He’s explored North Korea and Lebanon, braved Chernobyl and tried to track the elusive Yeti, Sasquatch and Loch Ness Monster — it’s fair to say comedian and journalist Dom Joly has travelled to parts of the world most people wouldn’t dream of visiting.
Travel to me is about adventure, not relaxation. I like to travel to somewhere interesting, vibrant, edgy and, if I’m honest, doesn’t have too many Brits about.
While my egalitarian soul thinks it’s good more and more people can travel the world, my inner travel-snob rather wishes they didn’t. With mass travel comes homogenisation — the idea that wherever you are you need to be near a Starbucks, a McDonald’s or a place that serves an English breakfast. This fills me with horror.
It’s harder and harder to find interesting, unspoilt places to visit. That’s why I like to travel to supposedly ‘darker’ destinations. Often the places I enjoy the most are the ones that have slightly tarnished reputations. The sort of places that, when you mention them, people go ‘Ooh… you’re brave going there’. In response, I’ll shrug in a sort of ‘fear means nothing to me’ kind of way, safe in the knowledge that where I’m going is never as dangerous as it sounds. Not only that, the danger element means global chains and brands have yet to get a foothold in the country and I stand a good chance of having some sort of original travel experience. Finally, the people in these pariah destinations are invariably incredibly welcoming and genuinely thrilled you’ve made an effort to come and see their country. This was very much the case when I went skiing in Iran. Never have I been so spoilt to the point of embarrassment.
My favourite travel writer is Mark Twain. His The Innocents Abroad is one of my top books and I live my life by this mantra of his: ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’
This is what truly makes us alive. There’s no greater experience than to travel. Forget about the usual destinations — get out an atlas, find somewhere weird and just go there. You’ll never ever regret it.
Dom Joly’s Scary Monsters and Super Creeps: In Search of the World’s Most Hideous Beasts, is out now. RRP: £12.99. (Simon & Schuster)
Read more in the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)