Remember Nigel as Neil the hippie in the edgy 1980s BBC comedy The Young Ones? These days Nigel Planer is the author of several books and a travel writer for the Mail on Sunday (UK). He also loves to travel and WYZA® caught up with him in Myanmar.
- Why Myanmar is one of the hottest new travel destinations
- 7 international road trips you won't want to miss
- Your cheatsheet to the best airfares
Q. Have your travel interests changed as you’ve grown older?
Yes, I’ve gone right off weeks on a beach getting sand into a paperback book and down my shorts. I used to be into scuba and such like, but now I’m more interested in meeting people and knowing about cultural history.
Q. Has your way of travel changed over the years?
Well, everything is much more planned now. I don’t have to waste time hassling to get a train ticket at Delhi railway station, for instance. I will usually have most things pre-booked. When you’re young you think you’re being free – “let’s just go there!” – but in reality you’re just getting stressed.
Q. Best travel experience when you were young?
Most character-forming was an overland trip I took to India in 1973. I was 20 years old, foolish and broke. But it has really informed and transformed, if not my whole life since, then certainly my travelling interests.
Q. Best recent travel experience?
It’s a toss up between Cuba and Myanmar (Burma). It has been incredibly interesting to go to both this year. There are many similarities. Both countries are opening up now both politically and to tourism in a way that’s unprecedented and it’s a very exciting time to be there. Cuba wins on music, but Myanmar wins on food.
Watch this video of Nigel's amazing experiences in Catalunya
Q. Favourite place in Australia? Why?
Well, Sydneyites will hate me but it’s Melbourne. I’m a Londoner, we’re used to (bad) weather, grey faces, snidey comments and a lot of European delis. So Melbourne feels like home. I love it.
Q. Favourite place in the world?
Barcelona I suppose. I feel good there. The light, the history, the buildings, the food, and above all the Vermouth! I made a TV programme there last year called Catalunya Experience and found that they have all the Mediterranean lifestyle, plus their own individual culture.
Q. What are you looking forward to next?
I would love to return to Myanmar and see the rest of the country. But although I have been over eight times, there are still places in India that would be new to me. The old obsession will not go away.
Q. Pet peeve when travelling?
Having to take luggage at all. I hate carrying stuff. I wish I was John Lennon and could just buy new clothes wherever I go. The other main problem is the quandary about WiFi. On the one hand it is such a relief to go somewhere with no signal and find that you can’t get stressed, On the other hand you know, it’ll all be there waiting for you when you get back.
Nigel enjoys travel adventures with his wife, Roberta
Q. Top tip for those aged 50+ when travelling?
Do your homework first. If I’m allowed a second top tip: it’s not some mid-life sporting challenge – know your limits.
Q. Never leave home without?
My wife. I have tried travelling alone and it’s bloody miserable compared to her company.
Q. Now that I’m 50+ I’ll never. . .
It’s great being able to say ‘I’m too old to do X, or Y or Z’ when previously you had no intention of doing them anyway. (bungie jumping, sky diving, white-water rafting et al) No-one will say ‘oh go on, you big wuss’. The other day a young woman got up for me and offered her seat on the tube here in London. That’s a sign of something I think.
Q. Now that I’m 50+ my travel dream is. . .
My dream is and always has been, to find a way that I can spend more weeks of the year travelling. It is hard with work and family, (and funds!) to be away for any length of time. But in a future-perfect world I imagine missing the English winter altogether – a month in the Pacific, a few weeks in India, perhaps a few weeks writing in Northern Australia. It’s all a fantasy, but it gives great pleasure day-dreaming.
If you’d like to know more about Nigel and what he’s up to visit his website here. And that’s Dr Planer, by the way, he received an honorary Dr of Arts degree from Edinburgh Napier University in 2011. Neil played the hippy housemate in the cult 1980s British TV series The Young Ones.
Remember Nigel's hilarious character Neil from The Young Ones?
He has had a successful television and film career since then – appearing in Blackadder, French & Saunders amongst others as well as appearing in stage shows such as Evita, Chicago, We Will Rock You and Wicked. He is also the reader for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld audiobook series.
Nigel says he has fond memories of Australia – dating back to the days when he appeared with Molly Meldrum on Countdown with his hit version of Traffic’s 'Hole in My Shoe'.
What are your favourite memories of Nigel Planer on screen?