Where the experts holiday: Gavin Stone, travel author and ex intelligence operative

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Gavin Stone, a former ‘intelligence operative’, has written a book revealing the tips and tricks of travelling “next to nothing”. Result! Here the Wolverhampton-born author, who has stayed in super yachts and castles, shares some of his experiences with Just About Travel readers

What do you like to do on holiday?
When in any country, my favourite past time is to avoid the tourist spots! I like to go deep into the depths of the unexplored and locate the  lovely little bars and restaurants nobody knows about, to meet the locals and struggle to communicate through the language barrier. Most importantly, I like to try the true foods of the new culture I’m exploring. In short I love to engross myself in the REAL side of the country, not the side of it that caters for Brits abroad.

Where did you last go?
That’s not an easy question to answer! I drove across Europe to a multitude of destinations so there isn’t a short answer I’m afraid. I crossed the Channel into France and drove straight up to Belgium.  I love Ostend and Adinkurke and you can’t beat the original chocolate covered Belgian waffles from a little place I know in Bruges… From there, I drove through the Netherlands, then Germany, stopping in Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Berlin. Finally I drove into the Czech Republic to spend a couple of nights in Prague. A small detour on the way home also allowed me to stop of in Luxembourg and witness the true beauty of the smallest land locked country in Europe. It was one hell of a drive but well worth every mile of numb bum I suffered en-route!

Do you know where you’re going this year?

the islands of Vietnam

The islands of Vietnam

Aside from a trip to Tenerife that’s booked for September to take my three year-old daughter on a family holiday, no. There’s about four or five places – Vietnam being one of them  – on this year’s bucket list. However my true decision won’t be made until the time of booking.

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
The best place I have ever been to is America. I loved it so much I moved out there and lived out there and, even though I’m back in the UK at the moment, my plans are to be living back in the States in the not too distant future.  Most people who have visited America, usually tell me the same thing… they went to Florida! However that area of America is so used to catering for foreigners and outsiders and so doesn’t have the same appeal to me. My first trip to the States was to do Route 66 and I loved every moment of it. Florida and New York welcome tourists all year round but, when you get into the Mid West and find the real people of the big states such as Arizona, that’s when you get to the heart of the USA! That part is very different from the tourist hot spots.

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Believe it or not I would love to conquer the South Pole but, that being said, I’m a sun freak. So every time I get the chance to strike it off the list, the appeal of somewhere sunny overrides my decision making process and I end up going to Africa or somewhere hot.

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?

towering above the old county hall and Shell building

There seems to be a common misconception around the world, that England consists of London with a few villages around the edge and Manchester up on the left just before you get to Scotland! So it’s no wonder everyone wants to go and see the capital, pop by the Queen’s house and take a picture near Big Ben. I would tell any traveller coming to England to forget booking a two week trip and spending it all in London. Rather book three weeks and see some of the beautiful country side as well. Do your research first so you have a destination in mind and escape London to say Devon, for example, and get a taste of the rest of what we have to offer before you go home.

How do you plan your holiday?
My holiday plans vary. If I’m not doing a work related trip, then the destination will play a huge part in how I plan the trip. For example if I was just going to France or Spain for a day or two, I’d probably just hop on a plane. Depending on the duration of my stay or what my plans were when I got there, I might even drive or get the train. Going a little further out – as when I went to Africa – I would look at using a travel agent. Sometimes the tips and cultural pointers etc are worth paying a slightly higher price for depending on if I’d been to that part of the world before. So how I  plan my trips depends on the destination and duration.

How often do you go away?
For many years I didn’t go anywhere, but now I tend to go away between four and seven times a year, and always to at least one new destination.

Who do you travel with?
Most of the time, I travel with my fiancee. We usually have a family holiday at least once a year too where the kids can learn and experience new cultures. However it’s not uncommon  for me to go away for a couple of days on my own and have a look at places for potential future holidays for both or all of us.

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?

At the rate the world is shrinking due to technological advances, it’s not hard to find out all you need to know about most countries with a quick search. Travel companies are now combining hotels, car hire and flights from single websites and travel rates are becoming more competitive than ever. Also with the internet playing a huge role,  communication globally is much more easily achievable than ever before so disappearing around the world isn’t half as scary as it used to be! With all of this in mind and the strides being taken with technology, I think more people will be traveling to more destinations than ever before but not always using the conventional methods from current times. It will simply be a case of calling a friend you met online from say somewhere in Asia and asking if you can stay a few nights. Then hopping on a high speed train to get there. I don’t think there will be as much paper work involved as there is at present. Taking a long distance trip will become as normal as jumping on a bus to town!

Thanks Gavin!

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Gavin Stone’s e-book How to Travel the World for Peanuts! – in which Stone shares his secrets for the traveller who doesn’t want money to get in the way of their dreams – is out now


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