you are very spoilt.
It's only when I look back that I realise how lucky I've been to have so many extraordinary experiences. Just a random flick through my visual travel archive revealed mini-helicopter rides over the Australian Outback in search of rogue crocodiles, standing on top of the Grand Canyon with a huge rocket strapped to my back, the Taj Mahal at dawn, skiing dangerously down a volcano in Nicaragua on sharp black ash ... I've realised that my entire comedy career has been geared around blagging as many foreign trips as I could. Now it's all so clear – I've just been trying to steal Michael Palin's job by pretending to be a comedian and sneaking up on him on the blind side.
I've always had wanderlust – when I was a kid I wanted to visit every single country in the world (I still do) and I used to memorise all the capitals. I now do this with my own kids and wonder whether I'm somehow imbuing them with my wanderlust. It's a strong family gene; Stacey travelled around the world for 15 years or so before settling down with me. I wonder whether our kids will be able to travel as much when they're older?
It's most likely that climate change will completely change travel patterns. And maybe that is no bad thing. I am writing a travel book this year called The Dark Tourist. It tackles my penchant for visiting slightly macabre destinations. I'm off to some places that I really thought I'd never see – Guyana, Rwanda, Chernobyl – and I'm stupidly excited about all of them, partly because they're a bit off the beaten track.
I like the road "less travelled", in Robert Frost's words.
Maybe in the future tourist traps like Spain and Greece will become exotic destinations again as package tours disappear. I've no idea, but I do know how fortunate I am to live in a time when I still can travel to all these weird and wonderful places – especially if it's being paid for by a TV company.Reuse content