Meera Dattani is a freelance journalist, editor and copywriter with bylines in BBC Travel, Lonely Planet, Telegraph, Wanderlust, Travel Weekly and LoveExploring. She’s also an editor at online travel magazine Adventure.com which she helped launch in 2017, and co-author of The Rough Guide to Cambodia.
As Chair of the British Guild of Travel Writers, she helps organise events, training and networking for the UK’s leading travel media organisation, and often chairs panels and debates. With an interest in heritage tourism and travel/food writing around diaspora communities, including her own Indian-Ugandan-British background, she’s also involved in a project marking 50 years since the 1972 Ugandan Asian expulsion.
What does a journey mean to you?
There’s nothing better than a journey where I know I’m reconnecting or reuniting with family or an old friend at the other end. But a journey also means getting outside of my head, my bubble, and feeling small, but in a good way – that there’s more to the world than my world.
How has travel shaped you?
Immeasurably. I feel incredibly lucky that I can travel so much and it’s a reminder of that luck. It’s made me a more curious person but also restless and prone to FOMO. I want to live everywhere and have a thousand different lives!
Which country or location most inspires you?
Italy. It’s a reminder of my first travels, of learning Italian as a 13-year-old and visiting not long after, and becoming besotted with the language, the food, the art, (the boys!), the culture, and, in time, the wine. When I think of Italy, I think of all the good stuff of life: a bowl of pasta arrabiata, a glass of wine in the sun, great conversation and big hand movements, incredible scenery, and it makes me so happy.
Where would you go back to and why?
The South Pacific. I can’t quite describe it but there was something in the air when I was in French Polynesia. If I close my eyes, I can smell the tiare flower that everyone wore in their hair, I can hear the ukulele playing and the local songs we heard, I can taste the poisson cru/ceviche. Everything seemed heightened there and I felt I was travelling in Technicolour with all the shrubs and flowers, the blue of the sea, the greens of the volcanic islands. It took 30 hours to get to Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, and even longer to sail to the Marquesas Islands (on a hybrid cargo-passenger ship), but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Top insider tip for London?
The river is lovely but don’t forget about the canals. I love walking along Regents Canal, which runs east-west in Morth London. It’s a great way to get to know the city, whether it’s around Islington or Little Venice. You always find little cafes and pubs on the way and get chatting to some of the boat owners. Just a different way to move around and experience London life.
What journey would you most like to go on?
If I had a travel time machine, I’d love to replicate both my grandfathers’ journeys by boat from Gujarat, northeast India, to Uganda, east Africa, in the 1930s/40s. But if being realistic, I’d love to sail around the Galapagos, but also stay on the different islands and experience everyday life. I know the Galapagos is on so many people’s lists, but a few weeks of wildlife, local culture and being by the sea is the ultimate dream right now.