How To Become A Travel Writer With Sean Newsom

Sean Newsom writes mainly for The Sunday Times, travelling the world in summer and winter in search of extreme action and adventure.

Hosted ByPeter & Felice

Travel Writer

 

On this week’s travel podcast we’re talking to our friend and business partner, Sean Newsom, fellow editor of Welove2ski and travel writer extraordinary. Sean writes mainly for The Sunday Times, travelling the world in summer and winter in search of extreme action and adventure. All of which makes him an ideal candidate for an audience on ActionPacked Travel.

Felice How did you get into travel writing, Sean?

Sean I was a rather desperate waiter in southwest London in the mid ‘90s. I got to the stage where I no longer really felt I was trying to make films; I was actually a waiter. You know how when you desperately want to do something very grand and creative, and you go and wait tables, and then progressively the waiting tables kind of takes over your life? When I was at that point, really, and there were a couple of flickerings of lightbulb moments when somebody brought a beautifully hand-painted journal that she’d done while she was gap-yearing in India. And I looked at that and thought ‘God. I’d love to do something like that.’

And so the next time I went to Crete with my girlfriend at the time, I started drawing pictures and which were kind of nice, polite little pencil sketches. But then we went for a walk to some ruined city covered in scrub, completely forgotten place, bags of atmosphere, sprigs of rosemary and thyme growing where the amphitheatre had been. And I wrote about that, and that was much better than the drawings, really. I thought: ‘Oh, hang on.’ And it was about the time that my dad got published in The Oldie, and I suddenly thought, oh, if he can do it, maybe I could do it?

And the final piece of the jigsaw was a friend of my brother’s who was writing travel for The Independent. I suddenly thought, yeah, maybe I can do that…because I know him. It was that thing some people I know pushing the boundaries back for me, and then suddenly I thought I maybe I can. But it was a great time to get into it – in the early ‘90s, newspapers were mushrooming in size. We used to have slim journals which could fit in a letterbox and then people were almost wheeling them around in wheelbarrows, weren’t they in the early ‘90s? It was a section of the section after section after section. And they needed writers. And I was happily sitting in a kitchen, hammering away on a typewriter saying: ‘Oh, would you mind if I went and did this for you? And would would you mind if I went did that for you?’ for the editors. And very quickly, they started writing back and saying: ‘Yes, go on.’ And I was off.

Felice And who did you write for first of all?

Sean The Telegraph, I think was my first ever commission. I mean, I had no training. I wrote for The Telegraph first and then The Sunday Times. And within four or five months, I was writing for the Style section, I went off in the wrong direction and then got into travel after that. And I think the first travel piece I ever wrote was about falling off a rock in Stanage Edge. So I thought: ‘Oh, I’m going to go rock climbing.’ And that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And it didn’t go very well and I fell off. And writing about the falling off, set my career off on the right footing. I remember it obviously resonated with people and maybe everybody’s frightened about falling off rocks…

 

But I was in Lanzarote on my second job writing about surfing on the waves of the Canary Islands. I picked up these two Irish hitchhikers and I was talking to them excitedly about surfing, which is something I still do – so be careful, beware, listener. I picked up these two Irish guys and said: ‘Are you going to try surfing? The waves here are amazing.’ ‘No, no, no, we want to go rock climbing. We read this piece in The Sunday Times.’ And they’d read my feature – two Irish blokes in Lanzarote in the back of my car. It was one of those moments – sadly I’ve not had that many since that day. It was wonderful.

And then I was off. I made a list of all the things I’d ever wanted to do. I’d been a waiter, I’d been stuck in south London, I’d got as far as Clapham Common, my main mode of transport was a number 137 bus. And then suddenly I was making a list of things I wanted to do all over the world. It was amazing.

Peter So you started doing them?

Travel Writer

Whakatane, Moutohora Island, Bay of Plenty. Photo: © Andy Taylor.

