What was your greatest holiday?

It was a working holiday - I was awarded a scholarship to attend the Attingham Summer School in England and to make the most of this trip I started in Venice; I still remember seeing the city floating on top of the water. It's like a mirage - my brain couldn't comprehend what I was seeing. Everything was old and beautiful, and people just live without being precious, the history of the city is part of everyday life. I met up with friends and we bumped our way around the Biennale. What topped it off is that I met a Venetian-New Zealander who took me down secret alleys to hidden restaurants, basking in that deep golden light. From here I went to England, to stay in a beautiful old house, West Dean, formally owned by surrealist art patron Edward James. The house was full of medieval art, lip couches and a lobster telephone! I spent the next three weeks travelling with 40 curators from around the globe to numerous stately homes around the English countryside. Then I went to see one of my best friends in Los Angeles. We spent days visiting modern and post-modern architecture and museums. On my last morning in LA, I had Mexican food for breakfast and then spent the afternoon lying inside a James Turrell capsule - perfection.

And the worst?
The worst part of a holiday is being in transit. Airports are strange places, some sort of purgatory, where you can't leave, can't go outside, and you have to eat whatever food is available. It's a test of endurance. I have a vivid memory where I was in the Amsterdam airport of running as fast as I could trying to make a connecting flight, in an impossibly short amount of time. As I was rounding the bend to my counter, a guard was pulling the gate shut. Pleading, I was just let through.

If we bump into you on holiday, what are you most likely to be doing?
You will probably see me looking at a small detail of something. I am a keen observer of textures, and details. On the beach, I will be sorting a small pile of rocks and shells into various taxonomies; or in a museum I will be looking at sculpture plinths or watching the light.

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If we could teleport you to one place in New Zealand for a holiday, where would it be?
I'm imagining it now. I'm sitting in a wild bay, which is covered in pebbles and driftwood, with the sun beating down. I wouldn't need much, just a small picnic basket and a warm jacket. I have never been to Fiordland National Park and I'm sure I could find a bay like this in there.

How about for a dream holiday internationally?
A number of friends have been to Japan recently, I would really like to go there too. I would go and visit ancient gardens as well as explore the city. My idea of a dream holiday is just to go wandering and look at things, eat food where you find it and not to worry about having to do everything on my list.

Complete this sentence: I can't travel without...
A comfy pair of shoes (or two).

What's the best travel tip you've ever been given?
Pack less than you think you'll need.

What was the most memorable meal you've had while travelling?
Eating the largest steak I have ever seen with piles of salad and many glasses of red wine with great friends on the edge of a canal in Venice. It was the middle of summer, at the end of the day, all the elements combined for a perfect evening.

What's the best thing you've brought back from a trip?
I'm a bit of a rock collector, so I always bring back a pebble or two. It's always lovely picking up a rock and finding memories flooding back in.

What's the next trip you've got planned?
It's a local one. I'm heading down to Rotorua with my wife and 5-year-old son to look at the steam and boiling mud, and soak in a hot pool or two.

Finn McCahon Jones appears at the Going West Books and Writers Festival from Friday to Sunday. McCahon Jones - who co-wrote Fingers: Jewellery for Aotearoa New Zealand with Damian Skinner - speaks in the Vintage to Vanguard session with Elly van de Wijdeven chaired by Anna Miles talking about New Zealand jewellery. goingwestfest.co.nz

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