FEATURE

KARL PILKINGTON: THE RELUCTANT WORLD TRAVELLER
BY RACHEL HAWKES
For most people, getting paid to see the seven wonders of the world and live out a bucket list would be a dream come true. Not so if your name is Karl Pilkington. The 39 year old from Manchester is the sidekick and often comedic inspiration of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (co-writers of The Office and Extras). The pair met Karl when he was appointed to produce their Saturday radio show on XFM. During his childhood Karl spent much of the school year caravanning in Wales with his parents whilst holidays as an adult meant package trips spent saving insects by the pool and bemoaning the whole experience. He is infinitely more experienced now, with two travel shows for Sky One behind him. An Idiot Abroad saw Karl visiting the new seven wonders of the world, travelling to eight countries including Mexico, Brazil, China and Egypt with more than a few surprises thrown in by Ricky and Steve. Karl hated pretty much every minute of it, and swore he wouldn’t sign up for a second series. However, Ricky and Steve twisted his arm. ‘They told me I would get paid a bit more and that I would get to do the things I wanted to do.’ Those that tuned in to An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List last November saw that yet again Karl’s limits were stretched and he was put into extreme situations, most often against his will. ‘Well, one out of two isn’t bad is it? I also have bills to pay. Why does David Attenborough mess about with dangerous frogs in the jungle at his age? Same reason.’ During An Idiot Abroad 2, Karl touched down in 11 countries including Australia, Japan, Russia, Vanuatu and Uganda. He has famously said in the past that he doesn’t like fun, so saying that he enjoyed doing the second series would be a stretch, however he did like it better than the first. Karl says, ‘I did get to see a few things that were good experiences. Africa was my favourite, as I like seeing animals. I go to London Zoo quite a bit, but always end up feeling a bit sad for the animals, apart from the sloth they've got. Every time I've been it’s always asleep, I reckon you could hang it in a wardrobe and it would be happy.’ Africa was also Karl’s favourite country because of a rather unique encounter he had after deciding to throw away Ricky and Steve’s itinerary for an afternoon: ‘I visited a couple that had a hippo as a pet. It got out from the river and made its way up to their house and let itself in and sat in their front room watching telly. Best way to see wild animals is in someone’s front room. No trekking, no messing about. Cup of tea, sat on a sofa with a hippo at your feet. Didn’t make that much of a mess either. That’s the good thing about having a hippo as a pet, no hairs on the sofa.’

KARL PILKINGTON

His worst? Japan (with Russia coming in a close second). ‘I’m not a fan of eating fish and it’s difficult to avoid it over there as they eat so much of it. Every plate I was brought looked like a scene from Finding Nemo.’ The food wasn’t the only thing Karl struggled with in Japan. Sitting on the floor was also a trial, although while he was there he invented a solution: a pair of trousers with blow-up pouches sewn in – the Pilko Pump Pants. Karl himself doesn’t like recommending places and things to people (rather unusual for the star of a travel show). He feels that the best experiences are those that you aren’t expecting. ‘Ricky took me to a pub once that he said did amazing pies. I went along and had a pie, it was okay but I enjoyed the pudding more ‘cause I wasn't expecting a pudding.’ Ever the reluctant traveller, there’s nowhere else in the world that Karl would like to see and experience. ‘I'm really happy at home, that's what is weird. I've been all over the shop yet I've never been to Newcastle or Ireland. You never visit places on your doorstep. An example of this was an Italian cafe in London that I used to go to, when I moved into a flat above it I stopped going. Never has the doorstep saying been so apt.’ In fact, having low expectations whilst travelling is one of Karl’s top 5 travel tips. ‘When I picked spending a night on a desert island on my bucket list I was picturing an amazing Bounty advert experience. In reality, I was cutting my feet on shells, avoiding sea snakes and getting wet through in the heavy rain. I thought I’d be writing messages in a bottle, but if I had done that someone would have come out of nowhere and done me for fly tipping.’ So, is there a possibility we may be watching An Idiot Abroad 3 in the near future? Unlikely, if you ask Karl. ‘I've had enough, I've been away from home that much I'm losing my accent.’

Karl’s top 5 travel Tips
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Don't expect places to be how you imagine Make sure you have headache tablets Pack your own toilet rolls Take packets of crisps Pilko Pump Pants are a must-have

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BLUE ISLANDS' INFLIGHT MAGAZINE

ISSUE 26

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