Where the experts holiday: Cato Hoeben – aka the lifestyle entrepreneur

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Cato Hoeben – who quit the 9-5 treadmill to work remotely – reveals how life as a lifestyle entrepreneur allows him to travel the world 

1. What do you like to do on holiday?
Being a restless character, I prefer to do things while on holiday like sport, visiting historically interesting sites or eating out often – food is an important feature of a holiday destination for me, I see it as a reflection on how detailed the culture of a place is. I’m not someone who enjoys just lying down soaking up the sun on a beach or spending the whole time admiring toiletries in a fancy hotel. Mind you, having written a book over the past year, I haven’t had that much time for going away on holidays!

2. Where did you last go?
Other than jumping between Seville and London, Belgrade was the last place my (Spanish) wife and I went, to visit a friend of mine who just had her kid. Thanks to the media and my own ignorance, I had (totally wrong) preconceptions of what Serbia would be like. I thought the hallmarks of Milosevic and Nato’s bombings would be the primary focus of the place and that we would be visiting a war-zone with troubled people.
Although you can still sense some resentment there towards the West’s foreign policy (where doesn’t these days?), the people are friendly, proud and very tall. Echoes of communist ideologies are scattered around the place in terms of graffiti and conversations with locals, but I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful and culturally rich the city was. I’m a fan of the place and highly recommend visiting and throwing yourself into the inner workings of Belgrade’s nightlife and restaurant scene.

3. Do you know where you’re going this year?
My wife and I are off to Virginia in the US this year to celebrate this Christmas with my family. We’re looking forward to hanging out with my internationally mixed family (my brother’s wife is Japanese and my father is Dutch for example) as well as my surrogate sister from New York, a tribe of distant Jewish cousins I have – along with local Virginians and a splash of hillbillies I expect. I’m anticipating will look like a United Nations conference at the dinner table!

4. Of all the places you’ve been to, what was your favourite and why?

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Japan, without a doubt. I’m lucky enough to have travelled a fair amount in my life as my mother is a journalist and we often piggy-backed on her trips during her travel journalism days, but when we went to Japan in 2009 my wife and I were blown away by the country. It’s such a unique, interesting and culturally rich place where, as a European, I felt totally out of my depth because of the lack of the western alphabet in most places. The food was incredible with fantastic presentation and attention to detail and, as we stayed with my sister-in-law with her family in a traditional Japanese home in Fukushima, we were exposed to a side of Japan that many tourists miss out on. The hot thermal baths, friendliness of everyone and sadistic qualities of my brother forcing me to eat live shellfish are etched into my memories…

5. Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Australia is a country I’m very keen to visit. Playing basketball in London, I’ve met people from all over the world – many of whom are Australians that have now emigrated back and are always asking me to journey Down Under and look them up. From what I’ve seen, and having heard the experiences of friends an family who have been already, it is a stunningly beautiful place with amazing food, great people and a thriving film scene based on the stuff I’ve been seeing at film festivals. Also, a bit like the Spaniards, I think the Ozzies have got the work-life balance right, so I’m keen to see it with my own eyes, get involved and “stick another shrimp on the barbie”.

6. In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
I can’t speak for many places outside of London and Seville as, ironically, I’ve gone to Zimbabwe but haven’t been to Liverpool yet! However, in Seville there is a cool tapas fusion scene developing that you won’t see in many tour guides that focuses on the traditional sites like the Giralda, Cathedral and bull ring. Places that come to mind are La Oveja Negra, Mamarracha and Perro Viejo as well as La Pura Tasca in Triana, all worth a visit if you’re a foodie like me. In London, I think the abundance of guides and apps out there mean it can be hard find things that haven’t been documented already. Having a look for things via apps like Frugl (set up by Suzanne Noble who my mother and I interviewed in our book The Lifestyle Entrepreneur) has stuff for people wanting to enjoy London on a low budget (£10 and under). I’ve seen some interesting things in there, so it’s well worth checking out.

7. How do you plan your holiday? (Guidebooks/website/agent/recommendations etc)
I prefer to be a bit spontaneous when on holiday rather than detailing my every move. Otherwise, it feels like you’re trying to ‘plan to have fun’, which I get annoyed by – how can you enjoy something that’s so premeditated? Of course, I do a bit of research to make sure there are things to do and there’s a rough plan to fall back on, but that’s little more than a few searches online, chatting with people that have been there or getting some recommendations on where to go. The real meat of the holiday happens ad-hoc.

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8. How often do you go away?
Whenever I can. I like to travel, so I’m often planning two-three ‘big’ trips every year (like the US this Christmas) on top of the regular trips between Spain and London that I do for work. This year, for example, I’ve gone to Amsterdam, Belgrade and a bunch of places within the UK and Spain such as Cádiz for an anniversary trip with my wife, the Sierra de Huelva to try Spain’s infamous ham from Jabugo and York in the UK for the excellent Aesthetica Film Festival.

9. Who do you travel with?
Whenever and wherever possible, I travel with my wife as I know how much she enjoys travelling – she gets annoyed with me if I go to fun places without her! Most trips from London to Seville I do by myself because my work life as a ‘Lifestyle Entrepreneur’ allows me to. Also, the traditional employment set up that many people I know choose is far stricter and relies on convincing a boss for time ‘off’, so even if I wanted to travel more frequently with friends and my wife, their work lives makes that very, very difficult.

10.  Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
Well, based on the global panic following the Paris attacks recently as well as climate change becoming a real issue, I’m concerned we’re heading for a world with less tourism worldwide, particularly in areas like the UK which are considered a ‘target’ at the moment. That said, I also think more environmental-friendly technology will be implemented into transport so we can move around not only faster, but with a cleaner (excuse the pun) conscience while we see the world with our own eyes rather than just that of the media. Things have been getting ever cheaper, but I think that could change as more ‘experience’ holidays appear where the focus is less on just laying on the beach but actually doing things like adventure trips, sports and exploring little-known areas of the world.

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Cato Hoeben is the author of The Lifestyle Entrepreneur (Gibson Square, £8.99; out now) with Angela Neustatter. To purchase a copy, please click here

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