Want to know how to travel in style, just like the pros? We check in with frequent fliers to find out how often they fly, their favorite destinations and what they never leave home without.
Name: Linda Davies
Occupation: Novelist and escaped investment banker
Hometown: Rural Suffolk, by the sea
College: Oxford University
College major: Politics, Philosophy and Economics
Facebook: Linda Davies
Short bio: Linda Davies worked as an investment banker in London, New York and Eastern Europe before escaping to write the international bestseller “Nest of Vipers.” She has written multiple books since, financial thrillers and young adult thrillers. After a year in New York and stints in London, she spent three years living in Peru and eight years in the Middle East. In 2005 she and her husband were kidnapped at sea by Iranian government forces and held hostage in Iran for two weeks before being released. She has written about her experiences in her first non-fiction book, “Hostage” (published this August 2014). She now lives near the sea, where she swims, but chooses not to sail.
How often do you fly? It varies a lot but maybe around 10 times a year.
How many countries have you been to? I haven’t kept score but I would say it would have to be more than 70.
How many continents have you been to? All of them save Antarctica which I would love to go to.
Earliest travel memory: The long, long car journey from South Wales to the port of Harwich in England from where we would get the ferry to Denmark to visit my mother’s Danish family. The car journey was so boring, but once we got on the ferry and I could stand, holding tight to the rail, and watch the coastline disappear I got incredibly excited.
Favorite American city: New York. I first went when I was 22, straight from Oxford University, on the Bankers Trust training program.
Favorite international city: London, though it is my home city.
Least favorite country: Well this is a tricky one. I would have to say Iran, which is a bit unfair to what is a wonderful country, but being held hostage tends to darken your view.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Er, Iran again. Being flown onto the mainland in a military jet meant that I bypassed immigration officers so I don’t have an immigration stamp in my passport though I do have an exit stamp, given grudgingly and angrily as my non-Islamic dress upset the officials. Even though I was wearing a chador and veil, glimpses of my bare feet appeared between the straps on my sandals.
Favorite World Heritage Site: The Temple of Karnak in Egypt.
Favorite airline(s): Virgin Atlantic.
Favorite aircraft type: A380.
Aisle or window: Window always.
Best flight attendant you’ve ever had: All the ones who compliment my children for how well they behave on board get my vote. It happens occasionally!
Favorite airport lounge: London’s Virgin lounge.
Favorite U.S. airport: Martha’s Vineyard.
Favorite international airport: Dubai.
Favorite hotel: Las Dunas Hotel, Punta Sal, in Peru, near the border with Ecuador. It’s where I personally experienced the Niño phenomenon, hot hot seas…It was the catalyst for my thriller “Ark Storm.”
Favorite cruise line: DFDS ferries between England and Denmark.
Favorite travel credit card: Visa.
Favorite island: Virgin Gorda.
Favorite beach: The seemingly endless beach at Punta Sal in Peru. The huge Pacific rollers come crashing in, I used to body surf for hours. Hemingway used to fish for Marlin there.
Favorite fancy restaurant: The Ritz in London. I nearly went into labour there with my third child.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Greasy spoon cafes in London’s East End which serve tea you could stand a spoon in and piping hot all-day breakfasts.
Favorite bar: The American bar in the Savoy.
Favorite fruit: Figs.
Favorite food: Sushi.
Least favorite food: Tripe.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Caipirinha on the ground, water in the air, Champagne if it’s a night flight.
Favorite travel movie(s): The Quiet American. It’s not a travel movie as such but it is so evocative. I went to Vietnam in the early 90s and fell in love with its beauty and exoticism.
Favorite travel show(s): I love Bear Grylls’ survival shows filmed around the globe.
Favorite travel book(s): Wilfred Thesiger’s “Arabian Sands”; “Ninety Degrees North: The Quest for the North Pole” by Fergus Fleming. Extreme heat, extreme cold, epic landscapes, heroic endurance…
Right now I am reading: “I am Pilgrim”—mesmerizing!
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Condé Nast Travel, easyhiker.co.uk, surfermag.com.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! mrandmrssmith.com.
5 things you bring on a plane: Two good books if it’s a long flight, lip balm, extra water, a massive scarf that can double as a blanket, my notebook and a selection of pens.
What do you always seem to forget? Face cream and all that beauty malarkey.
What do you like least about travel? Delays.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Dates from Dubai Duty Free.
Favorite travel app(s): Yahoo Weather.
Most embarrassing travel moment: I was flying back to Peru (where I then lived) from London. I’d had a tooth removed in London (a Peruvian dentist had butchered it some months before doing a root canal). I had to gargle with TCP liquid, a strong antiseptic, after meals. It really stinks. Unfortunately, it also smells like chlorine which can be used in bomb-making. Soon the smell of the TCP had permeated the entire plane and all the air hostesses and air hosts started desperately searching for the source of the smell. I had own up that it was my mouth.
Worst travel moment: That would be when two gunboats of Iranian Marines, armed with Kalashnikovs, rammed our sailboat in the Persian Gulf and then took me and my husband hostage.
What’s your dream destination? The Arctic Circle. I really want to stay in the Ice Hotel and see the Northern lights.
Favorite travel charity: I really love the airlines who collect change when you disembark your plane. It’s such a clever idea and has raised tens of millions of dollars for multiple charities.
Best travel tip: My first response would be to say avoid dictatorships, but then I’ve been to many countries run by dictators and had a great time. A more positive slant would be: find somewhere to walk, find somewhere to swim, whether it be a river, a lake or the sea. Walking and swimming really ground you in a place.
What a great post. An inspiring story that shows a continued love of travel despite what she’s been through. Puts one’s own travel woes into perspective!