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A Chat with James Williams

SKYWATCH INTERVIEW

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A Chat with James Williams

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Ahead of his Auckland episode, CNN’S James Williams talks to SKYWATCH about his travel series, In 24 Hours, and shares his top travelling tips.

How did you get into travel television?
I studied law in Melbourne and realised it wasn’t for me. I wanted to find a job that would allow me to travel and do interesting things, so I joined CNN and weaselled my way into the department that focuses on travel. It’s a rare job and a privilege, so I’m really grateful to have this opportunity.
 
What is your favourite part of the job?
You’re doing something so extraordinary that you can’t believe anyone would let you do it, let alone pay you to do it. For example, racing a Ferrari around a Formula 1® race track at Monza in Milan, or watching a rocket take off with NASA staff.

What are the downsides of travelling so much?
The permeant exhaustion. No one will ever feel sorry for me, I realise that. But the permanent tiredness and being away from friends and family is tough. You miss important events and it can really wreak havoc with your social life.

How much time do you spend travelling?
I’m on the road 50% of the time. I live in New York, so spend half my time there and the other half travelling to new countries. It’s a great opportunity but it’s exhausting jumping around time zones. Recently I started one week in Africa, spent the middle of the week in the US, and by the end of the week I was in Australia. Sometime it’s just sheer madness.
 
Do you have any tips for quickly adapting to a new location?
Change your watch and mindset to the time zone of the place you are visiting as soon as you get on the plane. So if I board a flight at 5pm but it’s 9am in the city I am flying to, I change my watch to 9am and make myself stay up all day. It gives you a great head start on managing jet lag.

What is the first thing you do when you land in a new place?
I do a lot of research before I arrive in a new place. I always have a pretty clear plan of what I want to do, so I can hit the ground running. I really like reading good-quality travel magazines and travel blogs.

What do you do to relax in a new city?
One thing I love doing when I arrive in a city is an early morning walk, on your own, to get your bearings. It’s a great opportunity to take a moment to appreciate where you are. If you have flown in at some ridiculous hour and can’t sleep, go for a walk and experience the city as it wakes up.  
 
What kind of traveller are you when you travel for pleasure?
When I travel for pleasure I always travel with my mates. We tend to go to party-type places like Rio Carnival or festivals. It’s always an adventure.    
 
Where are your top places to visit and why?
I recently went to Marrakech in Morocco and absolutely loved it. There is such beauty in the desert. Melbourne will always be home for me and one of my favourite places. I’ve been gone for 10 years and I love going back and seeing the changes. And finally, Rio, one of the world’s great cities. There is nothing else like it and I would happily go there every year. The Brazilian people really enjoy life.

In 24 Hours focuses on high-end travelling. What is the most glamorous experience you’ve had while on the show?
One that instantly springs to mind is sitting in the front row of the Giorgio Armani Fashion Week Parade in Milan, and then going backstage and having Mr Armani show me around. It was one of those ‘pinch me’ moments.

What are your top tips for travellers who only have a day-long stopover in a new city?
Hire a private tour guide. You can do so much in a limited time with a well-informed tour guide. They can show you more in one day than you would see in a week on your own. It’s also something you can organise before you get there, so you won’t waste any time.   

What are some travel trends for 2017?
One thing we’re seeing, particularly with younger travellers, is ‘bleisure’ – the blending of business travel and leisure. Every time you have to go somewhere for work, add on an extra couple of days to do some sightseeing.     

Being from Australia, you probably know a reasonable amount about Auckland. Have you been before? And if so, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing when you come to film an episode?
I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never been to New Zealand before. I’ve always been aware of the incredible natural beauty so to experience it first hand is very exciting. A lot of things we are doing are outdoor activities. We’ll be bungee jumping, kayaking, horse-riding, and going for a helicopter ride. There will be lots of adventure and excitement. I can’t wait!

What makes Auckland a good pick for one of the locations on the show?
The combination of natural beauty, crazy outdoor activities, friendly people and a sophisticated dining scene make Auckland the perfect place for the show.

What can viewers at home take away from In 24 Hours?
Hopefully the show inspires viewers to see how much can be done in a really short time, to think outside the box, and try new adventures and new activities. You don’t just have to do the most popular thing on TripAdvisor. We want people to dream big, keep travelling and finding new adventures.