Where the experts holiday: Sarah Alderson, author of Can We Live Here?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Having spent most of her life in London, author Sarah Alderson quit her job in 2009 and took off on a round the world trip with her husband and daughter on a mission to find a new place to call home. After almost a year spent travelling the world, they settled in Bali where they lived for five beautiful years before they returned to London, enticed by exciting work projects. Here Sarah – who confesses to missing coconuts and sunshine – shares her travel highs and lows with Just About Travel readers

What do you like to do on holiday?
I love to read while away. I write books for a living and rarely get a chance to open one and read for pleasure so love to replenish and read – ideally somewhere hot and by the water. I also like to be outdoors cycling or kayaking – some of my best trips have involved being by the water.

Where did you last go?
South Devon. My husband and I have been living abroad so we wanted our daughter to have a taste of England which is why, this summer, we chose to holiday in Devon. It’s been a typical British summer holiday – one day or sunshine, one day or rain. My daughter even went swimming in the sea – despite it being cold.

Do you know where you’re going this year?
Yes we’re planning a break either in Barcelona or the Basque Country, which straddles the Franco-Spanish border. We’ll probably do some cycling – we’ve cycled a lot around France before. It’s the perfect way to work up an appetite for all the fabulous French food!

Map of India

Map of India

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
Oh my goodness… I’ve got a soft spot for southern Goa in India. Southern Goa is far less touristy than northern Goa and there’s one beach in particular that holds a special place in my heart. I wrote my second book there and went back and wrote another.
India is such a colourful, magical place – I love the food and the fact that you get a cup of Chai for 5p, the beautiful beaches, the culture… I could go on.

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Oo – that would be Alaska. I’ve heard the nature is amazing and I have a friend there who is a river guide. Perhaps Alaska will inspire a book? I tend to set my books in places that I have visited. Maybe I’ll surprise my husband for his 40th birthday, with a trip to Alaska!?

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
That’s a really difficult question. Hmmmm… well I’m from London so what I usually do, when I have visitors, is to walk along the South Bank past the Tate Modern and on to Borough Market for a bite to eat. If they/you, have a sweet tooth, I’d recommend stopping off for coffee and cake at Konditor & Cook. Then I’d suggest checking out The Old Operating Theatre Museum – one of the most  unusual (and barbaric) museums in London that was part of old St Thomas Hospital. That whole area – where the old and new successfully collide – is just a brilliant place to hang out.

San Francisco's celebrated Golden Gate Bridge

How do you plan your holiday? (Guidebooks/website/agent/recommendations etc)
I usually connect with local –  be it a friend or a friend of a friend or even an Airbnb host. They can tell you where to have the best experiences. For example a local in Ohio told me how about these fabulous, yet rarely visited Hot Springs, while someone in San Francisco recommend an amazing oyster bar that wasn’t in any guidebooks. If you don’t know anyone living in the destination you’re visiting, don’t be afraid to start a conversation – be it in a cafe or a cab. You’ll pick up some amazing ‘local’ tips – trust me!

How often do you go away?
It really depends on work . When we were living in Bali (Indonesia), we were away almost every weekend. However since returning to the UK nine months ago, we’ve hardly been away at all because work has been so full on.

Who do you travel with?
My daughter and husband. However I make a point to go away with a girlfriend at least once a year. I went to LA in March and road tripped through Colorado, Sante Fe and Mexico with a friend. It was heavenly  – very zen.


Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
I think the emphasis will be on authentic experiences – travellers will shun hotels in favour of staying with locals so as to really get under the skin of the country. I also feel that there will be fewer travel agencies in the future: I find it hard to imagine the next generation going into a travel agency and booking a UK trip. The ones that will survive are those that offer something niche or a little bit different.



Thanks Sarah!

Sarah’s book Can We Live Here? Finding a home in paradise (£8.99; Blink Publishing) – which shows readers how to make starting a new life more than just a dream, but a real possibility – is out now. To purchase a copy, click here



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