Sunday at the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival.

The Destinations Travel Show was held at Kensington Olympia from the 4th till the 7th of February. The vast hall contained over 550 travel brands for you to peruse at your hearts content. That’s if you weren’t distracted by the plethora of talks, performances and food.

The main reason I attended was to go to as many talks as possible at the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival. I am a travel procrastinator extraordinaire. I love reading about people’s adventures into the unknown. I dream about doing these things myself. At the moment I am working on getting my fitness up to a good level so that it’s one less thing to worry about should I ever venture out my door when I find a ‘thing’ I want to do. (more like decide which of many ‘things’ I will do.)

The STWF ran every day of the show with talks, panels and discussions from people such as Helena Attlee, Alastair Humphreys, Phoebe Smith, Elsa Hammond, Brian Blessed and Simon Reeve to name a few. (and these were ones I missed!)

On the Sunday I was looking forward to hearing from wild swimmer Sean Conway, presenter Simon Reeve, A discussion on the politics of geography and an interview with Levison Wood.

I arrived just as the doors opened at 10 am and headed directly for my first ( read: only ) coffee of the day. My plan of action was to do a lap of the exhibition hall before making my way to the first talk of the day- Wild Swimming with Sean Conway.

Conway was a bundle of energy on stage, especially for someone who had been up since 5.30. As a speaker, he is quite magnetic and you find yourself really drawn into his adventures. He told us of the ups and downs of his trip to swim from Lands End to John o’Groats(via Ireland?!?) I learnt that you can most definitely get seasickness from swimming and that there are whirlpools in Scotland that can suck you through to Australia. ( He said that so it MUST be true right?)

But most of all I found his talk really inspiring. He spoke about how people immediately said it was impossible, that he would die, that no one would sponsor him and most thought him mad. There were two things Conway said that truly stood out to me, one was about how there will always be people that doubt your ability – treasure the people who believe you can!

The other was that he started ‘later’in life. Whilst he was always adventurous he still managed to get sucked into the rat race ” Get up! Do something you hate just so you can afford the flat you only sleep in and a car you need only to do the job you hate“. In the end he trusted his gut in knowing it wasn’t for him and set out to do what he truly was passionate about! And now he is encouraging others to do the same with the yearly Sean Conway Adventure Scholarship.

One book bought and signed later and I decided that it was time to wander the show. I couldn’t get into the Simon Reeve talk as the queue was huge and I wanted to get my book signed. He seemed a very popular man and I will listen to the Stanfords podcast soon.

To see a full list of the brands at the show – click Here. I first headed to the Kuoni stand as I wanted to talk to them about their photography tours that I talked about in yesterdays post. As chance would have it I actually got talking to the lady who designs and organises these trips, so we got chatting about the India one and how they worked. She is going to email me more information when there is news about new upcoming trips.

I made a stop at the Dominican Republic stand as I am heading there this September and wanted to find out if there was anything I should do or need to know. She gave me a book full of excursions to read before I go.

Down via Cuba for the housemates and by Mountain Kingdoms to talk fitness levels and hiking. I paused to have a chat with G Adventures in which I discovered the holy grail of the single traveller – NO SINGLE SUPPLIMENTS! I stopped at Discover America and Canada to talk about RV’s and campervans for my Dad and what reallly puzzelled me was that they charged per person for camper rental!? Flights not included, just per person for the rental of a van and a suggested route. I got to look around one of their vehicles and they are surprisingly spacious but the PP just kinda put me off.

Then I turned another corner and found El Monte RV and had a lovely chat with a guy who explained their rental policy where you rent the van – that’s it! Much more like car rental and makes more sense if I am honest. He gave me some prospective prices for the school holidays AND a free t-shirt. Win!

I zigged and zagged all over the shop, entering competitions, chatting to nice people and fending off a man who wanted me to sit in his massage chair because it would change my life.

Do I look like I can afford a massage chair?

It was then time to head on back to the STWF to listen to the Politics in Geography talk with Tim Marshall, Nick Middleton and Anna Reid, I didn’t go in and sit down as I knew the queue for Levison Wood would start forming well before his talk. ( it did- It was HUGE)

The talk was about somthing I had absolutly no knowledge of whatsoever but now I already have a list of books I want to read. It was nice to hear different opionions on the same subject as it hasn’t biased me to look at the issue from a particular angle. I suspect the panel could have gone on a lot longer than the alloted time, the speakers were very passionate about there subject and I could have listened to them for a lot longer too.

Apart from a little argybargy before the Walking the Himelayas talk where people refused to move and argued with the poor security guards (rude) it all started on time, packed to capacity – there were even people sitting on the floor! The discussion focused on the making of his TV shows covering aspects such as the logistics of the filming, the writing of the books and safety to the impact of travel and tourism in remote locations. Levison Wood is different from Sean Conway in the fact that he has always been an adventurer and has never had the traditional 9-5 lifestyle, having previously been in the British Army before going on to help film adventure and nature documentaries which is how he landed the gig with channel 4.

The interview was conducted by Paul Blezard who had some interesting annecdotes himself. As I have read Wood’s books it was nice to for the talk to focus on a different aspect of the trips he takes to keep it fresh and interesting. He was very engaging with the audience and gave thoughtful answers duing the Q&A too. This was another talk that could have gone on a lot longer than the alloted time and I am pretty sure even the people sitting on the floor would not have cared.

Walking the Himalayas was the last talk I could attend as I had plans. Luckily Stanford’s make podcasts of all their interviews and discussions so I went knowing I could listen to all the ones I had missed in the future. You can download them HERE.

I had a really brilliant afternoon, learnt a lot and definitly hit my 10,000 step goal without a problem – I could have wandered for another couple of hours if I am honest. There are a few more travel shows coming up in the next month or so, such as the TNT Travel Show at the end of February, but I totally recomend joining the Stanfords mailing list to hear about their upcoming talks and future festivals as this was the highlight of the show for me!

I am off to plan holidays for the next 50 years!

-Amanda xx

p.s – The husky did not want me to take ANY photos!

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