The adventurer and friend of Globe-Trotter on what makes truly hands-on travel, where to catch the best sunsets, and what's still on his bucket list
In a nutshell, what is Xped Global?
We’re a luxury, self-drive overland adventure company. We organise bespoke tours and put you in one of our vehicles, which is how we differ from a lot of other experiential travel companies. We’ll provide you with the kit for wherever you’re going in the world; so if you’re going to Morocco you’ll be kitted out for the desert, if you’re going to Iceland we’ll prepare you for ice and snow. Essentially we provide tips, training and coaching to drive that vehicle effectively, so it’s a very hands-on experience.
What’s your professional background?
I’ve been involved in expeditions for years and I used to do PR work for Jaguar Land Rover. I was doing that for a long time and I realised that I’ve learned a lot about delivering overland adventures all across the globe. It made me think that there was a real window of opportunity to offer this particular type of luxury travel to guests; for people who want to go on holiday and have an amazing experience. Our tours are not just about the driving, they’re also about experiencing the actual country.
What kind of tours do you organise?
Lots of people want to do really long trips but they just don’t have the time, so we offer short tours where people can have the experience of that country but within a few days. For example, we run a four-day tour in Morocco where you really hit the ground running: visit the Atlas Mountains, cross the desert – it’s a massive experience squashed into a few days. We’ve just launched a new route in Iceland which is great and our next epic trip will be Cairo to Cape Town. We’re also launching the Silk Road in 2019, which is something I personally really enjoyed doing. The whole experience of driving across a continent is quite amazing.
Have you done any iconic road trips? I’m looking forward to doing the TransAmerica in 2020 – instead of doing Route 66 we’ve got a 5,500 mile coast-to-coast journey from Virginia to Oregon, which is fully off-road.
Is there anything on your personal travel bucket list that you haven’t ticked off yet?
I’d really like to go to the salt flats in Timbuktu. Specifically I’d like to do a trek using camels. I’d arrive in Mali, buy my camel, go to the salt flats, buy the salt, trek back with my camels, sell the salt and then that pays for your trip. It’s a tradition that’s been happening for thousands of years. Another thing on my bucket list is to skydive into Burning Man festival.
What’s on your driving playlist?
I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash.
What country do you find yourself returning to again and again?
Morocco. I call it the closest ‘far away’ place. It’s only 3 hours out of London yet culturally it’s so different.
What do you never leave the house without when you’re travelling?
A Leatherman and green tea. I never leave the country without those two bits of kit. The nice thing about green tea is that you don’t need milk or sugar and you can always find a way to boil water.
What’s the last book you read on the road?
The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan. It’s a fascinating book and I have to keep re-reading it.
Do you ever pick up any unique or interesting souvenirs?
I don’t really buy souvenirs but I will buy practical things that I come across in that country. I’ve got a really nice teapot from Morocco, for example. It’s a proper everyday teapot as opposed to an ornamental one you buy as a souvenir.
What’s the best hotel you’ve ever stayed in?
I stayed in the Taj Lake Palace hotel in Udaipur, which was quite an experience. We pulled up in our vehicles and were shipped out by a guy paddling a gondola and arrived in this incredible marble hotel in the middle of the lake. Unfortunately my wife wasn’t with me as I was with a group of journalists. I’ve also stayed in the UN Plaza hotel in New York City and they upgraded us to the Ambassador Suite, which is a duplex on two floors. It was quite amazing, and I was with my wife that time!
What’s the best sunset you’ve seen?
Probably the Indonesian island of Gili. We watched the sun set every night.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve had on holiday?
Probably while driving in Kyrgyzstan on the Chinese border. We were in the middle of nowhere, a real no-man’s land, and these people suddenly waved us down from their yurt. They were so pleased to see us, they invited us in for dinner and it was just incredible. I’d never met these people and they had nothing yet they offered us a meal. The more I travel, the more I’ve found that the most generous people are those who have nothing. The meal itself was memorable because it was sheep’s testicles and cheese.
How did it taste?