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Thrill Seeker: Jonny Bealby

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Founder and CEO, Wild Frontiers

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The U.K.-based travel outfitter, whose Wild Frontiers is known for its off-the-beaten-path adventures, says he believes travelers should stay unplugged, talk to strangers, and leave guidebooks at home.

Let’s play spin the globe—name the one place you’ve always wanted to go.
West Papua and the Spice Islands.

What’s your spirit city? (Where do you want to return to over and over?)
Buenos Aires. I love the juxtaposition of European elegance and Latin American beats.

Do you have a travel ritual?
Sorry, but no.

Do you maintain any routines from home while traveling or does it all go out the window?
Travel and home are two very different beasts. When I step onto the plane I enter a new world, and thoroughly indulge myself in it.

Sorry, you only get to eat one regional cuisine for the rest of your life. What is it?
Italian—that’s a no-brainer!

Bealby in the Hunza Valley in Pakistan

What one piece of advice would you give to someone traveling abroad for the first time?
Leave your guidebook at home. Traveling ‘blind’ is so much more rewarding, and making mistakes is half the fun.

Describe your travel personality in three words.
Inquisitive, daring, and engaged.

Are your trips very planned, or very spontaneous?
They used to be the latter, but have become more of the former. When you’re running a travel business, you do, sadly, need to be a lot more organized than I was as an adventure travel writer.

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What's the one travel souvenir you'd save in a fire?
A beautiful Kashmiri rug I bought in 1989 with my fiancée, Melanie, on a houseboat in Kashmir, only days before she unexpectedly died.

What book/movie most inspired you to travel?
Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. I followed in the footsteps of the book’s main characters through India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The journey gave rise to my second book and my travel company, Wild Frontiers.

Who’s your ideal travel partner?
No one. Traveling alone is so rewarding—but don’t tell the wife!

Which travel experience do you prefer: plugged in or unplugged?
Unplugged—another no-brainer. Today we are far too connected and worry so much about recording and sharing our experiences that we forget to have the experience in the first place.

What’s a custom from another culture that you’d love to implement in your life back home?
The Kalash, the last of the pagan tribes to inhabit the Hindu Kush, have a really lovely way of greeting each other, by mixing a kiss with a handshake: they kiss the hand they’re shaking. I’d also introduce the Mexican Day of the Dead. I think it’s lovely to spend a day remembering those who are no longer with us. 

What’s the first thing you seek out in a new place?
A good bookshop.

What’s the one thing you indulge in on a trip that you don’t at home?
Smoking the odd cheroot cigar. I have found carrying something you can smoke is a great icebreaker with a stranger.

What’s your first travel memory?
Once my brother left me on the bus on my first day of school. I had to walk unaccompanied back to the school, whereupon I found a very worried head teacher and my very tearful elder brother. I wondered what all the fuss was about.

>>NEXT: AFAR Insider Henrietta Loyd

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