Matthew, my new travel talisman

Matthew and I in Greenwich, London

Meet Matthew. My new travel companion. Tanned, gorgeous, flexible, generous, classy, traditional and ethical. I can’t believe my luck, but the best comes to those who wait, isn’t that what they say? It has been about ten years since I had such a good travel mate so, really, the time had come.

Matthew is so fabulous, however, that I had to take him out around my native London first, needing any excuse to show him off. Shopping trips, school runs and Sunday lunch were not really what I had in mind for Matthew, but I just couldn’t wait. And it was worth it. On our first outing to Greenwich Park, someone stopped me and asked where I got it. I mean him. OK, I mean it. Fantasy over, Matthew is, in fact, a bag – a daypack to be precise. Designed by one of the coolest, ethical luggage companies I have come across in a long time, Lake District based Millican, who also name all their bags by the way, just in case you thought I was losing it, these bags are sustainable and sexy. Well at least, if you find high quality canvas, funky and easy to use super sturdy poppers, a built in rain cover, carefully thought out pragmatic pocket design, a quick access front zip, excellent water resistance and perfect size (yes, it does matter) sexy.

On the ethical front, all of the Millican men are sensitive types. The company is named after Millican Dalton, who left early 1900’s London living to take up the quintessential sustainable life in the Lake District, making his own organic clothing, rucksacks and tents, in between guiding people across the lakes and mountains which were now home.

Millican founders Jorrit Jorritsma and Nicky Forbes, who also upped stakes a few years ago and moved to the Lake District, say that “Like him, we want to inspire others to care for the planet. We want to tell wild stories. We want to write in leather bound books– preferably Moleskine ones.   Unlike him, we’ll never live in a cave. Sorry.”  Because they are modern realists too. For example, some of Millican’s sourcing is still done in the Lake district, but they also have to source abroad, providing a detailed list of their suppliers, their stories and sustainable principles on their website.

Matthew on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

I must admit, I drooled over just about every item on the Millican menu before finally committing to Matthew. Maybe because I think he has a slightly more feminine side than the others. And  I only half jest about my new ‘relationship’. Because, as the years go on I get more and more attached to various objects as I travel, with key items coming on every trip now. A black sustainable cashmere sweater from the Scottish Highlands, a green alpaca scarf knitted in a family run business on Ireland’s Aran Islands, hiking boots bought so long ago I can’t even remember where,  and a bracelet made by a Maasai elder who became a family friend after a trip to his village in Kenya. They are now all my travel talismans, with Matthew slipping comfortably into a similar role already, I can tell. Because sometimes you just know that someone (alright, something) is quite simply, for life. The only problem being – I am already fantasising about Harry, Adam, Stephen, Rob ……

Since writing this article, Matthew has been camping in Ireland, and now we are just back from walking on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales. It was super comfy to carry, had loads of room for waterproofs and pack lunch, didn’t make my back over hot, kept the contents cool, and I loved the easy to reach rain cover which is attached in a zipped pocket at the bottom, which I hadn’t spotted originally. And he was, as ever, a handsome companion. See photo below for a few shots of the gorgeous guy in action.

For more information see

Matthew and I on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

The Road Less Travelled – going off the beaten track with DK Eyewitness Travel

trlt20front20cover1-21One of the most fantastic ways to become a responsible traveller is to go off the beaten track. For example, you can benefit so many people economically by checking out Dublin’s International Theatre Festival instead of Edinburgh’s (and you are more likely to get a ticket too!). Go hiking in France’s Mercantour National Park instead of the Pyrenees National Park. Or head for the Isle of Wight’s superb surf instead of the burgeoning surf parks of Cornwall. In Ireland, discover the limestone karst wonders of The Burren, County Clare, instead of heading straight for the Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim Coast. Instead of just following Staffordshire’s motorway signs to spend a long, crowded day at Alton Towers, go off-road and spend a few days walking in its surrounding hills, otherwise known as the Peak District. The former is overrated, and the latter is most definitely underrated.

These are just a few of my personal favourites, but a new book from travel guide publisher, DK Eyewitness Travel, called The Road Less Travelled, has given us 1000 more such alternatives.

Exposing some of the most popular travel hotspots as over-rated, over-visited and over-priced, here are a few of The Road Less Travelled favourites:

• Try Isla de Sol, Bolivia instead of Machu Picchu
• Visit the Western Ugandan Reserves instead of the more obvious Kruger
National Park in South Africa
• Avoid over-priced Amazon tours, few of which are even located on the river, and head for the breathtaking Orinoco River in Southern Venezuala instead
• Dive into undiscovered corners of favourite cities and experience their less-obvious gems, such as fabulous boutiques in New York’s NoHo

In full colour, with loads of gorgeous photography, this is a coffee table must, as well as an inspirational source of travel ideas.

Hardback, over 1000 photographs/maps

New Green Travel Guide from The International Ecotourism Society

green_travel_guide_coverThe latest Green Travel Guide has just been launched by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), and the great news is that it is fully downloadable, in clear and concise format. With ovth 185 pages of fyll colour text and photos of people, organisations and destinations which are committed to ecotourism, this book is a wealth of information. It is also free to download – Thank you and well done TIES. Click here to download and for more information on The International Ecotourism Society, see

Launch of Clean Breaks, new green travel guide from Rough Guides

Clean_Breaks_FINAL_cover.inddSnow-shoeing in the Pyrenees, learning to dance in Rio, chilling in a Provençal treehouse, clubbing in Rotterdam or London… these are just a few of the  ‘Clean Breaks’ featured in this stunning new book from Rough Guides, which was launched 1st August 2009 – It is a comprehensive guide to unusual, alternative and incredible experiences that make a real difference to the local people and to the planet.

Travel and environment writers Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith have hand-picked the world’s best hotels, tours, and activities run by people who are passionate about what they do, in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
Whether you fancy diving, trekking, mountain-biking, staying in a gorgeous cottage or watching wildlife from a jungle lodge, taking a Clean Break doesn’t mean sacrificing style, adventure or quality.
As Richard and Jeremy explain, “In the same way that many of the world’s best chefs are those that use local, seasonal ingredients, it stands to reason that the most rewarding holidays are provided by those who really care for their local environment, its people, how their food is grown and the wildlife that surrounds them. These people make the best hosts and guides. Which is why Clean Breaks make the most fantastic holidays”.
Clean Breaks is organised by geographical region and includes suggestions for all pockets, from budget to luxury. Although you won’t fit it in your pocket, as it is pretty hefty, and more for the side of the bed, as you fall asleep dreaming of Scottish bothies, whale watching off the coast of West Cork, swimming in a Finnish lake, or crossing the Namibian desert. There is more than one for every night of the year, as they have given us a generous 500 places to see and things to do. Fab book, brilliantly researched, and makes me very green….with envy, that I didn’t write it, of course.


 For more information on Richard Hammond’s work, see his website




Clean Breaks: 500 New Ways To See The World
By Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith
 ISBN 978-184836-0471, £18.99