Let the former rugby union star – known to all as The Honey Badger – spin you a yarn about his travel adventures (most on two wheels).
Where are you right now?
I’m in the car driving back to Sydney from Port Macquarie [on NSW’s North Coast], where I used to live. A lot of my mates are still there so I spent most of my time down at the tavern telling tall stories.
And where did you go on your last trip?
Cameron Corner [the geodetic point at which Queensland, NSW and South Australia meet] with my motorcycle club for this Anzac Day ceremony in the bush; we flew the flag from a tree and the Last Post sounded at dawn, which was quite moving. We stopped off in real Aussie places like Broken Hill, Dubbo and Cobar on the way back – it took a couple of days.
What was your typical childhood holiday?
Dad and all eight of us kids would jump in the EH [Holden] and burn up to Rainbow Beach on the Sunshine Coast [in Queensland]. We’d surf until we looked like little prunes then come back in for tinned fruit and custard – a real bloody treat after a big day on the water.
Have you taken a really great road trip?
By motorbike, yeah. I’ve crossed the Nullarbor twice but my favourite experience was riding from Perth to Uluru, Uluru to Cairns then Cairns to Sydney – about 9000 kilometres in total. I’d decided to take a year off rugby and needed to empty my mind so I got my [motorcycle] P-plates and took off. I’d roll out my swag in the dirt every night, heat up a can of soup on a little gas cooker thingy and look up at the sky – I always joke it’s the only billion-star hotel in the world!
Do you tend to wander the streets or follow maps?
I’m a big believer in the saying that it’s only when you get lost that you truly find yourself. But when hunger takes over, I’m like, “Right, where’s me map?”
What’s the worst time you’ve been lost?
In Cambodia. I was being chased by military police because I tried to help this English bloke who got himself in some trouble – shouldn’t have got involved, I don’t reckon. I was running through the streets, knee-deep in water because it was the wet season. I jumped on a tuktuk and burned off down the road yelling, “Drive, drive, drive!” I was so rattled that I couldn’t remember the name of my hotel for the bloody life of me.
Where did you have your biggest culture shock?
In Sydney, when I moved from the acreage I grew up on [in Logan City in southern Brisbane] at about the age of 18. I saw blokes wearing skirts and earrings and holding hands with other blokes – nothing at all wrong with it but I’d just never seen anything like that before! Dubai was a shock, too; you’ve got these massive shopping centres set against a desert where people get around on camels.
What are you most likely to bring home from your travels?
Memories that I can share with my grandkids in the future. Souvenirs are just material things that build up over time.
When you walk into a hotel room, what’s the first thing you do?
Check out the throne. Sometimes you’ve got to christen the bowl to make sure everything’s in good working order.
What do you most like to find in the minibar?
Red wine because where there’s red wine, there’s choccies.
Have you gone completely off-grid?
Heaps. There’s this coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef called North West Island where there’s absolutely no phone reception. It’s nice to get away from all the electromagnetic pollution, swim in clean water, eat fresh fish and sleep on the beach.
Is there a city you could have given a miss?
New York. It was great to check out but it’s not my cup of tea. Everyone there is so stressy and all the lights and noise and carry-on made me dizzy. My senses were overloaded, you know?
Have you ever been fleeced?
When I was in London, I lost £200 [about $350] to a bloke who sucked me into this “game” where he’d move a ball between different cups and you had to guess where it wound up. I got so frustrated that I couldn’t pick it [where the ball was], I kept putting down more and more cash to play more and more games. When they get you a beauty, it’s a bit of a bugger.
When you’re in a foreign city for work, do you get out and see the sights?
When I was playing footy, we were kind of discouraged from spending too much time on our feet if we had a half or full day off because we’d be flat for the game. But I didn’t give a rat’s arse about that – I’d hire a bike and explore the city anyway.
Can you share a memorable dining experience from your travels?
A few years back, I spent a week in Mongolia with a family of proper Mongols – the ones who wear fox hats and carry eagles on their shoulders and all that. We’d have the same tucker for breakfast, lunch and dinner: mutton, cheese and a hunk of bread. They were mad as a cut snake but it was an incredible experience.
What’s your number-one travel bugbear?
Whether you’re in Bali or Los Angeles, it’s always a battle to get a taxi. If someone tries to steal mine, I just say, “Bugger off, mate!”
If you could be anywhere else in the world right now, where would you be?
Antarctica – I reckon there’s some crazy stuff happening down there. It’s chilly but if you’ve got the right gear, you’re sweet.