Julian Hanton: A life in Travel

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He fought in the mud with a double sized Mexican wrestler, he was shot in California, he has been found in the same room with a cannibal in Varanasi, India, while he has been food poisoned in various parts of the world. Julian Hanton’s travels, a presenter in  the Travel Channel, are not conventional.

We have met at Hilton Park. Julian is in Cyprus these days on the occasion of  his third broadcast for the Travel Channel, titled “The Third Class Traveller”.

A small body built guy with red hair and strong, smart look was  waiting for me in the lobby. We sat on the sofa and we ordered frappe. “Since I am in your country, let’s keep the custom of drinking frappe. As I can see, everyone here drinks it “, he says as he shows me pictures of his adventures in Cyprus. I met him by chance on his way to Paphos, where ‘he will rest at last’ as he says. On the previous days, he found himself at Papadopoulou Mansion where he was trained in “Silver Service” (a method of serving food at the table) while the sommelier of the mansion taught him to serve wine in the right way.

Then, he was present at a wedding at the Hilton Park Hotel where, after having met the newly weds and their guests and having attended the wedding ceremony, he created a “Wedding Story” that was the centre of his releasing in Cyprus. After that he went to Ayia Napa, had a stroll in Nicosia, found himself as a guest at a traditional Sunday lunch with “souvla”, tasted the food at “Piatakia” restaurant  in Limassol, saw how the wine is made at Omodos and, finally, he had some painting lessons at Lania  (he proudly shows me a painting he painted on his i phone).  All of the above as a part of his broadcast release.

This is what makes the Newzealander Julian Hanton’s shows to be unique. Instead of just visiting the sights of a country and tasting the food, he “tries” challenges. As he says “everybody wants to see a guy doing things they wouldn’t dare to try.”

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Everything started very early in his life. Julian began travelling from the age of three. After he had graduated from the university, where he studied anthropology, he decided to continue travelling, but in a different way. With his production company in London, they released some episodes where he was travelling in different parts of the world and then, two years later, he presented them at the Travel Channel. The people at the channel were enthusiastic with the relaxed and comfortable style of his presentation and gave him permission to go on. That was the beginning of a major career on TV. Up to now, three series have been included in his CV.

In the first one, titled “the Global Odyssey of Julian and Camilla”, travelled around the world from 2003 until 2009, with his girlfriend Camilla as a co presenter.

In the second series titled “Indian Times”, he visited India 13 times. Why India, I ask. “I love it. It is a magical place. My favorite parts are Rajasthan and areas up in the Himalayas. I would like to go to Kashmir. We made an attempt for some shooting in the last cycle, but the political situation didn’t allow us to do so “.

In India, however, he had a compelling experience. “In Darjeeling, I had seen the murder of a political leader very closely. I was outside the hotel when he was killed a few meters away from me. I was shocked. We didn’t know how things were and how the city would react. It was very dangerous. ”

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“On the other hand”, he admits “ when we were shooting we gave a priority to do things we wanted to do  putting aside our personal safety”.

Before they start shooting, he and his team do a thorough investigation. They communicate with locals, find the main ideas and give particular importance to everything. On the way, they may change a lot. “If we find something interesting, then we follow it. For example, we happened to follow a formula in India just to see where we might end. This makes our broadcast seem real too. Many TV crews wouldn’t have done that. We just simply think “where we will be led.” Sometimes these spontaneous actions may lead us to good stories that end up to become whole episodes.”

However, I wonder if all those spontaneous things he does have a cost. “Of course ! For example, I got sick seriously in Istanbul, when I ate street food, containing guts , ” he says, laughing.

Moreover, he believes that this is a characteristic of a good traveler who is always willing to change his plans. In this way, he learns about the culture. A tourist will meet the person who serves coffee or beer. A traveller gets to know ordinary people. People make the country. The impression you get is your interaction with locals. Therefore, you may have two different impressions of a country, depending on the people you know. This is the “fate of the traveller”.

He notes that the first idea he had about a lot of nations had to do with stereotypes. When he went to Krakow, he expected that the Poles would be gloomy but he was pleasantly surprised when he experienced passionate people. Similarly, he would like to return to Ukraine where he waited to find a grey communist country, but he saw something beautiful. On the other hand, he was sure that Germans were people that follow law very strictly and did not make mistakes.

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Julian has visited over ninety countries, many of them more than once and he would be very pleased if he managed to visit a hundred. He wants to return to Panama, Colombia, and Argentina while, the next country that he would like to visit and do a shooting there, is Russia and the province of it.

As time goes by and he recounts scenes from his travels, I wonder if he was bored to be away from his base, London, for so many years.  He really was. If he did a ‘fast forward’ five years from now, he would like to be in London with a family. He would like to do shows and projects with his company once a year, and travel only about one month a year. This, however, is in his future plans.

Currently, he travels around in seven months out of twelve. For the time being, he travels by releasing his third series titled “The Third Class Passenger”. The aim of this series that has taken him to places like Copenhagen and Berlin is to test if he can survive in a country with only one hundred dollars. This can be succeeded by getting to know locals, the culture and staying in homes rather than in hotels. “Here in Cyprus, it was easy to live with this amount, people are very friendly, they didn’t let me pay for anything. I don’t ask for it but it depends on the culture of each nation. In some countries people have been so welcoming. In Bulgaria, for example. In Copenhagen…well… “.

In January, the release of his fourth series titled “American Times will start in the U.S. where he will get involved in new adventures.

Finishing our coffee, I’m asking him whether he would be a different man if wasn’t travelling. “I think so. Trips open your horizons. You get to know various people, religions and ideologies. If I was not travelling I might be more “closed”. I might want to be somewhere permanently now, but after a couple of months without travelling I miss it. Trips are addictive and I remain a traveller at heart “!

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I met Julian Hanton in September 2011. The interview was published in Taste  magazine in October 2011

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