 

Sean Yes, I did. Pretty soon I was in Australia and New Zealand and one of the early jobs I did was sailing in the Bay of Plenty, which is right off the top of Auckland. Well, I think it’s rather overfished now, but in those days it just felt – certainly to an Englishman – like a pristine wilderness, and the sea was boiling with fish, literally boiling with fish at times. And we sailed through this sort of glass-like surface of the sea with seabirds plummeting straight out of the sky and grabbing fish, dolphins getting in amongst the action, thinking: ‘Oh, God, this is paradise.’ And then the skipper who used to drive hovercraft across the Channel – and I think you need to be quite gung-ho to do that because they set off in storms and drive in the fog. He once described crossing the Channel and it was so foggy they didn’t actually know where the Channel stopped and France started. And then he only really came to halfway up the dunes in France. You need a certain kind of ‘we’re just going do this’ attitude, I think if you want to do that.

Water-to-Go North America

And he was brought that sailing in the Coromandel Peninsula, which was wonderful, except a huge storm was brewing one day and we found a very safe anchorage up the east coast of Coromandel Peninsula and settled in and I thought: ‘Right, that’s okay. We’ll just sit out the storm here.’ And he said: ‘No, we must go on. I found an anchorage for us out in the Bay of Plenty.’ And he opened the book of sort of anchorage charts and there’s a little map of a horseshoe island called Elephant Island, I think it was. He stubbed that with his finger and said: ‘Right, we’re going to anchor there tonight.’ So we set off – me with grave misgivings. Sort of surfing down the waves, the wind was blowing so hard And we got to this little horseshoe-shaped anchorage, but it wasn’t a horseshoe-shaped anchorage, it was two rocks with a spit of sand in between. And the wind was blowing straight across the sand into our faces.

There was a fishing trawler up against one of the rocks, and that was the only safe anchorage. And we laid out the anchor as far as we could to get as much weight of chain. And then we had a very boozy dinner and I kind of think the guy was just plying us all for what lay ahead. And he refused to go to bed and sat with the other experienced travel writer who really didn’t know how to sail. So I went to bed thinking, these guys are not going to bed, they know something’s coming. And every minute or so there’d be this bullet of wind and the boat would rear up and then crash back down again. And it did that about four or five times. And then it reared up and didn’t come back down again and was there was a sound of scampering feet up on deck, and we’d be blown off the anchorage.

It was like God and all his angels were emptying buckets of water over us. I mean, it wasn’t rain, it was just water falling continuously and it was pitch black. And every now and again, to be a flash of lightning and there’d be this rock just off the bow or the stern. I had to sit at the bow shouting to them whether we were going to hit something and they had the engine on trying to get this thing under control. We spent around in this occasional flash of lightning, darkness, for about half an hour. And then in the end we gave up and came up alongside a trawler, lashed ourselves to the side of the trawler. This confused New Zealand fisherman came up, said: ‘What the bloody hell’s going on?’ And we said: ‘You don’t mind us parking next to your boat by the rest of the night?’ And we stayed there. And I thought I’d signed up for adventure, but maybe this is too much adventure for me.

The following morning, we set sail again off the Coromandel, back across the sea, and there were these trees…the sea was full of trees that had come off the Coromandel Peninsular. They’d all been blown over and seagulls were kind of bobbing about on them. Everybody was in shock slightly, and it was the worst storm for 40 years. It was an extraordinary way to launch your travel writing career.

Travel Writer

Sean skiing at The Canyons, Utah.

Felice When was the other time you’ve been really scared?

Sean The other time I was scared as that was when I was learning to ski jump with Eddie the Eagle. I don’t know if you remember about five years ago there was a movie? I’m the ski editor of The Sunday Times travel section. And I just knew…I had this terrible sinking feeling when I heard about this. I thought the one story they’re going to want is going to learn to ski jump with Eddie the Eagle.

I have never had the slightest interest in ski jumping, never even slightly. I never watched it in the days when everybody watched ski jumping, but I just knew I had to go and do it. So I went into the meeting and gave them a long list of ideas and then went to to the bottom of the list and said, of course there’s this movie coming out. They said ‘Yes, that’s what we want you to do. We want you to go and ski, jump with Eddie the Eagle.’ And so I signed up. He was doing some sort of I think it was kind of charity work and people could sign up and go ski jumping with him and they would let a journalist come along. So I went to Courchevel and there’s a place where they built ski ramps for the Albertville Winter Olympics in 1992, and they are administered by the local council. So the people who keep them clean are also the people who clean the roads and empty the dustbins.

