Travelling with Claudia Karvan

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Feb 22, 2017

by JESSICA IRVINE, Associate Editor

A beer on the beach, satay sticks by the roadside and a room without a view – the Australian actor’s travel needs are strictly low-maintenance.

Where did you go on your last trip?

The Galápagos Islands. It was life-changing. It’s a very optimistic area to visit because you can’t quite comprehend that a place so pristine and so protected exists on our planet. It makes you feel proud of humanity, that we’ve protected it so well. And the type of traveller who goes there is really interesting because it’s one of those bucket-list destinations. It’s not for the party traveller. There’s no grand museum to visit or fancy restaurants to eat in or nightclubs to go to. It’s very educational, very reflective.

Who did you go with?

My son. I’d had lunch with Andrew Denton and I hang off any word that comes out of his mouth. He’d said the Galápagos Islands was the most inspirational place he had travelled to so my ears pricked up. Then about a week later, my son came home from school and said, “Mum, have you heard of the Galápagos Islands?” They were studying them in class. So I said, “I’ll make a deal with you. I heard about them when I was in fourth grade and I still haven’t been. We’ll go before the year is out.” And we eventually did. It had a great impact on him.

What do you like to find in your minibar?

A thirst-quenching beer. A local beer is always good to sample but, if not, I’d probably go for a Corona.

When you walk into a hotel room, what’s the first thing you look for?

How to darken the room. One of my favourites is at Tolarno Hotel [tolarnohotel.com.au] in Melbourne. It’s a lower-floor room – very quiet and dark. I sleep so well there. I’m not hung up on views, clearly.

Where is your home away from home?

Bali. My stepfather has lived there for more than 15 years. I lived there for a year when I was a child and my daughter went to school there for a year so I have long-lasting links to Bali and Balinese culture.

Is there a city you could have given a miss? 

That’s a very mean question [laughs]. My first thought is that you take yourself with you wherever you go. There have been cities that maybe I haven’t enjoyed because of my own state of mind at the time. I always find Los Angeles a hard city to adjust to. I get the sense that the city was built for cars, not people, and I find it a little destabilising. I’m happy to travel on my own – I rarely get lonely. But I’ve never felt lonelier than when I’ve been in LA.

What was your typical childhood holiday?

Caravan parks by the beach. Freedom. Riding bicycles, getting sunburnt, buying mixed lollies from the corner shop, hanging with friends and playing Trivial Pursuit. 

Where would you most like to take your kids?

I’ve never been to Japan and I’d love to go skiing there with my children [Audrey, 15, and Albee, 10]. And Venice, to see the canals. It’s such an unusual setting for a city; it blows your mind.

Have you done a lot of travel with them?

I’ve travelled with them a bit but more locally, to Bali and New Zealand. I haven’t done many of the long-haul trips. We’ve been to the United States and we’re about to go to Sri Lanka for the first time then to Puducherry [in south-eastern India] to stay at a friend’s commune – an Australian commune that’s been running since the ’60s – then to Bangkok for my brother’s wedding. So there’s some travel on the cards. 

Do you wander the streets or check maps?

I’ve changed. I used to be a really irritating traveller in that I had lists and schedules – I didn’t want to waste a second and I could get quite tense [laughs]. As I get older, I’m the opposite. I go with the flow. I roam, wander, cruise around, get on public transport and see what pops up.

Which destination was a surprise to you? 

Port Hedland [in Western Australia’s Pilbara region]. I found it mesmerising. The desert and the landscape had a really magnetic quality and beauty.

Have you ever gone completely off the grid?

On most weekends, I go to the bush, where there’s no internet. And I once went to a little beach, Than Sadet, on Ko Pha-Ngan, near Ko Samui [in Thailand]. No electricity, no phones, no banks. At one stage, we didn’t know how we were going to get off the island and back to the airport. It was brilliant. We swam, did yoga and read. We dropped out.

Have you ever been fleeced?

If ever I am ripped off, I always feel like it was deserved and I admire whoever ripped me off. It’s a part of travelling.

What are your most memorable dining experiences?

Having ceviche every day and a beer on the beach on Isabela Island in the Galápagos was pretty unforgettable. And drinking a Coco Loco, which is fresh coconut with rum in it. Also, the warungs [small eateries] in Bali, where babi guling [roast suckling pig] or satay sticks are cooked by the side of the road. It’s got a lot of life in it, that food.

Where would you like to return to?

South America. I went there for the first time in 2015 and it captured my imagination. When I was growing up, I wasn’t really drawn to that continent because I was vegetarian and I considered them to be big meat eaters – I travel by my stomach. And it always seemed a bit dangerous. But now I find it really intriguing. 

You travel by your stomach?

I go to places where I love the food. There are places that are struck off because they don’t entice my tastebuds. That’s all you do when you travel: “What are we having for breakfast, where are we going for lunch, what are we eating for dinner?” 

What’s one standout piece you’ve brought home from your travels?

Once, I went into Harrods in London and bought a Gucci handbag, which was incredibly out of character [laughs]. I was with my daughter. It was like living some other, parallel life, like Absolutely Fabulous.

Resort or rustic?

Rustic. I appreciate that the resort approach is about escapism but I like the earthiness and no fuss of a rustic destination. 

If you could be anywhere else in the world right now, where would you be?

Exactly where I am, in the ABC studios, waiting to go on set to film a scene. 

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