Interview with Dorothy Conlon

Continuing with this week’s theme we have an exclusive interview with author Dorothy Conlon. Dorothy Conlon is nothing short of inspirational, “a born traveller” she has explored a host of countries and has consequently written her very own travel book titled “At home in the World”. Here we have some interesting insights on her views on travel. I am sure you will enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed interviewing her.

Frontier: You have signed up for our Cook Islands Project – what appeals to you about this particular project?

Dorothy: Well first of all, because it is to a place that I haven’t been to before and I really like the home-stay aspect of it. I will be leaving from Tahiti shortly for a cruise around the surrounding area including the Marquesas Islands, so I wanted to volunteer in the same general region. It was really hard to find a project but this one just sounded wonderful.

Frontier: Your life has been filled with interesting travels across the globe. Do you have a favourite place that you have visited?

Dorothy: I am always asked that so I have learned to answer, wherever I am at the moment! My favourite places change. I went to Vietnam a few times because I was so smitten with it, but I think my all time favourite would be India as we lived there the longest, so I do keep going back. It’s sort of a tie among various different places, wherever I am is my favourite.

Frontier: Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you would like to visit?

Dorothy: Of course! You name it, Mongolia, New Guinea, Ethiopia, Crete, Madagascar… I would love to do the Trans-Siberian railway cross; I have never been to Russia.

Frontier: What is your view on gap years and people volunteering abroad?

Dorothy: I think it is the most wonderful development in recent years. You people in England are ahead of us, but even here I know some top-notch universities that do not issue a degree to students without them spending a semester abroad. My mantra is no tourist sees a country like a volunteer does. Volunteering at a young age will alter your world view for the rest of your life; it’s about experiencing the place rather than looking at it through a tour bus window.

Frontier: Are you planning a follow up to your first book ‘At Home in the World’?

Dorothy: Oh I am so glad you asked me that. Yes, Born with Wings is about 75 per cent finished, at least in draft from. It is more autobiographical than the one I did before, and I am not telling many people this but after that will come Seeing the World through a Volunteers Eyes. I have done many travel articles (that have not been printed) on volunteering in different countries because I have had all these experiences, so it will not take a lot of work to expand upon each of these in a book with stand-alone chapters focusing on one particular experience. Of course the Cook Islands will be one of them.

Frontier: This week’s theme on our blog is travel writing, what is your favourite travel book and why?

Dorothy: I am afraid I am going to have to weasel out of the wording of this question. I have favourite travel authors but not one particular book. I really adore the stories of Victorian women, like Gertrude Bell, Isabella Bird, Mary Kingsley, Freya Stark… I just can’t imagine that in that day and age they had to dress the way they did, and yet they went to all these wild and remote places and had these adventures that were unheard of from that period. I just think we complain about problems with air travel now, but oh boy they had it really bad back then. As for contemporary authors I like Paul Theroux; Michael Crichton who wrote Travels and an Australian woman called Robyn Davidson who wrote Tracks.

Frontier: What advice would you give aspiring travellers wanting to go out on a gap year?

Dorothy:  Expect the unexpected; and go with an open mind, an open heart and realise that you are not only seeing new things there, but at home when you get back with new eyes.

Frontier: We like to give all our future volunteers some advice on what to pack on a gap year trip.  What one thing do you always take on your travels that you wouldn’t leave home without?

Dorothy: [laughing] I am going to have to weasel out of this too I can’t put it down to one. Ok well my journal, my camera and a torch.

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