The Love It or List It Australia host and interior designer Neale Whitaker is longing 'to feel the buzz of an international airport again'
What do you miss most about travel right now?
The sense of anticipation and excitement that travel brings.
What are your strongest memories from the first overseas trip you ever took?
It was 1965, I was 3 years old and my parents and grandparents took a Mediterranean cruise aboard a ship called the SS Oriana. I can remember being terrified by the ship's huge yellow funnel that made loud noises and belched black smoke.
What was a standard family holiday like when growing up?
I grew up in England and there was really no standard family holiday. When we could afford it we might travel to Europe (always referred to as "the Continent") and I can remember holidays in Portugal, Germany and the Spanish island of Ibiza. But most often we went to Cornwall and those holidays are some of the happiest I can remember.
Who has most inspired your travels?
To be quite honest, I don't know! It's a mystery to me. There were no great travellers in my family but as a child I always had my nose in a travel book. While other kids were reading superheroes, I was devouring the Collins World Atlas.
What is the greatest trip you've ever been on?
The trip that has resonated most over the years is one that I took after graduating in the early 1980s. We travelled through Southeast Asia and India, taking in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Burma, as it was still known then. That was intrepid travel in those days – especially for two young English blokes – and I remember we had the first-ever edition of Lonely Planet's Southeast Asia on a Shoestring as a companion. Amazing memories that have lasted a lifetime.
And the worst?
My partner, David, and I arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on December 26 2004, just a few hours after the devastating tsunami struck. Bad flight connections in Singapore probably saved our lives. That particular trip was the worst – but also the luckiest – of our lives.
What's your approach to packing for a big trip?
Not an approach you would want to emulate! After a lifetime of experience, I'm still a chronic over-packer. There's always that extra couple of jackets and pair of shoes I might need if such and such opportunity presents itself. And of course, it never does. I'm getting better at editing – but only slightly.
What is the destination that most surprised you – good or bad?
Tokyo. I travelled there for the first time in 2016 and it blew my mind. I loved everything about it and can't wait to get back and explore more of a country that intrigues me. Helsinki, Finland, provided David and me with some memorable dining experiences. A very under-rated foodie city.
Where was your most memorable sunrise/sunset?
Bagan, Myanmar (sunset) and Angkor Wat, Cambodia (sunrise).
What's the first thing you do when you get home from a long trip?
Open my mail and put the washing machine on.
What do you miss most about home when you travel?
Our dogs, if I'm travelling with David. Our dogs and David, when I'm travelling alone.
Where is the one destination you must see in your lifetime?
At the moment Mexico is high on our list. It appeals on so many levels, from Frieda [Kahlo] and Diego [Riviera] to Grupo Habita's amazing hotel portfolio. But realistically, once Australia opens up again, top priority will be a visit to the UK to see family and friends.
What's your favourite thing about travel?
Travel takes you out of your comfort zone. It can challenge and confront but it's never less than rewarding. I always feel creative and energised when I travel and I long to feel the buzz of an international airport again.
The new season of Love It Or List It Australia airs Wednesdays at 8:30pm on Three