Meet Mik ScarletBy Mik Scarlet -
Before we get into travel paradise, can you tell the readers a bit about yourself?
I’m a broadcaster and journalist, and I run a small access consultancy and equality training company. I started work in the media in the late 1980’s, and was one of the first disabled people to become high profile in the industry. I started when I was 24 in Youth TV but soon moved to kids TV. In 1992 a TV show I fronted called Beat That won an Emmy, and I was voted Children’s TV Presenter of the Year, which was amazing. I then worked in more serious TV, reporting for various magazine shows, including a 10 role as lead reporter for the BBC 2 disability magazine show From The Edge. It was working there that I got the travel bug, as I used to regularly film travel items for them. I also reported for the BBC on their prime time travel shows, mostly about travelling when you are disabled. In 1999 I was involved in a major car accident, which led me to have to retire from TV for about 10 years. I know still do TV, appearing on shows like The Wright Stuff and Sky News as a columnist and on This Morning and Good Morning Britain as a reporter or doling out advice. I’m also a freelance reporter for C5 News. Alongside the media luvvie stuff, my consultancy and training work is focused around customer service and I work with Network Rail in their work to be a more inclusive company. I’m really proud of this part of my work, as I’ve seen the change in the rail industry in the last 10 years. It used to be a case of if you used a wheelchair you were put in the guard’s van with the post, freezing in winter, and always away from the people you were travelling with. That was if they would put you on the train at all. Now you should be able to travel alone, without too much trouble. Sure I hear horror stories still, but compared to what it was like in my youth it’s amazing. I now use trains all the time, and am about to travel by train to Barcelona for the first time this Autumn.
What 3 words would you use to describe travel and what it means to you?
Love, hate, excitement.
If you were a country what country would you be and why?
Spain. Hot, exciting, a little down on my luck but with a big heart and a love of life.
What is your favourite bar/restaurant?
My local Italian, GoodFayre/Al Parco on Parkway in Camden. My wife Diane and I go there all the time, both to eat and to grab a coffee and cake to watch the world go by. It’s great food, great service and well reasonable. (I would say cheap but that sounds wrong, the food is too good to be described as cheap). Bar wise, I’m showing my age as I used to be in bars and clubs every night but now I rarely go out drinking. Oh, I feel old….
Where did you eat your fave sandwich?
Fave sandwich? Not really a sandwich kind of guy really. But one of the best meals ever was in Govindas, Plaça de la Vila de Madrid, in Barcelona. It’s a vegan Indian restaurant that serves the most gorgeous food ever. Every time we go we look forward visiting for weeks. We tend to do our first night
Where have you been that genuinely took your breath away?
Watching the La Merci Festival fireworks from the balcony of the Museum of the History of Catalonia in Port Vell, Barcelona, with my wife by my side and a cocktail in hand. I felt very much like I was in a Duran Duran video. I was also stunned by seeing New York from a helicopter many years ago. A combination of seeing such iconic city as if you were watching the start of some TV cop show and being so stupidly high up. We had to stay above the Hudson due to rules over flying over NYC, so not only were we high up but above water. Shudder. Two of my greatest fears in one fun experience. Things I did for TV!
What one piece of advice would you give for accessible travellers?
Prepare for the worst, but also the best. I’ve had so so many disasters when travelling, from wheelchairs being broken to having my leg broken while trying to get to the toilet while at 30,000 feet on an flight, let alone the number of “accessible” hotel rooms that turned out to be anything but yet I’ve also had some amazing experiences. I find travel an awful combination of terror and excitement. So to counter my fears I travel with every eventuality in mind. Puncture repair kits, tool kits, every pill and potion known to man, the list is endless. My wife has slowly got me to be less obsessed with being prepared, but I’m still a boy scout when it comes to travel. Most times none of it is needed but it’s that one time when something is that makes me carry on.
What's your funniest travel moment?
I used to wear huge motor bike boots with all wires and studs all over them. Once at airport security I was stopped by a security guard who was very worried that my boots might be some kind of bomb. I think it was somewhere in Spain, and he spoke little English I little Spainish so it started to get a little tense. Until another guard came over, with a huge smile on his face shouting “Haha, Mad Max yes?” Laughter ensued and I was not shot or strip searched but I never wore my boots to fly again.
Where have you been where you felt most at home, away from home?
Barcelona, Barcelona, Barcelona. I LOVE Barcelona. It’s the most accessible welcoming inclusive place I’ve ever been. Sure I visited some that are more accessible but they just don’t have that warm welcome that you get from the people of Barcelona. My wife and I go there as often as we can, and would love to live there. Maybe in our retirement eh?
Where have you visited that you could see yourself living?
See above… Barcelona…. ;)
What life advice would you have given yourself five years ago?
You’re not that old. I look back on a few opportunities that I turned down because I felt that by the time they came off I’d be too old to enjoy, only to hit the age I am now and realise that you are never too old. I might get it tattooed on my arm so I can see it every time I think I’m getting old. It’s one of the annoying things about my impairment. My parents were I wouldn’t live past 5 years old, which I obviously did, but when I was 15 I was seriously ill again and was told again I was dying. For some reason I became obsessed with the idea I’d be dead by the age of 30 and lived each day like it was last. I partied far too hard and didn’t chase many of the work offers I had as they got in the way of my fun.
Which book would you recommend to take travelling?
I gave up on books ages ago, and now take my Kindle everywhere. I would say the travel books by my best mate at school Alistair McGuinness are superb. He’s explored a once in life time trip to Australia and then emigrating there, which made me want to go despite the fact I find the idea of a flight that takes that long terrifying. He’s had two books in his Half A World Away series out on Amazon and another on a cycle trip across the UK called End To End. It’s not just because he’s a mate, they are really well written and funny too.
Other wise my Kindle is filled with sci-fi, horror and murder mystery, as my wife is a huge fan of who dunnits.
Would you rather go into space or explore the depths of the ocean?
Space, space, space. From my earliest memory I wanted to be an astronaut. In fact I was sure that would be my career as an adult, as I wore a steel caliper (leg brace) on my right leg and to my childish mind this meant I would be better in low gravity. Even today, if I could I’d happily go into space on a voyage of discovery Star Trek style.
What's the craziest activity you did abroad?
Going on the cable car in Barcelona was pretty crazy as I hate heights. I was fine one minute and then it hit me, I was very very high. I was not a happy bunny and it took me ages to recover from than. But the craziest thing my wife and I did (steady there) was while in Ibiza. We laid in the sea on lilos soaking up the sun, relaxing and enjoying the sea lapping around us. Suddenly my wife realised we had been taken out to sea by the tide and we were now miles from shore. I could just see my wheelchair as a spot on the beach. There were huge ships looming into view and terrified we tried to swim back. My poor wife just couldn’t do it, so she held on to my lilo and I swam us both back to dry land. I won many brownie points that day. Comes in handy being married to a wheelchair user then, as my big arms made sure we didn’t end up on the news as a cautionary tale.