In the course of presenting the travel show fast:track on BBC World News, Rajan Datar has abseiled with garbage collectors in the favelas of Rio, done loop the loops in a WWII biplane and bathed a grown tiger! The award-winning journalist talks travel and adrenaline.
Compiled by Chitra S.
What gets you excited before a trip?
Even though it’s become a way of life, I’m still excited at the prospect of flying off to a new experience. I have a young family and it’s harder now but I still feel a shiver as I anticipate a new country and new people that will almost inevitably boost my faith in mankind.
Have you always wanted to travel the world?
It’s in my genes I think! My parents were immigrants to the UK, and we travelled quite a lot in my youth. I loved exploring different countries as an independent traveller, and on top of that, I am in a band that toured the world for a spell of two or three years – I feel very fortunate!
How do you get a feel for a place?
I think you really feel you are in a new destination when you wake up there in a new bed with new breakfast rituals and then go out into the daylight. I obsessively unpack as soon as I arrive and make the room feel cosy and homely. I like to go out in the evening and soak up the social atmosphere of a place. I’m also one of those irritating people who think there’s an even better party around the corner (figuratively speaking of course!). Also, take public transport and go to the markets early on to get a strong measure of a place.
What has been the most memorable destination for you?
My first visit to China, Beijing in particular, blew my mind. We had some cracking experiences in Jamaica, Brazil and Sri Lanka with the band. Professionally, I love working in any Latin American country and I’m always happy on islands. The theme that unites all my favourites are the people – I just get so much good energy from positive, they can transform even the greyest of destinations.
Tell us about your most extreme encounter
The fast:track crew like to get me to do some wild things! I’ve abseiled down the side of a hilltop favela in Rio de Janeiro to help refuse collectors clear rubbish, and that was pretty extraordinary. I went to a funeral in the Philippines once and that was strange. Then there was the time I played bass with a klezmer band in Krakow, Poland. I think they were pleased I only did one song!
How important is ethical tourism?
It is vital; it is a duty. You can’t have the pleasure of tourism without being conscious of what you’re doing as a guest in a new country. Luckily, it’s also becoming the norm – although of course a lot of lip service is paid to ‘sustainable tourism’. I believe we’re going to have to monitor the growth of new eco-tourist resorts to make sure ALL members of the local communities and cultural environment benefi t.
How can you enjoy the best of a destination on a budget?
Do your own research and book your own hotels to start off. Don’t go to expensive countries! They’re often less interesting anyway. Use public transport and eat in restaurants and cafés the locals frequent. In many countries, street food is better and more authentic than food in posh restaurants. Take your favourite book (and maybe music on an MP3 player) and just sit in a café and soak up the vibes.
Name three places everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime
Mumbai, Beijing and Barcelona – I’m a city kid at heart. But now I’m thinking of three coastal and rural idylls: Vancouver, rural Jamaica and Marrakesh. So, I’d better move on to the next question!
Top picks for super metropolises that retain their charm?
Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Colombo and Istanbul.
An ideal vacation would mean…
I’m appalling at holidays that are supposed to be relaxing. I get itchy feet. But once I do de-stress, I can’t deny the allure of a beach holiday with the family and an addictive novel or two to recharge.
A smart traveller doesn’t leave home without…
…one’s passport! Also, Earl Grey teabags, comfy clothes to fly in, a stack of blogs and articles about your destination, a head torch (that you will probably never use) and running shoes (likewise, but the intention makes you feel good!).
fast:track is broadcast on BBC World News, Astro Channel 512 in Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.