And it had just snowed when I arrived, and they were too busy cleaning the roads to clean the ramp – the ski jump ramps – apart from the ones that were going to be used by the French Junior Olympic team who are just getting ready to go off to Innsbruck. So I remember the guy putting his hand on my shoulder and said: ‘I’m afraid you can’t try on the 10-metre ramp as that’s covered in snow.’ And I said: ‘What about the 15-metre ramp? That looks doable.’ And he said: ‘Well, same problem. And I’m afraid that’s the same problem with the 30-metre ramp. But Sean, I really think that you will be happier jumping on the 60- metre ramp because it’s got a longer run-out,’ and I thought: ‘No, that’s not what I feel, but it’s one of those things when you a freelancer and you’ve got a commission, you don’t come back and say I was too scared to do it. You just get on with it, don’t you?

So I spent two days with Eddie the Eagle and a bunch of 12 year olds from the junior team, all practicing in the gym, jumping over little hurdles on inline skates. They put inline skates on an old sort of cart. They made a cart with inline skates, and you’d stand on it, push yourself off and you’d have to jump a little hurdle straight up and straight down. And if you got it wrong, if you took off too much on the front of your feet, the cart would shoot backwards. And if you took off on the heels of your feet, the cart would shoot forward. And it did one or two of those things every time I tried it. And I said: ‘Is that a problem?’ And they said: ‘Yes, it is really, because if you take off on the heels of your feet, you’re going to land on your neck on the ramp. And if you take off on the front of your feet, you’re going to come down over front of your skis and headbutt the slope,’ which was a discouraging start. So I just did it for two days.

Then they put me on the Reception, which is a super steep thing that you land on. Very, very steep. And that’s where I discovered something they call le trou noire in ski jumping, which is the black hole of perception where everything happens so quickly that you can’t actually physically, neurologically…your brain can’t process information fast enough. It’s about 15 seconds of: ‘Oh!’ And then suddenly you get some control over what you’re supposed to be doing. I was in that for another two days until I just about had perception all the way through from top to bottom. And they said: ‘Right, I think you’re ready.’ And we went up on the 60-meter ramp, which was one shorter than the Olympic standard. And I stood up and jumped off there.

The only thing they’d forgotten to tell me was that as soon as you transfer the weight off the little seat, your skis start moving. There’s none of this gentle forward momentum that you get when you push off with skis on a steep slope – you’re instantly in motion and accelerating. I just fell back, almost fell backwards and went: ‘Oh God,’ as a kind of thing. There was a man supposed to be filming me and he dropped his camera because he suddenly thought: ‘Oh God, this man is going to die.’ All I remember hearing was my coach shouting: ‘En avant! En avant! En avant!’ And I heard this all the way down the thing: ‘Get your weight forward! Get your weight forward! Get your weight forward!’ He was screaming at me. I just managed to lurch forward and then pop off the edge. It’s a jump of 11 meters or something like that, it’s nothing. But I didn’t die. I landed more or less on the slope, waving backwards and forwards, went all the way to the bottom and kissed somebody’s dog who was waiting for me at the bottom, and then vowed never to do it again.

When I got to the bottom, the photographer met me and said: ‘That was great, Sean, but I didn’t quite get the shot. Can you do it again?’ And I said ‘No.’ And that genuinely was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. I actually was awake the night before looking at photographs of my children, thinking ‘I’ve got to get this right, I cannot freak out, I cannot lose my cool because if I do, they might not have a dad.’ They had no care, I was just a mad Englishman as far as they were concerned, doing the ski jumping. So they were running the snow-cannons at the bottom of the track at La Reception, this very, very steep landing track.

And as somebody pointed out: ‘You’re going to have to be a bit careful of that, because snow-cannon snow is a lot slower to ski than normal snow and there’ll be a sudden deceleration. You’re going so fast, it’s almost as if you stop dead in your tracks.’ And there was one moment I was going down…I’d landed, I controlled the descent down to La Reception. And suddenly I head-butted the piste because my body just kept going forwards and back like some kind of bendy rubber toy.

Felice And then you went snow-kayaking in Estonia. What does that involve?

