William Gray is joint editor of 101 Family Holidays (101holidays.co.uk/family/) and amongst the UK’s most respected travel writers and photographers. His many published works include Wildlife Travel, and Travel With Kids, which won Guidebook of the Year from the British Guild of Travel Writers. He also has a Travel Photographer of the Year Award and in 2010 was voted 4th in the Press Gazette’s Top 50 Travel Journalists. He lives in Oxfordshire with his wife Sally, also a travel writer, and their 12-year-old twins Joe and Ellie.
1) I wonder, when looking at the airport departure board, where have you thought, ‘I really would like to go there someday’, and why?
I’m ashamed to admit that there are some glaring holes in my list of European cities visited. I’ve been to remote parts of Puglia, for example, but never to Rome. I’ve explored hidden corners of the Carpathian Mountains, but Krakow still eludes me! I guess I’ve always been more interested in wild places than cities – and from a work point of view, editors are often more interested in the off-beat and quirky – but Rome… that’s just embarrassing. Perhaps I’ll take the kids when the Roman Empire pops up in one of their school topics.
2) I wonder if you travel by guidebook or trust your instinct and simply explore.
A bit of both. Sometimes if I’m researching an article on a particular family adventure, we‘ll have an itinerary to follow and report on. On most trips, though, there’s usually some scope for a bit of free-spirited exploring. I find guidebooks play a more significant role before I travel – I use them for background research, photography planning and to make sure that my itinerary isn’t missing anything important.
3) I wonder from your travels, what is the favourite photo you’ve taken and the story behind it?
It’s so hard to pick just one. I have favourite photographic destinations, like Namibia and Svalbard, where the landscape and light is incredible for photography. And I have favourite wildlife photography destinations, like the Falkland Islands and Kenya. But I suppose if I had to be choosy I’d select shots from our family trips. It is such a treat to travel with your children and see their faces light up with wonder at things you might otherwise have taken for granted. I love the spontaneity of children, so I’ve picked two photos (sorry, but I am a doting dad!). One shows my daughter age six doing a roly-poly down one of the world’s tallest sand dunes at Sossusvlei (above), Namibia, while the other shows my son, age 10 engaged in a staring contest with a marine iguana in the Galapagos Islands (below).
4) I wonder whilst travelling, what is the one thing you can’t live without?
A notebook. The old-fashioned kind with paper in. I love having something to scribble in – whether it’s ideas for a travel feature, some technical notes on a photo I’ve just taken or a quote from someone I’ve just spoken to. I take an iPad with me too, but I find a notebook and pencil is quick, spontaneous and inconspicuous.
5) I wonder what’s the most effort you’ve taken to travel somewhere… and was it worth it?
On our honeymoon, my wife and I trekked for five weeks to Everest and back again. In those days (if you couldn’t afford the flight to Lukla), you took a bus from Kathmandu to a village at the road’s end called Jiri. You then had to hike across the grain of the Himalayan foothills before reaching the valley that leads up to Namche Bazaar and the Everest region. We didn’t have enough cash for the flight out, so we walked all the way back to Jiri and hitched a lift to Kathmandu. That was physically demanding, but it was probably no more ‘effort’ than flying with our toddler twins to New Zealand!
6) I wonder if I could ask you, what subject would you most like to write about?
Charles Darwin is one of my all-time travel heroes and I would love to write about a trip that followed in the wake of his voyage aboard the Beagle. I’ve been to many of the places he visited, such as the Galapagos Islands and Tierra del Fuego, but to actually trace his entire expedition would be amazing. Oh, and I’d also like to write about Antarctica.
7) I wonder what you have planned next and where can people find out more about you?
More family travels. We’ve been travelling with our twins since they were toddlers, but now that they’re 12 they are keen to put forward their own holiday suggestions. Top of the list is kayaking with orcas and bear watching in British Columbia, although a trek in Nepal is also right up there. There are some fantastic family adventures available – it really is never too young to start exploring the world with your kids. I think ours were four when we took them on their first trek – a mule-supported hike in the Atlas Mountains. I’m sure they’d love Nepal– although I’m not so certain how their parents’ knees would cope.
A big thanks to William Gray for taking part in the 7 Wonders Interview. Be sure to click on the below images to see his fantasitc books and find out more about William.