The Chiswell Street Brewery was my hostelry of choice last weekend when I spent the afternoon at the National Geographic Traveller Festival of all things foreign and exotic. The programme was choc-a-bloc full of wonderful things: Babbel language lessons; travel writing masterclasses; photography sessions; bushcraft survival skills; how to dance Flamenco; try your hand (or feet) at Taekwondo; Himalayan yoga; panels of inspirational and experienced explorers to listen to and engage with; all washed down with drinks from around the world accompanied by Sicilian dishes provided by our favourite Tasting Sicily restaurant.
As well as sampling as much of the programme as my time allowed – I now know how to pitch a column to National Geographic Traveller editors, switch my hips Flamenco-style and mix a crackin’ Bahamas fruit cocktail – I was there to accompany our Ambassador Julia Bradbury as she represented Ramblers Walking Holidays and headlined the afternoon panel entitled “Travel Geeks: The Modern Rambler”.
The iconic Porter Tun Room was full with a closely attentive audience who thoroughly enjoyed lively tales of rambling, hiking and even losing one’s way, along worldwide trails. Panel members with Julia were Adrian Phillips, MD of Bradt Travel Guides, Daniel Raven-Ellison, geographer and campaigner, and writer and explorer, Daniel Neilson. The panel session was moderated by National Geographic Editor, Maria Pieri. Discussions began with tips on how to get started as a rambler and included simply getting some comfy shoes and walking from your own doorstep – you don’t have to be an explorer to connect with local landscapes – start small and build walking into your lifestyle. Nor do you need high-tech gear or equipment. Flat level walking along footpaths and canals usually means you won’t lose your way or have to struggle with climbs. Favourite UK walking destinations included the Peak District, Pembrokeshire and of course, the Lake District. Other than decent shoes – or decent boots if you plan to walk for longer distances and/or on uneven terrain, a decent waterproof is required and some cheap waterproof trousers. If you do want to invest in more sophisticated kit, then there is so much to choose from these days as hiking and outdoor gear is so fashionable. Overseas walking destinations of choice included Andorra, the Drakensburg Mountains in South Africa, the Azores and the Balkans – a walking holiday brings you close to the locals – you can see and meet more local life much more easily on foot. And of course walking in a group, like with Ramblers Walking Holidays, also means you have guaranteed good company wherever you choose to travel, home or abroad.
This was National Geographic Traveller’s first such event to celebrate their 7th year in the UK. I look forward to their continued publishing success and more super events.