Here are the Highs and Lows of Being a Compulsive Traveller
It’s all about wildlife-watching, Tanzanian hitch-hiking, and temperatures of -56, according to Kate Humble
19 August 2019
All Credits: PA
If Kate Humble has a scratch map, it’s probably now just an ordinary map.
The 50-year-old BBC presenter and devoted globetrotter has spent her career travelling most of the known world, from a 2,000-mile odyssey across the Pacific, to investigating the shepherds of Afghanistan.
We discover her best and worst travel memories, and the causes of her wanderlust. If you think her programmes are intrepid, wait until you hear what she got up to aged 19…
What first fired your interest in travel?
“I come from a restless family – my grandparents were great travellers, in a time when travel wasn’t easy – and I’ve inherited those genes in spades. My parents gave me a small blue wheelbarrow for my third birthday, and I was found pottering down the lane with it a mile from home.
“When I was doing O-levels at 16 – back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth – they introduced a European rail card, and for £100/AEd445.29, you could get on every train round Europe. I thought this was the most exciting thing I’d ever heard, so I saved and saved to buy one.
“My dad then gave me £100/AED445.29 spending money, so I had £100/AED445.29 for a month in Europe. I slept in a lot of stations and under a lot of benches, but it was such an adventure.”
What have been your cultural highlights?
“I made three films about nomadic people a few years ago, and I spent some time with Mongolian nomads living in the Gobi Desert. I was blown away by their understanding of their environment, and how they work with the land rather than battling against it.”
You always seem very positive about your experiences abroad. Have you ever found yourself struggling?
“Oh yes, it can be miserable. When you’ve been in the back of a truck with no suspension for 14 hours, squashed with six people on a seat made for three, often getting out to push through potholes, you do think ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have a private jet’.
“I’ve been really cold so many times, and resented how hard it is for women to go to the loo in the middle of nowhere, while it’s so comparatively easy for men. When I cycled round Cuba with my husband, we did 100 miles in a day to reach the place we were supposed to stay. There was nothing there, and we had to sleep in a ditch.
“That is what travelling is all about though. I travel to have experiences – if I wanted to stay in a swanky hotel, I could do that in London.”
“There may come a time that it doesn’t end so happily, but I have huge faith in basic human nature. If you behave the best that you can, I think you get back what you put in.”
“These days, I start to miss the silly things – being able to cook for myself, and my funny morning routine of getting up and going for a run with the dogs. I’ve never got homesick before, but now I almost do.”