John Birmingham
Interview Words : The World According To ... | 12 September

The World According to John Birmingham

Author of the Axis of Time trilogy and Dopeland: Taking the High Road Through Australia's Marijuana Culture, John Birmingham gives us his timeless take on travel

Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?

I'm the beach-side bar overlooking the ocean.

First travel experience?

Migrating from the UK to Oz, 1970. I still remember the fierce quality of the light when we stepped off the place in Melbourne.

Favourite journey?

Driving up from Caligiari to Capo Testa in Sardinia during spring. The colours were amazing, almost trippy.

Special place to stay?

Cesca restaurant in New York, Trastevere in Rome, the little cove at Capo Testa in Sardinia, Ubud on Bali, the back lanes of Melbourne

Three items you always pack?

iPhone and charger. That's all you need.

Passport stamp you're proudest of?

Passports? We don' need no steenkin' passports!

Guilty travel pleasure?

My guiltiest travel pleasure is spending too much on food. Way too much.

Window or aisle?

Aisle. For tripping little munchkins as they run past.

Who is your ideal travelling companion?

My wife.

Best meal on the road? Worst?

My best meal ever was at a nameless restraurant in Rome. Just the front room of a family home, really. No menu. You just ate what they served. My head still spins at the thought of it.

Worst? A dried out dog turd of a sausage roll, Surfers Paradise, Qld, 1983. Spent my last dollar on it, too.

Most surprising place? Most disappointing?

I was surprised by how comfortable I felt in Rome when I first arrived there, especially feeling so out of place and disappointed by London.

Where do you NOT want to go?

I could skip North Korea.

Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?

I get bored sitting still. Part of why I chose to write was knowing it would take me wherever I wanted to go. Like onto the deck of small Navy patrol boat in Bass Strait during a foul winter storm. Perfect. I was also inspired by hearing of Hunter S. Thompson, drug addled and cursing, shambling through the fall of Saigon in 1975.

What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?

I don't take music. It cuts you off from the world.

What do you read?

If there is a good local history I'll always take that over an airport novel, even though I write airport novels.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?

No, most people have hewed close to the mean, neither villains nor saints.

What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?

'No' and 'yes' are about all you need. Just don't mix 'em up.

What is your worst habit as a traveller?

I promise to update my blogs, and rarely do.

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

Stories, of course. Probably about snow zombies.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?

Before I became a parent, when I could travel unencumbered by responsibility, that was the very heaven.

What smell most says 'travel' to you?

Fried chilli and garlic.

Given a choice, which era would you travel in?

Why now, of course. Or perhaps even a little further into the future, to see if we make it.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?

New York, Rome, Hobart.

Angels of VengeanceJohn Birmingham's latest book, Angels of Vengeance, is out now. A selection of his finest are available on Amazon now.

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