With 58 Top-Rated journals comprised of a most impressive array of destinations, IgoUgo Hall of Fame member phileasfogg has spent many more than 80 days around the world. Though a good portion of her journals covers travels around her vast homeland of India, phileasfogg is no stranger to strange lands, nor to their museums, restaurants, and wildlife. Here are five questions for this highly productive six-year member.
IgoUgo: Most of your journals involve travel within your homeland of India. What is it about India—aside from convenience—that entices you to explore it?
phileasfogg: India’s huge, of course, so there’s really no dearth of places to visit. What makes it more fun is the fact that there are so many new and different things to experience all over the country; India isn’t homogenous—far from it. There are the Himalayas, which I love; there’s desert, tropical forests, and beaches. And there’s so much history, such a lot of very different cultures, languages, traditions, cuisines—getting through all of that in one lifetime would be quite a feat!
IgoUgo: Despite your travels across the subcontinent, you also manage to travel extensively around the globe, to such different destinations as Beijing and Chicago, Melbourne and Jerusalem. How do you choose your spots when you are heading to another country?
phileasfogg: Unfortunately, the Indian rupee’s notoriously weak, so nearly all my travel outside of India is dictated by budgetary considerations! I’ve been lucky to have traveled further afield—to Chicago, for instance—on business. Left to myself, I choose destinations that are not too far from India and are relatively easy on the wallet. Europe, of course, is an exception—but in that case, my second major criterion for a destination comes into play: there must be a lot of history and a rich cultural heritage in the place I’m visiting. That’s why Beijing, Paris, Rome, Jerusalem, and London feature on my list of favourite destinations.
IgoUgo: Clearly, your member name has literary travel connotations. Is reading a large part of your travel experience? You list a few on your profile, but what are your favorite travel books and why?
phileasfogg: Though I don’t actively read books specific to places I’m visiting (if I can get the time to read a guide on my destination, I count myself lucky), I love reading travel books, per se. My favourites include Bill Bryson’s Down Under, Neither Here Nor There, and A Walk in the Woods; his style of writing is awesome, with loads of excellent information (including trivia, for which I’m a sucker) and plenty of humour. I also love Gerald Durrell’s books on his animal-collecting trips across the world: Two in the Bush, Three Singles to Adventure, The Drunken Forest, Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons, and The Whispering Land. Like Bryson, Durrell had a terrific sense of humour, and his writing reveals a deep love for both animals and people.
IgoUgo: It seems that in your travels, you take as much note of the local flora and fauna as you do of the more typical sights. Do you find that remarking on the environment around you provides a more complete or immersive experience?
phileasfogg: I guess my listing Durrell as a favourite travel writer answers that question in part! I love wildlife—plant and animal—and am at my happiest when I’m either in the woods or in a city that has plenty of green spaces. Unrelieved concrete stresses me out. I usually end up noticing interesting wildflowers, birds, berries—whatever is around—and find that it definitely makes a trip a more complete and enriching experience.
IgoUgo: Your travels seem to run the gamut from business to cultural to girls-only; what are your favorite types of trips? That is, what do you set out to do when you are traveling?
phileasfogg: History, culture, and nature: those are my top three priorities. I’m not into shopping, pub-hopping, or going dancing, so even in cities that are known for great shopping or nightlife, I invariably seek out places that appeal to me. In Singapore, for instance, Chinatown and Jurong Bird Park had my vote over Orchard Road!