Interview with Jules Brown

Published 2020-12-02.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Ghana in West Africa (my father was a teacher there) but grew up in Huddersfield, a small town in Yorkshire in northern England. They are both unheralded places, the sort of places people leave as soon as they have a chance, and in a way – after 30-odd years of travel – I'm still looking for a place to call home. All my travel writing reflects this I think – a search for somewhere to hang my hat.
When did you first start writing?
I've always been a reader and a writer, from an early age. I published my first travel feature in the local newspaper in 1986 – got paid the princely sum of £12.50 – and followed that up with my first travel guide in 1988. I've been writing and publishing ever since, though I've moved away from traditional guidebooks and concentrate more these days on writing for my blog and my publishing imprint Trust-Me Travel.
Do you think of yourself as a writer or a traveller first?
I love travelling, but I've never thought of travel as the most important part of what I do. Anyone can go anywhere. It's not hard to travel. But not everyone can write, and you do need to be able to do that well to be a travel writer. Travellers who write, it was said to me at the beginning of my career, worked for Lonely Planet. Writers who travel got the Rough Guides gig, and happily for me they thought I could write. I've been writing ever since.
What's the worst thing you've ever eaten on your travels?
I'd like to say fermented shark, but to be fair I didn't actually eat it – only smelled it and gagged. I think I would have to go for the smoked puffin. No, wait a minute, the whale steak. Definitely the whale steak.
What's your favourite country in the world?
This always a hard question for a travel writer – it's usually the last place I visited. I did love living in Sicily while I researched the Rough Guide, and I spent a year in New Zealand - based in Wellington – which really opened my eyes to that extraordinary country. My fondest memories though are probably of travelling through Laos in the year 2000, really just before it opened up hugely to tourists. That was such a special time in a gorgeous country.
What's your next project?
I'm working on a follow-up travel memoir to 'Takoradi to the Stars (via Huddersfield)' – more tales from my guidebook-writing days – and planning my next travel adventure. After my quickfire journey around central Europe for 'Not Cool: Europe by Train in a Heatwave', I'm thinking of making a much longer rail trip that covers travel to the extremities of Europe. And a journey on the Trans-Siberian Express is on the cards too.
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