In his earlier show, that spanned six years and covered over 50 countries across five continents, UK-based Rajan Datar did the loops in a World War II biplane and bathed a tiger. Now, his new show, Talking Books, will feature three travel authors: Michael Palin, Colin Thubron and Dervla Murphy. Excerpts from an interview
Q. What is it about travel that you find addictive?
A. I’ve been travelling overseas since I was a child, first, with my parents — and often to India, where they are from — then as an independent traveller. My first travel programme was a youth-centric show called Rough Guide to the World, in the 1990s. Next was with my Reggae and Ska band who toured the world for a few years, later with various broadcasting jobs and now intensively again with The Travel Show. Although I’ve never actively looked for it in my choice of jobs, it’s now part of my life. I would need therapy if I didn’t go abroad once every few weeks! I love train travel, especially. The joy of travel is new experiences; a reminder that the world is far bigger than I will ever comprehend, and that we are but tiny specks in this universe, which I find oddly comforting. Meeting new people is the most enjoyable part — and realising that everyone has a story to tell.
Rajan Datar, Presenter of The Travel Show, BBC World News
Q. How did the idea of a show featuring travel writers come about?
A. My department at the BBC also makes regular programmes about the literary world, so, I was a natural choice to present a mini-series on travel writers. Travel writing is a special skill in a world filled with so much social media and visual material about amazing places. I find description hard to write in an original and evocative way, so, I doubly admire those who can do it. To have to take careful notes of every bit of your journey and every conversation requires such dedication and concentration.
Q. What were the fascinating finds with each of the three writers on this show?
A. Colin Thubron is a rare ‘gentleman’ traveller in the classic mode. He is meticulous in everything he does. He ventures into places others would fear to go but meets locals on the way who seem to adopt him because he is so likeable. Dervla Murphy is a force of nature. Her life story, starting from being brought up in a fiercely intellectual Republican family in Ireland and a disabled mother who she left school to look after, means hers was always going to be an unconventional life. She travelled to India on a bicycle from Ireland for her first long trip! She’s now in her eighties and still incredibly independent and rejects any luxury in her trips. I’ve been aware of Michael Palin as a comic writer and actor since my childhood. He is the ultimate polymath. He was very giving in the interview, which, as any interviewer will tell you, is the best gift you can have. He is a legend through Monty Python and his travelogues for the BBC. I could only dream of having a life such as his.
Talking Books: Travel Writers Special will air from May 9 to May 24 on BBC World News on Saturday at 10 am & 11 pm and Sunday at 4 pm
Advice to aspiring chroniclers/writers: Be interested in everything and everyone around you, no matter how mundane.
Flip side to being a travel journalist: We start very early and finish very late on a shooting day; time is money in broadcasting. And then, constantly changing sleeping quarters and times can get to you.
Places on your wish list: Lebanon and Iran.
3 travel tips that no travel guru will tell you...: 1) Learn simple relaxation techniques 2) Use public transport wherever possible 3) Never forget that most people across the world share many of the same fears, hopes and pleasures as you do!