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Luxury Travel

Travel with a Passion

Transferring your home hobbies to a novel location can really elevate a trip away. We asked three travellers, each with a personal passion, to tell us about their experiences of taking a hobby on holiday

This is a feature from Issue 12 of Charitable Traveller. 

The adrenaline junkie

For 30 years Ian Vokes was a British Airways’ pilot travelling the world, with a sensational birds-eye view from his cockpit and a comfortable bed in a high-end hotel awaiting him wherever he landed. He was required to be cool, calm and collected in his day job; but after hours he lived life a little on the edge, with the help of some adrenaline-boosting hobbies. Ian challenged his body with extreme running and walking routes in the mountains in summer. In winter he sought soft powder in off-piste adventures and hit remote glaciers on heli-skiing tours of Europe and North America. He took on unpredictable, off-road terrains on mountain biking trips, and hit the road on motorcycle tours all over the world. When he retired from the skies as a pilot, a new passion for paragliding was born.

Taking flight

Having learnt the fundamentals of paragliding by jumping off Devil’s Dyke on the UK’s south coast, Ian took his first international glide in Tenerife, with a small group and an expert guide. Now he is hooked, and it isn’t just riding the thermals that inspire him, but the incredible landscapes and remote local communities that paragliding gives him access to.
Ian has stayed in converted caves half-way up a mountain and in a bivouac made out of his ‘wing’. In the Alps, he combined two passions by trying para-skiing. To date, he’s taken flights in Morocco, India, Spain and Turkey, and jumped off a glacier and snowy peaks in France and Switzerland too. In India, he flew alongside Himalayan griffon vultures (the Labradors of the sky, with a three-metre wingspan), and watched other fliers jump in wheelchairs, on tandem paragliders or with their dogs onboard.

His longest flight had him airborne for over six hours, travelling 45 kilometres, to land close to the Dalai Lama’s home, in the foothills of India’s Himalayas. His worst flight ended tangled in a mountain tree (which saved his life) near Lake Annecy in France – with a 90-minute walk in 35 degrees without water to get help. Ian says: “Part of the joy of paragliding is that there is a lot of waiting around for the right conditions to fly. That sounds annoying but you wait in absolutely incredible places with a fascinating mix of other people. You get to some remarkable, remote places and see a completely different side to a destination, even in those places you think you already know.”

Ian's Bucket List

The food fanatic

Ellie Baynard is a self-confessed food fanatic. A Londoner who has eaten her way around the world just by travelling on the underground to find exciting multi-cultural cuisines among the capital’s restaurants.
By day, Ellie works as a recipe developer for a large recipe box business, helping to keep their offer fresh and exciting; and when she’s not cooking, she’s reading recipe books or chef biographies, scrolling online food blogs or compiling her list of ‘must-go’ restaurants and foodie destinations into a list that just keeps getting longer. In her spare time she is a culinary nomad, searching the globe for new flavours and the stories that go with them.

Eating like a local

It’s not just fancy Michelin-star restaurants and tasting menus Ellie is interested in – her budget doesn’t always stretch to that – but quirky food trucks and creative cafes, back street bistros and produce markets – especially when she travels overseas. “I always read up on local specialities before I travel and try and find out the best places to try that dish in the destination I am heading to. A food speciality usually gives you an insight into the local culture, takes you to places that are off the tourist trail and adds a bit of culinary adventure to the trip,” she says. Ellie has tried oozing hot raclette cheese in the Alps, traditionally served with roast potatoes and invented by Swiss shepherds. She has combined bratwurst with fruity stollen cake and gluhwein for guaranteed warmth and festive spirit at Christmas markets in Berlin.

She’s stood at bars trialling myriad plates of Spanish tapas and toured Italy on a quest for the best pizza and gelato, as well as juicy tomatoes and mozzarella crammed with natural flavour. She’s tried spicy, sour Tom Yum soups in Thailand, Portuguese sardines by the sea in Lisbon followed by the local custard tarts, and the infamous pie floater (a green pea soup with a pie floating on top of it) in South Australia. “The local produce and favourite dishes of a destination really bring it alive for me. I love to join cooking courses and see a local chef cook their favourite dish. I enjoy hearing the stories of how a dish became a national favourite and seeing how trends change. If I see a café or restaurant with a queue, I have to join it to find out why; or I sit and watch what the locals order before I choose. The food isn’t always to my taste, but it is always an experience, and the menus always give me a tale to tell from my trip.”

Ellie's Bucket List

The Great Oudoors lover

Maggie Bowyer first pulled on her walking boots as an alternative to a traditional Christmas during her university days. With a group of like-minded friends, she rented a house in the Lake District each year and walked off the festive bingeing with some serious hikes into the great outdoors; learning survival skills and map-reading as she went. The experiences bred a passion for the great outdoors that would last a lifetime, leading her to take up other hobbies like caving, river and sea-kayaking and cycling, too.

into the wild

The sea kayaking started in Greece, where Maggie has taken almost a dozen kayaking trips to date but she has also kayaked in Croatia, around the islands of west Scotland, and the Lake District where she now lives. Maggie says: “Greece is a great place to learn because the water is warm so you can practice falling in and rehearse the things that might go wrong without freezing! Once you have the basics with kayaking you can choose your level of drama and challenge. The weather and the water conditions make every trip different but if it looks rough or difficult you can just sit it out in a beautiful place and wait for things to improve.”

For Maggie, the appeal is being outdoors, close to the sea and getting lots of exercise. But she also gets to see amazing birdlife, as well as seals, otters, whales and dolphins in their natural environment. It is the natural elements that add a sense of adventure to both kayaking and walking trips, and Maggie loves it when her itineraries include pitching a tent in the bush for some wild camping. She’s pulled on her boots to walk at altitude in the Himalayas of Nepal and in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. She’s walked through the African bush in Botswana, tackled cross-island trails in Corsica and Majorca, and trekked hut-to-hut in the Austrian Alps, crossing unstable glaciers in summer.

“These kinds of trips reward you with a real sense of achievement each day, as well as taking you into some incredible places that you would never otherwise get to see. They are well worth the effort every time,” she says.

Maggie's Bucket List

This is a feature from Issue 12 of Charitable Traveller.