77. Dom Joly; Childhood in a Beirut Warzone, Pink Floyd in Syria, Dark Tourism and in Search of the Yeti - The Big Travel Podcast

Episode 77
September 25 , 2019

77. Dom Joly; Childhood in a Beirut Warzone, Pink Floyd in Syria, Dark Tourism and in Search of the Yeti

For comedian Dom Joly, travel is in the blood. Born in Beirut he had what in his recent book, The Hezbollah Hiking Club, he describes as a curiously paradoxical childhood between a posh Oxford boarding school and a warzone. He dreamt of being a foreign correspondent, for his first travel book investigated ‘dark tourism’ and the world’s most unlikely holiday destinations and travelled the globe in search of mythical monsters such as Bigfoot and the Yeti, notching up almost 100 countries in the process. Not one to do things in any conventional manner, for this episode Lisa gets a tour around Oxford in Dom Joly’s car.


On this episode we cover:


Travelling through Oxford

Emulating James Corden

Dom not looking like a Goth

Being a Goth in a hot country, melting by the beach

Wanting to make a documentary about Goths

Getting beaten up in Beirut because of wearing make up

The Civil War starting in Beirut

Being at the same school as Osama Bin Laden

Moving to the Dragon School in Oxford

Beirut being exciting and amazing and a warzone

His new book The Hezbollah Hiking Club being a love-letter to Lebanon

Periods where his family had to leave by boat

Being bombed at home and having to hide in the garden

Being half an hour from the beach and the ski zone

Never enjoying living anywhere else more

Loving the perceived danger of Lebanon (when he really just had a lovely holiday)

No-one writing anything good about Lebanon

The vastly different topographic landscape of Lebanon

People think Lebanon is desert but a lot looks like Switzerland

His family partly coming from Lausanne, Huguenots that ended up in London

The family moving to Turkey then Beirut

How Dom should do Who Do You Think You Are?

Finding a bullet hole ridden bus in the middle of beautiful countryside

Lebanon having a litter problem leaving bloody buses around the joint

Driving into the heart of Oxford City near the Sheldonian

Lisa doing travel news in Oxford

The contrast of living in Oxford and then going home to a warzone

Being at school with most of the Tory Cabinet, Radiohead and Tim Henman

Getting caned for showing off his collection of shrapnel

Writing a great ‘what I did in the holidays’

Syria being his favourite country on earth

Going to Syria to get away from the war – Damascus and Palmyra (with correct pronunciation)

One million Syrian refugees currently in Lebanon

Syrian refugee camps now all over Lebanon

Travelling to the Jordanian border as an Ambassador for Save the Children

Growing up with Palestinian refugee camps around

His book The Dark Tourist

Netflix stealing his idea of him!

Failing his interview for Oxford University

SOAS School of African Oriental Studies being great for diplomats and potential spies

Finding London wasn’t a university experience

Japanese announcements on the train from Bicester Village

Is Bicester Village as bad as the Tuol Seng Priosn…?

Being obsessed with Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge and other dark tourist destinations

Finding Cambodia’s similarities to Lebanon fascinating

The whole generation that just disappeared

Falling into being a good travel writer by reading The Bridge

Stumbling across the war crimes trial

Swapping shorts with the trousers of the Cambodian guard

Having an incredible Adolf Eichmann moment, his eyes meeting the banality of evil across the room

Lisa feeling scared in the Cambodian jungle at Sihanoukville

The weird journey of visiting the Killing Fields

People who lie on a beach in Cuba and don’t do the culture

Dom watching the Kardashians

Suicidal pilots flying into mountains

Visiting Chernobyl before it was trendy

Worrying about nuclear war and acid runs growing up

When the Wind Blows, the Snowman and Fungus the Bogeyman

Reading so much about Chernobyl that he almost knew his way around

How Call of Duty is a great tour guide for a visit to Chernobyl

The kid that’s just won a million pounds playing Fornite

Driving past a massive mosque in Oxford

Hating tour guides

His mum saying ‘we’re not tourist, we’re travellers’

Being massively uniformed in his travel books

Lisa liking the Lonely Planet

Living in Prague in the 90s

Instagram and Trip Advisor influencing travel

Dom inter-railing after he just left school

Scary Monsters and Super Beasts – in homage to David Bowie

The ‘amazing’ Coop and Betfreds on the outside of Oxford

Reading Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World age 8

Being fascinating by stories of Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster

Wanting to go to all the places Tin Tin went to

Tin Tin writer, Hergé, never leaving Belgium

Tin Tin in the Congo being racist

Belgians being ‘cool French”

The monster that blocks the rivers in the north of the Congo

Colonies being angry they didn’t get Tin Tinned

Tin Tin killed 400 animals in that book

The Belgians being a repulsively awful colonial power

Enid Blyton being a right old racist too

Becoming a Monster Hunter

Arriving at Vancouver to track down Canada’s Nessie

Whether he believes in Big Foot

200 miles of Lost Coast in California

The Yeti being the most believable one due to the Sherpas

The Hoopa Indians talking about a lost tribe of hairy people

Living in a ‘Brexity area’

Lisa writing guide books for Thomas Cook about the Cotswolds

Cream teas being a good indicator of being in a Brexit area

Going to Raymond Blanc’s first restaurant in Summertown, Oxford

Having travelled to 93 countries

Wanting to visit Algeria, Libya and Yemen

Being more a travel writer and always fascinated by travel writers

Wanting to be a foreign correspondent

Being a big fan of John Simpson, Robert Fisk, Jim Muir

Hostage journalist John McCarthy staying with the family the night before he got kidnapped

His family being part of the Levant Trading Company for three generations

His family being moved to a crusader castle on the Syrian-Turkish border

His great-granddad writing a debriefing note for the authorities

His Canadian wife travelling around the world

Driving from the Cotswolds to Istanbul and back with his wife and kids

The joy and useless skills of memorising capital cities

Dom’s experience on The Island with Bear Grylls (off Panama) being the hardest thing he’s ever done

Losing almost 3 stone in 14 days

Getting eaten alive by sand flies (buried into his leg!)

Is Bear Grylls a Ronnie Barker or a Ronnie Corbett

What’s real and what’s for TV

Bear Grylls getting his kit off and doing ‘the Bear Prayer’

Sarajevo being his top travel recommendation

Sarajevo and the (initially) botched assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Going to Vienna to see Franz Ferdinand’s car and the astounding number plate coincidence

The story behind the Hezbollah Hiking Club on the Lebanon mountain trail 27 day walking trail from Syria to Israel

Returning to Lebanon and facing some demons

Growing old disgracefully

Walking to his gig at the Cheltenham Literature festival

Lisa expecting Dom to be dressed as a squirrel

Listeners questions!

Whether his Trigger Happy TV big mobile gets him in trouble on trips

Loving guns but not going to shoot up a McDonalds

Driving through Utah and hitting on a gun range

Bourton on the Water being a cxxt magnet (!) as well as the Venice of the Cotswolds

People shouting his catchphrases at him in North Korea

Cycling into the library in Brighton

The big snail sketch in Trigger Happy TV being one of his favourite

Nearly getting beaten up by a Nun in a Londis in Notting Hill

Lisa and Dom’s coincidental Candid Camera box set

Racist hidden camera shows in South Africa

Benny Hill having Arabic and French subtitles in Lebanon

Music being Dom’s big love

John Simpson’s perfect answer to the music questions His first TV travel show (for Sky)

Wish You Were Here on an 8 track in the middle of the Syrian desert

Driving into caves outside Palmyra, camping under the full moon and the stars