Having followed Simon Reeve’s many television travel journeys over the years, I was excited to learn he would be appearing ‘for one night only’ in Oxford, managing to secure the last couple of seats in a sold out audience.
But would he be as good in the flesh as he was on camera?
He did not disappoint!
‘Take risks’ he said, ‘go to places that aren’t on the main tourist track. Get your head out of the ‘bloody smartphones’ and discover it for yourself. Travel responsibly and enjoy our planet, this really is the golden age of travel.’
As brilliant a raconteur on stage as off, the evening was full of interesting stories, all told with that contagious, boyish enthusiasm he is so famous for.
And yet his life has clearly not been easy, and he talked with such honesty about his personal ‘journey’ which has taken him from the lowest of lows as a teenager to now enjoying the privileged position of being paid to travel the globe.
You get an overwhelming sense that he still can’t quite believe his luck, ‘this is actually my job’ he said, almost giggling apologetically.
Simon bought with him two cases; one full of the essential equipment that he takes on his travels, such as the usual sleeping bag and wash kit, but also a pair of bulletproof pants (I kid you not!)
The other had a collection of souvenirs from his adventures; a beautiful hand-woven throw from Russia, a toy ‘tuc tuc’ for his son from Thailand.
We learned about his first television travel series visiting Unrecognised Countries around the world. Had anyone ever been to ‘Transnistria’, had anyone even heard of it?
And of course, his current adventure, ‘The Americas’ which he is still in the middle of filming. He is quite literally taking a break half way through and is set to continue his journey after this, his second sell-out tour, through South America for the next series.
As for where to travel next, his ‘mouse mat Atlas of the World’ provides inspiration for what would comes next as he jokingly asks himself ‘what hasn’t Michael Palin already done’?!
His travel shows are equally as honest. It’s not just the geography of the countries he wants to share but often the difficult political or social stories too. This shone through on stage as he talked passionately about wider issues such as modern slavery and climate change.
At the beginning of the evening he promised we would get our ‘money’s worth’ and we certainly did. It was gone 10:30pm at Oxford’s New Theatre, and he was still taking questions from the audience. Some of us had to scuttle out quietly so as not to miss their buses home, terrified of missing out.
Before he let us go, Simon Reeve encouraged everyone to really explore the planet. ‘Take risks’ he said, ‘go to places that aren’t on the main tourist track. Get your head out of the ‘bloody smartphones’ and discover it for yourself. Travel responsibly and enjoy our planet, this really is the golden age of travel.’
I am definitely planning to take his advice!