Archive | Travellers

Interview with Anton Crone

Anton Crone (right) in NaboishoI first met Anton Crone when he’d just given up a long career in advertising and decided to try his hand at travel blogging. Even before I knew him well, he seemed like the perfect traveller (and a good person to drink many beers with and chat about everything) – a hardy motorbiker who takes everything in his stride with good humour and a sense of adventure. I love Anton’s take on slow travel (he once drove from Cape Town to the Serengeti in a Smart Car, for no particular reason), his genuine enthusiasm for Africa, wilderness and conservation, his choice of really off-the-beaten-track destinations (like Mali), his beautiful photography – and his portraits in particular – and his truly inspiring story (read it here) about how he decided to change life track so drastically and give up his career for travel, at a time when most people are settling down to stay in the same place for the rest of their lives.

Anton’s moved from blogging to a job as the publishing editor of Africa Geographic Magazine, and he’s about to embark on a new travel venture. He continues to write about what he loves – conservation, Africa and the beautiful wild places he’s been to.

Read about Anton’s travels through Africa on his blog, Bright Continent, and his blogs and articles on Africa Geographic, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

What was your first trip without your parents?

The first trip I remember with my folks was to the highlands of Nyanga in Zimbabwe. It was a strange time – there was a war going on. We explored ancient ruins and swam in mountain streams, but dad carried an AK and mom packed an Uzi. We left Zimbabwe for South Africa soon after that. My first trip alone was going back there as a teenager. My parents put me on a long distance bus. They were happy to see me go because I was a real shit, and I didn’t want to come back. I considered Zimbabwe home. I would be staying with family friends on their farm and I thought it was going to be like old times – playing the fool; getting up to mischief. But I was put to work branding cattle and hoeing fields. My folks had arranged it like that. It did me a lot of good. And I missed them.

What’s been the most meaningful journey you’ve done?

I hitchhiked from Anchorage to Acapulco in 1999. It was so far from my perceptions of America, and myself. I lived like a hobo. I loved it, and sometimes I hated it.

Where in the world have you felt happiest?

Probably the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. I had just fallen in love. While we were walking around the gardens, trying to figure each other out, I realised that she must like me because she was laughing at my silly jokes.

Pineapple salesman

What’s the best sky you’ve ever slept under?

The sky above Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana. It’s a wonderful place to see the expanse of the Milky Way, and to feel ridiculously small.

What are your favourite travel books?

Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia of course! His Songlines I loved too. Then there’s Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari and Shackleton’s South. One book that really stuck with me was The Water in Between by Kevin Patterson.

Photo 2010-10-06

Why do you travel?

I travel to move. I get fidgety if I’m sedentary.

What places that you’ve travelled to have had the biggest impact on you?

Mount Assinboine in Canada. I felt so exposed to the elements hiking there. Denali in Alaska for the same reason. Djenné in Mali for its mud mosque and Koranic Island. Then there’s Africa’s Albertine Rift – the entire region astounds me, culturally as well as geographically. Lagos, for the mad energy. Malawi because I feel like I belong there – which is incredibly presumptuous of me, so let’s say I want to belong there.

What’s your favourite story you’ve written?

A little piece about a kid on a boat on Lake Malawi.

Moto Taxi

How can people learn to be better travellers?

I think the people who are better at travelling are those who travel like it’s their first time, every time. Who just throw themselves into it without planning; without following the same method or strategy. Who just travel to see what happens next.

What’s the wildest place you’ve ever been to?

Alaska.

What’s your favourite mode of transport and why?

I love motorcycling because it exposes you to the environment. But I would say hitchhiking is my favourite because you meet so many wonderfully interesting people. They tell you stuff they don’t tell others, and you tell them stuff you don’t tell others, because you think you’ll never see each other again. You get to really understand a country that way and you become a part of it.

Photo 2013-03-16

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Interview with Justin Fox

Justin Fox, travel writer

I realised the other day, when scrolling through my Facebook feed and coming across photo after amazing photo of friends in exotic places around the world, that I know some pretty interesting travellers – people who spend most of their lives on the road, writing stories and taking photos of their adventures across the planet. I’ve decided to start doing a series of interviews with people whose jealousy-inducing posts inspire me to travel even more.