Sean Yes, the number of weird and wacky things has accelerated recently, and by far the craziest thing I’ve done since ski jumping with Eddie Eagle, was snow-kayaking. It’s the kind of thing you see in Red Bull videos and with some crazy music on the back and a lot of people spinning round, and ‘Gee whiz that looks like a lot of fun.’ And it was one of those things.

I went to the people at The Sunday Times again, my editor, and said: ‘You won’t want this, will you?’ And he said: ‘Yes, that’s absolutely what I want.’ I said: ‘What? The public can’t do it.’ But he said: ‘Just go.’ And it was inspired on his part because we got great video out of it, but it was utterly insane. I’ve often looked at those kind of adrenaline sport videos and thought they’re camping it up to the camera and they’ve edited it together to look madder than it actually is. But actually, having now been in one of those events, it does seem as though they’re walking a tightrope between disaster and great content. Certainly they were on that day.

They went to the biggest ski resort in Estonia, which is really just a hill – they don’t have mountains in Estonia. And it was huge. People turned up to do this snow-kayaking event, about 120 people, most of whom had never been in a kayak. They just wanted to be in a Red Bull event. I guess it’s symptomatic of a country which doesn’t have big mountains that you might think of going down a slope in a sort of white-water kayak, and they’ve really taken to the idea. There were about 120 Estonians, most of whom had never even sat in one of these canoes before, on the top of the hill, looking down a slope which had been laid out rather like a skicross slope – or a motocross slope if you’re not a skier – with big bank turns and jumps. And at the end, you finished over a frozen lake. And what nobody really made clear before I started was that you can’t actually stop a kayak once it starts going down. So you need a flat run-out over a lake. And even better than that, you need to cut a hole in the ice so that you hit water and slow down suddenly.

So we all lined up in fours for a practice run at the top of the track, got our kayak oars braced over the starting gate and then launched ourselves down this run with – because it was a Red Bull event – 150 different video cameras, drones and camera operators, and I had about three GoPros on me. And for the first 10 seconds, I thought ‘Weeee’ and then it was over very quickly because you cannot control a kayak with a paddle.

If you put it down and try to steer, and you to spin round, so then you’re doing this crazy thing backwards. So you have no idea what’s coming up. You keep flying up in the air. You go round banked turns, bump into other people and just spin helplessly round and round, either quivering with fear or with helpless laughter. And it was fun. But then came the bit at the end where you had to stop. And when you hit a patch of water when you’re going so fast, the difference in speed is very extreme and you start to wobble. So I just flipped over. So one minute I was going backwards, downhill in a kayak, and the next minute I was underwater in a frozen lake.

The video is great because it’s just chaos and then suddenly complete brown-outs and little bubbles of I’m breathing out, going: ‘What the hell?’ in underwater speak. Suddenly somebody reached down and pulled me out. And I was standing then in the middle of Estonia by the side of a frozen lake at zero degrees temperature, completely soaked, the water had gone right through absolutely everything. And I had no other clothes, and this was a trial run, I had no other clothes in which to race.

And I thought, okay, that’s the end of the day…and some guy came over to me and said: ‘No, no, it’s fine. We’ve got a sauna over there.’ And obviously, this being Estonia, there was a sauna. It was an inflatable sauna, a big kind of orange and brown ball with a great big stove. And I put all the clothes back on again and went back up the hill and did it all over again. By which time, because it was just above freezing, the course had been getting rather slick. And after one more run, they had to abandon the race because people were popping off the top of banked turns.

You know how you go up a banked turn and you rise up the side like you do in one of those velodromes? Well if you do that on a slightly slick snow-kayaking course, you don’t come back down again. You just keep going up and up and up, and then you pop over the top and disappear into the forest. So a few people left in ambulances and they thought: ‘Well, we better stop doing that now.’ And I discovered why nobody else in the world does snow-kayaking apart from the Estonians: it is very dangerous. But it was fun. Those kind of things come along not so often in a travel writer’s life.

Travel Writer

Glencoe ice climbing. Photo: @ ice-factor

And I don’t try and put myself in the way of danger, particularly. I learned a lesson about 24 years ago in Glencoe when I went ice-climbing with a privately-run ski mountaineering operation. It was January and it was for a story again. And I thought: ‘I like the look of ice-climbing. It looks like a lot of fun, very cathartic.’ You get ice axes in both hands, crampons on the front, and you kick your way up, essentially just smash a beautiful frozen waterfall to pieces. It’s very destructive and absolutely wonderful in the same way that when you were a little boy on a frozen morning, somebody takes you for a walk in the park. Well, I did anyway, I spent the whole time just jumping up and down on frozen puddles.

It never really occurred to me that we’d be in a dangerous environment until we went up to a place called Buachaille Etive Mor, which is a sort of sentinel mountain at the start of Glencoe when you’re coming from Glasgow. It’s this big mountain that stands at the entrance to the top of Glencoe is an absolutely wonderful kind of shout-out-loud-my-God mountain when you first see it. And we went up there on a rather blustery day in January and I wasn’t fit enough.

I was in my ‘30s, I was pretty fit, but I just wasn’t fit enough for this thing. And my guide basically had to grab me by the scruff of the neck at one point and drag me off the mountain because he was worried about us being avalanched. I hadn’t appreciated just how dangerous it was. I went home and after a week after doing extraordinary things in extraordinary environments I’ll never forget the look of a Scottish munro with spin drift billowing in great clouds as you walk up towards it. One of the most exciting and atmospheric things I’ve ever seen.

And I came away an absolute convert, almost in love with my guide. And because he’d taken me to these extraordinary places, I’d put myself and the other people on the course put ourselves into his capable hands and done things that I’d never dream of doing, things I’d never dreamt of. It’s extraordinary how exotic a windswept Scottish mountain is to most Brits. It’s in our country, it’s there every winter, and I’ve rarely seen anything so dramatic. I went away thinking: ‘Amazing’ and ‘I’d love to do that again.’

And then five days later, on the mountain we climbed on the last day, my guide was killed in an avalanche. It was one of those moments when you just think: ‘What am I doing? What the hell am I doing signing up for these things, which are inherently dangerous?’ I mean, it’s great fun. And I have discovered in situations like that that even though I am immensely cautious in my normal life, if you put me into situations which feel properly necky, I actually quiver with excitement. But there comes a point where you just have to stop. And since then I’ve generally avoided crazy things unless, you know, my career as ski editor depends on me ski jumping with Eddie the Eagle.

Travel Writer

Teahupo’o. Photo: © Tahiti Tourism.

Peter And then you tried surfing in Tahiti?

Sean Yes, surfing is the one constant I’ve had. It was I think the thing that was always waiting for me when I got a chance to see the world. I don’t know if you ever saw, or any of your listeners saw, a film called The Endless Summer, which was the seminal snow surfing movie in the early ’70s – it was about the time when I was running around in short trousers and bare feet in a house in Essex. And this program just came on magically in the middle of the afternoon and my brother and I – I was about six  he was eight – we were utterly transported by this film. And for a day or two we desperately wanted to be surfers.

And I forgot all about it, forgot completely. And then in 1991 or 1992, I saw a photograph of somebody on a beach in Cornwall in a wetsuit. Somebody said surfing is now a thing in Britain because wetsuits are cheap and easy, and suddenly it’s no longer freezing cold – you’re not going to get hypothermia doing it in England. So I went off and fell in love with it hook, line and sinker. We were sitting on the edge of my bed in this tiny little B&B in Newquay just looking at photographs of waves for an hour and a half thinking ‘where has this been all my life?’ and I still go to for the last 25 years, I’ve been to the same beach every year. But for a time I thought it’s going to be more serious than that. I got myself a van and a board and loads of wetsuits, lots of different boards and thought: ‘I’ll go to Tahiti to surf one of the famous waves.’

 

There’s a wave called Teahupo’o there. And it was certainly at the time – in the very early noughties – being touted as the heaviest wave in the world because it jacks up out of almost nothing over an impossibly short reef. And if you ever want to watch really, really terrifying surf footage, you should search out Teahupo’o in Tahiti and watch some of the surf competitions there, because it is insane and God knows what I thought I was doing. I’d seen a photograph and thought: ‘Well, maybe I can try that?’ So I went to Tahiti, left my girlfriend behind, which was insane and stupid because when I got there, I spent my whole time talking to honeymoon couples, American honeymoon couples who kept asking me: ‘Say, Sean, where’s your girlfriend?’ And I tried to surf a reef-breaking wave rather than a gentle beach-breaking wave, which is the kind of thing you get in Cornwall, and I almost drowned. I got sucked onto a reef and hit by a set of waves which never seemed to end. Held under, turned over like in a washing machine. Thank God it stopped just in time for me to just get my board and swim like crazy out of there, back into the lagoon, wave down a passing jet skier and beg them to take me back to shore.

So there’s a point where, you know…I’ve spent all my life or spent a lot of my time flirting with extreme sports around the edges, and I’ve learnt that it is one thing to be able to write about them, but another thing to get yourself to the point where you are doing these things that are extreme level. Well, I don’t want to go there – I’m much happier meeting people, kind of scenting the danger in the atmosphere and then backing well away.

Travel Writer

Running near the summit of Le Signal Forbes, Chamonix

Felice So you said that the most gruelling thing you’ve ever done was in Chamonix?

Sean Yes, that was trail running. I’ve done some quite tiring things in my life, but at the age of 49 I thought that trail running looked like fun. Which is, you know, running up mountains. And I signed up for a course with a lovely guy who runs trail running courses in Chamonix. I thought: ‘Well he knows I’m a travel writer, I come from a newspaper, I’m a journalist, I’m not a runner.’ And I thought he kind of appreciated that really. And he didn’t. So we started and the first thing we did was run up something as high as Ben Nevis, with the vertical interval the same as running up Ben Nevis, on the first morning when he said, to be fair to him: ‘You need to be doing three or four, 10-km runs a week before you come.’ And of course I said yes, and I’d done maybe 5-km runs altogether in preparation.

And the other guy on the course was a marathon runner from Denmark. He had the socks and everything – he turned up in these special running socks. I knew I was out of my depth. I was in a pair of shorts, 20-year-old Nike shorts, which I bought in a motorway service station just outside New York and a pair of the cheapest sneakers I could find. And this guy, both of them had all the gear, special poles and everything, Camelbaks, that kind of thing. And we then spent the next two hours getting up to the top of this thing, and the pace was absolutely relentless. The thing I discovered was that you don’t in trail running run all the way up, but the one thing you don’t do is stop. So at the point where you or I on a fell-walking expedition would stop for a nice cup of tea out of the flask, or look at the view – you don’t do that, you just keep going all the time. And bear in mind that you were about at the top of this thing called Signal above Chamonix. You were at about 6,000 feet I think, so the air’s getting quite thin.

God knows how close I was with flirting with disaster. I could barely breathe, couldn’t get out of bed. Oh, I should say the first end of the first day, we got to the bottom – he and his other companion got to the bottom of the run about an hour before I did. And when I got to the bottom, I said: ‘That’s the most tiring thing I’ve ever done.’ And he said: ‘Well, you’re not as tired as some people today. Some people, their legs are twitching so uncontrollably that they’re shaking.’ And I look down at my legs and that’s exactly what my legs were doing – they were just quivering, I couldn’t control them. The muscle tissue was just quivering because I was so spent. By day three you suddenly acclimatise, it was suddenly magnificent. I got a bit lost on that one, but it was another one of those things that you see in a magazine and you think: ‘Oh, that looks like fun, I’d love to do that.’ And then you, just as most travel writers do, just tend to show up and and think you’ll wing it. There isn’t really time.

The one thing about freelance travel writing, it’s a wonderful thing to do. But you are working all the time to make ends meet and you have to write continuously. So there isn’t really any time to look after yourself except when you’re on a trip. I usually find that when I turn up on anything that I do, in the first two days it’s complete hell because I’m just not fit. The only thing I’m really good at is typing.

Travel Writer

Tree runs at The Canyons, Utah.

Peter When we first met you and we created Welove2ski in its present form, you were a snowboarder. What made you switch to skiing?

Sean Simply two things. First, snowboarding is a soft snow sport and there is, I’m still convinced, nothing better in snow sports than kind of creaming your way over a powder slope on a snowboard. It takes almost no effort. All you have to do is wiggle your hips. I’ve always been struck by the difference between skiers and snowboarders in powder snow, the snowboarder whooping and the skiers are usually locked in this kind of silent bubble of concentration because skiing even with the new skis is quite hard on soft powder snow. Whereas you’re just standing on a board and moving your hips with a snowboard. So you’ve got the time to shout and weep and holler. But the problem is in the outs, there aren’t enough days when there’s fresh snow like that on the ground. And for any other kind of transport on the mountain, skis are far superior.

