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Me and my travels: Sarah Anderson

Travel Writing

This article was first published in The Observer on 4 May, 2008. Click here to read the article on the Guardian and Observer website > My first independent trip … Around America in a Greyhound bus when I was 23. I bought a 99-days-for-$99 pass and stayed for a year. After that I went round the world for about nine months following the hippy trail through Europe, Iran and Afghanistan to India. By the time I got home I was well and truly bitten by the travel bug. The journey I’ll never make again is … The drive from south-west China to Tibet. I did it a couple of years ago. The landscape is stunningly beautiful, but the drivers who overtook on blind corners terrified me. I practically had a heart attack and every night I’d write in my diary: ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’ I never travel without … A head torch for reading in bed and a normal torch. In one house in Tuscany I had been told there were scorpions on the floor during the night. It was dark and I needed to get up to go to the bathroom but I was too terrified of stepping on one so just lay there. I’ve always taken a torch with me ever since. When I’m travelling I miss … My own bed. I don’t go to luxury hotels, but I’m not a rough traveller either. My trip to Tibet was quite tough and involved spending 17 nights in 17 hotels with very basic accommodation. I always bring back … Sketches. I try to sketch wherever I go. Photographs can be a great aide mémoire, but I find looking at sketches takes me instantly back into the mood and place. My most memorable meal was in … Siberia, three or four years ago. We ate with people who had grown absolutely everything. Some of it was fresh and some was bottled from the previous year and there was home-made cheese. It was all absolutely delicious. I’ve always wanted to visit … Remote places such as the Okavango Delta and the wilderness of north-west Canada. The more I travel the more I realise there are so many places still to visit. I’d love to do a long road trip across northern Australia. The thing I hate about travel is … Heathrow and queuing. Ironically, I wrote an article about two years ago about how much I love airports – and I still do. I love the anonymity, and the fact that before a trip I get nervous, but at the airport all those worries disappear. My oddest travel experience … Was a one-armed dove hunt in Texas! I rarely think about only having one arm [she lost it to cancer as a child], but it does affect boring things like how much luggage I take. I never travel with anything I can’t carry myself so I pack quite light – smallish rucksack and wheely suitcase. My favourite travel book is … Robert Byron’s The Road To Oxiana, which started a new wave of travel writing. I took it on my first trip to Iran. I always take books about the places I’m visiting: I sat in a ruined mosque now populated by sheep and read Byron’s wonderful descriptions of it. I think that sowed a seed for the Travel Bookshop. Sarah Anderson’s autobiography, Halfway to Venus is published on 6 May by Umbrella Books. The Travel Bookshop is in Notting Hill, west London (