Forty years ago my first journey included an attempted military coup, a night in prison, a robbery, malaria, and perhaps surprisingly, plenty of fun. Five books, several films, and hundreds of published stories later, I’m still moving: since 2005 as The Guardian’s chief travel writer.
In all that time my curiosity has stayed steady. I like to wander off paths and speak to interesting people. I like to see new wildlife, hear history retold and climb to the top of stuff.
Some countries I visited, or lived in, have disappeared: Zaïre, North Yemen and the State of Anjouan included. But others – South Sudan, North Macedonia and Eritrea – have been created. My first published story appeared in 1984 and since then I’ve worked on hundreds of assignments. Some characters and events, however, cannot be contained by the travel section of a daily newspaper. Wars break out, things fall apart, and people behave unexpectedly. In the heat of the moment, stories get left behind in notebooks, but later the significance of those narratives becomes clearer. Suddenly they illuminate the present.