I am Simon Cole, a British writer in the ultra-competitive field of freelance travel & fitness writing. I have an eye on a book one day, perhaps.

Of course the journey is the destination – my travels are their own reward – and I’ve contributed to a London guide book and a Berlin anthology.

An international educational tour guide, in 2012 I started my own tours (as featured in this Guardian feature) where I live, here in London’s Hackney (www.hackneytours.com). Why Hackney? It’s the nearest I found to the vibes of Berlin and San Francisco. If I hadn’t found Hackney, I’d have moved to East Berlin.

I’ve spent at least five years of my life on and off the road, in some 30 or so countries. I did the 9-5 for a while in the UK, but I have worked on three continents, from leading divers to cleaning toilets and sanding floors.

Profoundly curious, I never tire of exploring and trying new things. Just when you think you’re finally getting a handle on the world there’s something new to shake your latest paradigm.

In this respect, travel and books perform the same function. We can travel without ever leaving our armchair, though real people challenge us more than texts, and making our way in the world takes us out of our comfort zone.

In 2009 I crewed a London Routemaster bus in the Nevada Desert at Burning Man and visited a refugee camp in Bosnia. I took part in a historic run along the former East German border and met Leipzig locals who laid the groundwork for the Wall’s famous opening in Berlin on 9th November 1989.

And I was in Berlin 9th November 2009 for the official ’20th anniversary of the Wall fall’ celebrations; to watch Gorbachev walk over the same bridge as that first wave of wide-eyed exuberant East Berliners, and to join the countdown as Lech Walesa toppled 1,000 painted dominoes. I saw Jay-Z rap with U2 in a genre-defying gig under the Brandenburg Gate; Europe and America collaborating where East and West had once clashed.

That same year, I was the only Briton to run the length of the internal German border (Innerdeutsche Grenze) with a mixed team of ‘East’ and ‘West’ Germans, led by the visionary Stefan Esser. We ran from the bottom to the top of Germany following the course of the original (pre-Berlin) Wall. We have another – even bigger project – for 2014.

But “The more you see, the less you know” (q.v. that man Bono again); there is always so much more to be learned. Another city to get a feel for, another language to experiment with or another soul to make a connection with. Or maybe even just a different perspective to be considered on something we thought we had nailed years ago. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the past is constantly evolving. As is the future.

If you think you know it all, you’ve already closed the door; I hope I never reach that stage. If I ever do lose my sense of wonder, I’ll throw in the microfibre travel towel, retiring to that cave of my convictions that F. Scott Fitzgerald said older people hide in.

But for now, there’s a big wide world out there, and some incredible people with some amazing stories. Let’s go take a look?

Simon Cole

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”
– St. Augustine

All material © Bookpacking 2010


  1. Very informative, Simon. Like it.

  2. It is good to read about other peoples experiences. Very few people have a view of the world like you do and it is a shame. I do hope you never lose this ‘passion’ that you have because there is a never ending supply of life and events out there that need to be known.

    • Thank you, I hope so too. I just came back from a short ferry trip to Rotterdam – which sounds fairly mundane – but I was filled with a sense of wonder at the sheer scale of Rotterdam’s Europoort. And I got to hang out with Dutch, Czechs and Romanians too. So much still to be experienced and learned!

  3. Definitely still an experience. I just got back from a trip to the nation’s capital, where I sat in on a parliamentary committee meeting regarding our countries space program. It was absolutely shocking to see how well the space programs have been getting along internationally to do some important research and studies. I got to meet one of my heroes, astronaut Robert Thirsk, along with Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean, Koichi Wakataa (Japanese astronaut) and Frank De Winne (European Astronaut). It was really encouraging to see it firsthand. Ottawa this time of year is also beautiful with all the tulips from the Netherlands! It was a wonderful trip. So a Ferry trip to Rotterdam doesn’t sound Mundane at all. Adventures are to be found anywhere!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: