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Simon Calder at 25: The most impressive travel media personalities

Over the past two-and-a-half decades I have met many impressive men and women who have helped to give the UK the best travel industry in the world. Among them are 25 "travel heroes" whose expertise and energy have improved life for travellers. In the last of a five-part series, here are the most inspiring people in the media.

Each has provided a travel tip and a happiest travel memory.

We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.

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The Independent


The Independent


The Independent


The Independent


The Independent


The Independent


The Independent


The Independent


The Independent


The Independent

Lyn Hughes, cofounder and editor-in-chief of 'Wanderlust' magazine

Many of the best ideas in business, from the Virgin logo to the concept of the Eden Project, were sketched out on napkins. Lyn Hughes and her late husband, Paul Morrison, went one better: they created the model for a travel magazine on the back of a sick bag.

Aboard a doddery old DC10 belonging to the now-defunct Venezuelan airline Viasa, they sketched out a dream publication for independent travellers. Issue one in November 1993 set the tone for the magazine: a mix of sharp writing about both adventurous and familiar destinations, supported by compelling images and mixed with news, reviews and advice for independent travellers.

(Lyn Hughes)

Travel tips: "I have three: put the name of your hotel, its address and your room number in your phone. It's so easy to forget hotel details in the first 24 hours, especially after a night out or tiring journey.

Wherever you are in the world, the museums usually have the best and cleanest public loos. And, if you're going whale watching in Baja, California (if not planned yet, you really must), the grey whales are incredibly friendly - but for some reason, singing Eighties pop songs to them very loudly seems to draw them to you. I found Cyndi Lauper's 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun' particularly effective."

Happiest travel memory: "Canoeing at dawn on a lagoon in northern Belize.

As I gently paddled past the Mayan site of Lamanai, competing troops of howler monkeys were roaring in the canopies on different sides of the lagoon, the sound reverberating around the forest and water. Entering a tranquil channel, we paused in awe as the golden orb of the sun came up over the reed beds. As the eerie howls of the monkeys faded, they were replaced by an explosion of birdsong and the gentle dip of the paddles.

It could have been any century; the ultimate timeless and all-encompassing travel experience."

Kate Humble, writer and broadcaster

(Kate Humble)

"No part of Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence," read the Foreign Office travel advice a decade ago. "The potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts. Visitors travelling to Afghanistan do so at their own risk and without protection from her majesty's government." And so that's where Kate Humble took her summer holiday. "While my friends were optimistically packing buckets and spades and heading for the west country, I was loading walking boots, sleeping bags and blister plasters into duffel bags and checking in for a destination I'd never heard of," she wrote in The Independent. It was the Wakhan Corridor, a narrow finger of Afghanistan bordered by Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.

Since then Kate has visited eastern Congo, presented many documentaries, and yet still finds time to run holiday hideaways in Monmouthshire and the Dordogne (neither of which are currently on the Foreign Office no-go list).

Travel tip: "I read a report by a scientist who, to avoid getting an upset stomach while travelling, used to swallow a tape worm before he went abroad. Swore he was never ill. I've never tried it, but I'm sort of intrigued.

I eat local yoghurt if I can find it, as soon as I arrive anywhere, which I was also told worked - and it does seem to. It also has the advantage of not hanging around like a tape worm does..."

Happiest travel memory: "It is people, always, that make travel special and memorable. I was travelling alone in Cameroon in the mid-1990s, trying to get to a very remote community.

Public transport in the rural areas were normal-sized cars which wouldn't leave for their destination until they had the requisite seven passengers. I joined a nurse and her sister heading in the same direction as me and we waited for most of the day until enough other people turned up. The nurse and sister shared the front seat and I squeezed into the back with another woman and two men, one of whom was an enormously tall policeman.

The roads were dirt, rutted and potholed, the car's suspension non-existent and it was, without doubt, the most uncomfortable journey I have ever taken.

"But nor have I ever laughed so much. We frequently had to tumble out of the car (and we did because we had lost all feeling in our legs) to lift it over the worst of the potholes. The nurse passed a constant supply of bananas over her seat to us in the back, the policeman regaled us with tales of skulduggery.

It was after dark when we reached a village and everyone got out and disappeared. My destination was further on and I'd need to get another car but, I was told by the driver, there would be no cars now until the morning.

"I rolled a cigarette and sat on a bank at the side of the road facing the real prospect that this is where I'd be spending the night. 'What are you doing?' said a voice from the darkness. 'Er, just thinking,' I replied as the face belonging to the voice appeared in front of me, looking at me as if I was mad. It was the nurse I'd shared the car with. 'Well stop thinking and come with me,' she said and stamped off.

We reached a compound of small huts with mud walls and grass roofs. Her sister was stirring a huge iron pot over a fire and children were scattered about in the shadows. 'I'm going to work. I'm on the nightshift', said the nurse, 'so you can have my bed.

See you tomorrow.' And she disappeared back into the darkness, waving away my attempt at thanks."

Michael Palin, author and TV presenter

Michael Palin in North Korea (Sir Michael Palin)

It is 50 years since Michael Palin and his crew brought us the first series of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Just as nobody expected the Spanish inquisition, nobody expected a comedy star to begin a second career, 30 years ago, as travel presenter par excellence. Since he travelled around the world in 80 Days, there has barely been a patch of the planet that has not welcomed the kind and friendly man from Sheffield: he has taken us on screen from pole to pole, across the Himalayas and the Sahara, and full circle around the Pacific.

Travel tip: "Go for the side roads, not the main roads."

Happiest travel memory: "On my first day in Tibet, we stopped by the roadside at Pang La Pass, 17,000ft above sea level.

A short climb up to the top of a rise and there before me was the most stupendous view I have seen, before or since. Standing sharp against a crystal-clear sky was the whole spread of the central Himalayas, with Mount Everest at the heart of a majestic range of giant snow-covered peaks. I didn't have much breath left by then, but what I had was taken completely by the magnificence of this extraordinary panorama."

Simon Reeve, author and broadcaster

(Simon Reeve)

In 1998, almost nobody in the west appreciated the threat posed by al-Qaeda.

But Simon Reeve did. He painstakingly researched the terrorist group for his book, The New Jackals. After they perpetrated the horrors of 9/11, Simon was in demand as an analyst - and his potential as a television travel presenter was soon recognised.

But not your usual destinations: he made his presenting debut with the BBC series Meet the Stans in 2003, featuring Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and has since roamed around the equator and both tropics, as well as Colombia, Russia and the Mediterranean.

Travel tip: "Be open, friendly and smiley. It makes the world of difference. And trust people - take chances.

But always use your common sense."

Happiest travel memory: "Arriving into the ancient Silk Road city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan one night, I stumbled out of our van and emerged next to the 16th century Mir-i-Arab Madrasa, an Islamic college. It was a numbingly beautiful sight. Light was streaming from tiny windows sparkling along its colossal walls like the portholes of a ship.

In the darkness to the side I could see the legendary Kalon minaret, an elegant tower built in 1187 and used for centuries partly as a land-locked lighthouse to guide camel trains through the night. A haunting Islamic prayer rehearsal drifted through the night. It was one of the most intense and emotional sounds I have ever heard.

The whole experience was overwhelming, and a perfect travel memory."

Peter White MBE, broadcast journalist

(Peter White)

Any Radio 4 listener will recognise Peter's eloquent voice: he has presented programmes for the network since 1974, and has also reported for BBC television news. He currently shares presenting duties on You and Yours with Winifred Robinson. Peter experiences the world in a different way to most travellers, having been blind since birth, and has made some powerful documentaries - notably his series Blind Man Roams the Globe.

Travel tips: "My first packing decision has nothing to do with clothes or books; it's 'how many radios do I take?' I don't know a better way of taking an immediate snapshot of a city before even leaving my hotel room than a quick surf along the wavelengths.

In one sweep you have its music, its politics, and what the citizens are moaning about at the moment on their phone-ins. You don't even need to know the language: tone of voice is enough. The only trouble is, to get the full choice, you now need to make sure you've got access to shortwave, medium wave, long wave, FM and digital.

So you have to make careful choices. It can be done, though, and there are some very small but good portable radios on the market. But don't, for goodness sake, resort to online on your smartphone or tablet: otherwise you'll end up listening to The Archers, or even You and Yours on Radio 4, in which case you might as well have stayed in Chipping Cleghorn."

Happiest travel memory: "The trick for me has always been who you're with, rather than where you are!

So two holidays stand out for the same reason: when my children were young, we made some great friends whose children were exactly the same age as ours. And, joy of joys, they all got on brilliantly together (indeed, they are still friends). Result: we never saw them from dawn till dusk, and those two holidays, in Corfu and Normandy, were oases of peace and quiet.

Hard to replicate, but worth every second if you manage it!"


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