The first is with Justin Fox, my ex-editor at Getaway International, whose pen marks on my over-laboured stories when I was a lowly intern set me on my travel writing path. Justin spent 14 years at Getaway magazine, as a photojournalist, deputy editor, editor at large, and editor of the spin-off publication Getaway International, going on assignments that took him all over Africa and the world.  He’s cruised down the Niger River to Timbuktu, sailed a dhow to the Somali border, got manhandled by a gorilla in Rwanda,  flew in a hot air balloon over the great migration in the Masai Mara, explored the highlands of Ethiopia, learned to salsa in Cuba, crossed China on a Land Rover expedition retracing the footsteps of Marco Polo and slept at minus-five degrees Celsius in the Arctic’s ice hotel. He’s published many travel books, won awards for his travel journalism, and is now a freelance writer, photographer, part-time lecturer and novelist, having recently published his first novel, Whoever Fears the Sea.

Why do you travel?

Because if you leave me alone in one place too long I start chewing my hand off. A sedentary life and boredom are sort of synonymous for me. Movement is the elixir. I also find it much easier to write when I’m on the road.

What was your first trip without your parents?

Hiking with my school class mates in the Witels when I as about 13. We swam naked in the streams and told ghost stories at night that completely freaked us out.

What’s been the most meaningful journey you’ve done?

I spent a couple of months in the winter of 2004 driving around the edge of South Africa, tracing the borderline. I wrote a book about that journey, The Marginal Safari, which describes the emotions, highs and lows of getting under the skin of the country.

Where in the world have you felt happiest?

It’s less about place and more about the people I’m with. So the happiest places seem to be those where I was in love. Like sailing down the Nile on a cruise ship with a lover I’d not seen for many years. Or visiting the Italian Riviera and doing cheesy romantic things with my girlfriend. Happiness is usually people, not places.

What’s your favourite room you’ve ever slept in?

There was that sumptuous room with throw cushions and mosquito nets and kelims right on the beach on Mnemba Island, just off Zanzibar, that had the whole tropical fantasy down pat.

Who are your favourite travel writers?

If you count WG Sebald as a travel writer, he’d be close to the top of my list with his more travel-orientated books such as Rings of Saturn. I love much Jonathan Raban’s writing, especially his masterpiece, A Passage to Juneau. Geoff Dyer, Colin Thubron and Bruce Chatwin would also be on that list. In South Africa, I think William Dicey’s Borderline is a damn fine travelogue.

What’s the best story or book you’ve written?

I think my favourite book is The Marginal Safari – it’s the accumulation of a lot of my ideas about travelling and writing. I’ve also just finished a novel, Whoever Fears the Sea, set in Kenya and Somalia, which is by far the best novel I’ve ever written, especially given that it’s the only novel I’ve ever written.

If you could live anywhere where would it be?

A simple, laid-back tropical island wouldn’t be half bad. I’m thinking of one of the nossies in northwestern Madagascar. Failing that, a cottage in rural Provence would be alright.

What places that you’ve travelled to have had the biggest impact on you?

Strangely, all my answers would probably be African. Northwestern Namibia for landscapes, the Okavango Delta for wildlife, Madagascar for beaches and the mud cities of Mali for cultural exoticism. Oh, and Ashgabat for the weirdest, off-the-wall-insane city on earth.

In the age of blogs, social media in an over-reviewed world, what do you think the future of travel writing is?

It’s a bloody disaster. Every Tom, Dickhead and Harriet thinks he can be a travel writer. The good stuff has been swamped by the open sewer of mediocrity. There are few gatekeepers left, few editors who can hold back the tide of drivel. Travel writers worth their salt can’t make a living because too few care about quality, so they turn to PR or custom publishing or underwater basket weaving. All is lost. Make for the lifeboats.

Find Justin Fox online at Justinfoxafrica.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @JustinFoxAfrica

Justin Fox, dhow, Mozambique
Justin Fox, Mozambique
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