I grew up in Leigh-on Sea, Essex – a town on the Thames Estuary with strong connections to the fishing industry. The eldest of five, I spent my childhood in the 1960’s roaming free under the wide skies of the Essex marshes with my brother, whilst my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles worked in the shellfish business, both as catchers and sellers to the trade and general public. It was a family business that had been handed down through several generations and is still in the family to this day.
My formative years – the 1970’s - were spent centred around the back garden of the family’s three-bedroom semi, in which eight of us lived in feral chaos. Amongst three day weeks, power cuts, and bad hairstyles, my father built a garden menagerie that included many exotic birds and creatures from around the world.
Back then our day began before dawn, feeding and looking after Toucans, Hummingbirds, Parrots, monkeys and more, before heading off to school. After an uninspired day looking out the classroom window, I would rush back to our own private backyard jungle paradise, to check on and feed all the wildlife, before being fed ourselves on an evening TV diet of David Attenborough, Tarzan and The Sweeney.
Whether it was because of my exposure to such an unusual upbringing, or just a healthy curiosity for the wider world I don’t know. But, during my mid-twenties I set off on a life-changing journey across the USA, Mexico and the Caribbean. It was to be the start of a lifelong thirst for adventure travel that, to this day, still causes me to gaze longingly at maps of far-flung areas of the globe. Since the mid 80’s overland quests have taken me around Communist Eastern Europe, China, the Far East, Australia, India, Africa, and South America.
Another life-changing event occurred during my early 40’s, when I became a father for the first time, although even that event could not halt the travel bug. For considerable periods of the first 4 years of my daughter Scarlet’s life, she was ferried from our home in Norwich, along with her mother, my partner Sally, in our classic Citroen 2cv car, in search of adventure around Britain. Making notes along the way and compiling stories from these trips – 28 of them in all – marked the beginning of my passion for travel writing.