Celebrity Chat - January 2020

A suitcase ties you down

For TV’s Jonnie Irwin, travelling’s all about grabbing a backpack and becoming a nomad

Best known for presenting Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun, Jonnie Irwin has always been an inveterate traveller. “A holiday for me is travelling somewhere, going somewhere and moving about as well,” he tells Group Travel World magazine. “Backpacking with friends has always been the appeal, rather than simply taking a package holiday.

“My first trip overseas was to Tenerife. It was very embarrassing, all lads together… Later, at university and afterwards, I just wanted to go to places and see the world.

“My job in the property industry exposed me to travel, and later, when I became freelance and was between jobs, I spent a lot of time travelling. I’m fortunate to have friends who are keen to go backpacking too. When you have a suitcase it ties you down to a hotel and you become less mobile. When you have a bag on your shoulder, you can catch a bus and be more nomadic. Sitting around on a beach for two weeks would not make me happy.

“I often travel with a group of friends; there are six of us. We’re mates and have known each other for years. A couple of months ago we went to the Alps for altitude training on a glacier, then over to Gran Paradisio for a few days. We then went to the Anapurna base camp in Nepal for eight days. We’d left our wives and families behind and were trekking around Nepal, seeing the area.

“This is the upside of group travel – there is a great sense of camaraderie, sharing the experiences with each other. You are walking next to a different person each day on the hike, and the conversations are so different.

“My most disastrous travelling experience has to be Japan. I had gone skiing with mates and we’d stayed up all night listening to snow reports, then drove in a minibus to where there was a metre of fresh powder.

“We went skiing and I fell, landing so badly I dislocated my hip and broke my pelvis. Being treated in a Japanese hospital, with my leg sticking out from the side of my hip and no-one speaking English was hard. Fortunately I was insured, and Air France flew me back to the UK on crutches in business class accompanied by a friend.

“My favourite place is India. I’m a bit of an Indiaphile; I actually proposed to my wife in Jaipur. I’m crazy about the cuisine and it’s nice to be able to immerse yourself in the culture.

“In the UK I have two favourite places – the Lake District and Cornwall. I love the mountains and going up onto the fells. We spent our honeymoon following the route of Steve Coogan’s programme The Trip, visiting all these lovely restaurants. Recently, we took our first family holiday and went down to Falmouth. We visited Sennan Cove and it was lovely – we definitely plan to go back there.”

Chris Beardshaw

From Cornwall to Jaipur, Jonnie’s happiest when he’s off exploring

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