Jan Leeming, television presenter and newsreader, on her love for travel, being ambassador for Just You and taking part in the BBC series, The Real Marigold Hotel.
Have you always loved travelling?
Always. There wasn’t much of it available when I was young but I went to Austria with a group when I was 16 and got bitten by the bug then. I love travelling because I love beautiful scenery and I have an innate curiosity about other countries and people.
What does your role as Just You ambassador involve?
Just You chooses a short and long-haul experience for me. I pack my bag and off I go taking photos and making notes so that I am able to give illustrated talks at exhibitions such as Destinations, which tend to take place from January to March.
What was the most memorable part of your trip to India for The Real Marigold Hotel BBC series?
It has to be the visit to the Taj Mahal, which lived up to all expectation and simply takes your breath away.
Why did you decide to go on the show?
It was nice to be asked and also I’d always wanted to visit India, the place of my father’s birth. I rather wish they’d asked me on the second series when the group went to the state of Kerala – my aunt lived in Cochin and my father was born in the Nilgiri hills.
What was the toughest aspect of the trip?
Apart from the humidity and heat, living communally. I love people and am very gregarious but at home I want my own space and quiet.
What’s your favourite country and why?
Australia – Sydney in particular – as I lived there in the 1960s and got my start in theatre and television there, which I doubt would have been possible back here in the UK. If I had a choice and were more fluent in the language, I’d go and live in France. I have French ancestry and feel at home there.
What’s your happiest travel memory?
If I had to pick one, the painting and conservation safari I took with David Shepherd many years ago. I love wildlife and at the time was attending watercolour classes so the trip satisfied both loves.
Where’s next on your bucket list?
I’m getting older and a few adventures I might have taken years ago would not be possible now. Perhaps I could still manage Machu Picchu – it is said that older people cope better with altitude sickness.
Did you have any preconceived ideas about solo travel?
I was unaware that solo holidays existed and have wasted a decade not going anywhere other than to see friends in France and my son in Australia. I also thought solo travel might be full of people I would not empathise with. Having been on a short and long-haul holiday with Just You my fears were unfounded.
Why is an escorted tour a good option for solo travellers?
There are many brave people who are quite happy to pack a bag and travel – though no coward, I am not one of them. The security of knowing everything has been organised, and there will be a tour manager to sort out any difficulties is reassuring, and they’ll also have local knowledge to enhance guests’ holidays.
What are your top tips for solo travel?
Read what it says on the tin – if one is advised there is a great deal of walking over rough ground don’t ignore it – the tour company means what it says. And respect local religion and customs.