The other thing was it just hurts like hell. You’re cruising along on a snowboard thinking everything’s dandy, and then you make the smallest error and suddenly whack yourself on the back of the head or fall on your face because there’s nothing to break your fall, and only one edge with which to hang onto the mountain. So disaster one minute, it’s joy in the next minute, and you’ve got what I used to call fizzers, where you hit your tailbone and the impact just goes straight up your spine into your skull. You get this dull, aching pain as the vibration kind of carries into your brain that I’m sure it’s not good for you at all. Anyway, so I only rarely do it now.

Occasionally I’ve been split-boarding in Chamonix, which is a bit like ski-touring, and you split the board. So put some fancy sticky tape onto the bottom of the board and then walk over. And I love anything that takes you away from the rattle and hum of ski resorts. I mean, they are great fun when you’re with friends, but they are quite industrial – the modern ski resorts. And there’s lots of lot of people there, lots of clatter. The reason why I really fell in love with snowboarding in the first place was that sense of just getting away from it all to fantastic wilderness. And I still find that again with ski-touring now, I utterly understand why people are so hooked by it.

Travel Writer

Prague centre. Photo: © Felice Hardy.

Felice Sean, your wife is Czech. Have you travelled extensively in the Czech Republic?

Sean Yes. I never expected to marry a Czech woman, she just walked into my line of vision one day at a party in London in 1999 and I just thought: ‘Wow.’ I’ve been to the Czech Republic a lot since then. Prague is a wonderful city and a lovely city to write about as well, because there are so many layers of it. And you can also spend a lot of time telling people how to do it properly because it is awash with tourists every summer. They come in their thousands and at moments, I’ve honestly felt that it’s less bearable even than the Rialto in Venice, sometimes there are just so many people there and it can be really hot in Prague in the summer as well. But if you know where to go and how to get off the beaten track, there’s just the satisfaction that comes from having a lovely – I won’t say authentic, it’s very overused word – but a lovely experience full of well-made food and interesting sights and interesting things to drink, which are only two or three streets away from this moving river of humanity, endless groups of bored teenagers and people with selfie sticks continuously moving across the Charles Bridge and up to the Prague Castle.

So but the best experience has always been with my wife’s friends in Prerov in eastern Moravia. Things like Sylvester, which is their New Year’s Eve party, which should just be wild, absolutely wild nights …wonderful. The Czechs really know how to party.

Peter When we finally get out of lockdown, what’s going to be your next big adventure?

Sean I want to get the family into the car, put the surfboard on the roof and go down towards Watergate Bay in Cornwall, have a surfing holiday. Let the kids run into that vast space that you find on the edge of the ocean. You just get wet for a week, just be physically busy, physically active and have no physical boundaries. I think that’s the sort of limitless day you get Cornwall, where you can go for a long walk on a cliff or around a headlands into a huge, vast expanse the size of 40 football pitches of just sand and cliffs, and interesting things to look at…that’s what I was doing.

Peter Sean Newsom, thank you very much for coming on our travel podcast. And we hope you get to Watergate Bay with your family very soon indeed.

Sean Yes I’m hoping, I’m saying a prayer. Thank you very much, lovely to talk to you.

Travel Writer

Kayaking the fjords of Norway.

Felice That’s all for now. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please share this episode with at least one other person! Do also subscribe on Spotify, i-Tunes, Stitcher, or any of the many podcast providers – where you can give us a rating. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Stay safe and we’ll see you next week.

Also see our podcasts and posts: The Man Who Has Skied More Resorts Than Anyone Else, Train Journeys: The Future For International Travel, and Konrad Bartelski: From Ski Racer To Photographer, and Sustainable Travel With Francisca Kellett. For more information on skiing worldwide, visit Welove2ski.

© ActionPacked Travel

Action Packed

  • Join over a hundred thousand podcasters already using Buzzsprout to get their message out to the world.
  • Following the link lets Buzzsprout know we sent you, gets you a $20 Amazon gift card if you sign up for a paid plan, and helps support our show.