Even an overdose of trust that, at times, involves the risk of being deceived or disappointed is wiser, in the long run, than taking for granted that most people are incompetent or insincere.”

Warren Bennis, Author of On Becoming A Leader

Over the past decade I’ve discovered the pleasure of travelling, and now I’m an avid individual traveller. I love immersing myself in foreign cultures, chatting to people from faraway places, and experiencing new sights, sounds and smells. Travel is about finding out what cultures have in common, and discovering and learning to appreciate something completely alien – in other words, broadening my horizons.

The destinations described below are places where I feel a deep sense of gratitude and happiness. And I would like to share these sensations with you, in the hope that they whet your appetite for a life brimming with more enjoyment and pleasure.

Spring and summer

Uzès

The South of France in spring. Soft light and a comforting warmth, Provence markets, the aroma of mimosas, the first glass of vin blanc on the café terrace.

Sitting on the terrace of the Les Terroirs restaurant in Uzès, undoubtedly the prettiest town in the Gard Provençal, sipping an aperitif, content to watch the hustle and bustle on the Place aux Herbes.

Trying the tapenades, olives, pastries and cheeses, pushing on with an armful of flowers. Strolling through the town, browsing the little boutiques, buying a linen shirt in the pale colours of the Provence.

Staying at a beautiful B&B built in the 18th century, breakfasting in the large garden, enjoying freshly prepared and homemade fare, chatting with the charming hosts, letting the eye wonder over the terraced vineyards dominating the Uzège countryside stretching as far as Mont Ventoux.

Opening your heart, feeling all your senses awaken. Unable to stop smiling.

Île de Ré

Do you remember the movie “Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot”? The masterpiece by French director Jacques Tati?

That’s how you’ll feel. Like you’re in this film.

Cycling at a leisurely pace across this little Atlantic island, stopping to look at the salt fields, eating mussels along the way, sipping a glass of Rosé des Dunes, squinting in the sunlight.

Donning a straw hat, wearing lightweight linen clothing and, after the cycling trip, taking a stroll along the beach. Lying in a shadowy spot, dozing off, watching the children play, then going for a swim.

You return to your hotel late evening, perhaps to the “Le Vieux Creement”, www.levieuxgreement.com in La Couarde sur Mer, at the heart of the 40 km island.

Dunes, sandy beaches stretching into the distance, picturesque little marinas, fresh air, an atmosphere full of charm and esprit.

A unique awareness of life overwhelms the senses. The subtle beauty of the small island and the epitome of French savoir-vivre.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh in summer, the Jazz and Blues Festival at the end of July, www.edinburghjazzfestival.com, followed by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (The Fringe) www.edfringe.com, are experiences to be savoured.

The programme is a source of inspiration and a feast for the senses.

If you are lucky enough you get to see Curt Stigers live at The Hub, a spectacular venue at the start of the Royal Mile. You share a round table with a group of Scottish ladies in high spirits. A flask of whisky is passed around. A first sip of Scottish single malt. An unforgettable evening. The first of many.

As a fan of crime thrillers you find yourself on the trail of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus, joining a guided walking tour of the city, www.rebustours.com, and discover the hidden dark side of Edinburgh.

You avail yourself of every culinary delight and liquid refreshment on offer – and it’s exquisite. But as for the Haggis, Scotland’s curious national dish, perhaps not.

The Inner and Outer Hebrides

This is a tribute to the archipelago off the west coast of Scotland. The islands are of archaic, unspoilt and wild beauty. According to native Hebrideans, these are the isles at the edge of the sea – and of solitude.

Well away from the beaten track, on the very edge of the world, these isles are – even for the Scots – different.

The majority of people speak Gaelic, dance ancient dances, sing Celtic songs, tell tales of old myths and customs and celebrate curious ritual feasts, www.hebceltfest.com.

Lewis and Harris – sandy white beaches, turquoise seas, totally deserted, peaceful. A genuine paradise. If you are lucky you might spot eagles, otters, seals, dolphins and basking sharks, the giant deep-water plankton feeders.

The hot chocolate at the Morven Gallery in Barvas, Lewis, is heavenly, and the paintings of the isle by Pam Carter are stunning.

Luskentyre and Borve Beach, perhaps the most beautiful beaches outside the Caribbean, are located to the south of the Isle of Harris.

Overlooking the Sound of Taransay is a superb B&B, the Pairc an t-Srath Guest House, www.paircant-srath.co.uk. Lena and Richard are kind, generous hosts and Lena is a fabulous cook. If you ever want to try lobster, this is the place.

The Isle of Mull, one of the islands of the Inner Hebrides, is throbbing.

The main village is Tobermory, with its picturesque harbour lined by pretty, colourful little houses and the most interesting Arts Centre in the entire region. The An Tobar is housed in the refurbished Victorian primary school overlooking Tobermory bay. I enjoy a live performance: 2 musicians, 2 fiddles, Gaelic songs, Celtic music. Strangely beautiful and very touching.

On Tobermory’s harbour front promenade there is a planter with a commemorative plaque which reads: “David James Jones, Simply a Superb Fellow”.

What better accolade.

The Schooner Zodiac / The Gulf & Victoria Island Cruise

The greatest and most wonderful experience of my life. I am captivated from the start and completely in awe of this spectacular maritime tradition.

It is a memorable working cruise through the unique waters between Seattle (USA,WA) and Victoria (BC) on board the largest working Schooner in the Pacific Northwest. Cruising between the San Juan Islands and crossing the Canadian and US borders.

The old lady, www.schoonerzodiac.com, is a lovingly restored 90-year-old two-masted schooner with an overall length of 50 m and a height of almost 40 m with topmast.

Sailed with love, passion and enthusiasm by Captain Tim Mehrer, Chief Mate Chris Wallace and a crew of experienced and talented volunteers.

All 14 passengers are involved, everyone is assigned a position and shown the ropes by the crew. Suddenly Chris says casually, “Don’t make any mistakes, because you’re sailing the ship alone from this point.”

We are nervous, we put our backs into it and are incredibly proud of ourselves. It’s an incredible feeling. I am hoping to spot some whales. They appear and reveal themselves to us. I’m not the only one to shed tears of joy.

In a small harbour we meet a few musicians and Chris invites them aboard for the evening. The “Stowaways”, a Blue Brass Band, treat us to an exclusive performance. On deck, under the last rays of the evening sun, we are taught the appropriate dance, the Square Dance.

The video “Zodiac: Spirit of the Wind” contains the following lines: “Grab a line, hold the wheel, and catch your breath, as Zodiac takes power from the wind and comes alive beneath your feet. This is an adventure you will never forget”.

Autumn and winter

Umbria

November is truffle season! A visit to the Truffle Fair in Gubbio, where you float through the tent on a wave of smells, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience – a feast for all the senses!

Try the truffle salami to the left, the truffle cheese to the right, before the grappa tasting kicks off. Not forgetting the wine, of course…

Later, you can move on to one of the little villages nearby, like Bevagna, for a dish of scrambled eggs topped with shavings of fresh truffle. This local speciality will put you under its spell, and that first mouthful is a moment you will remember for the rest of your life.

The region’s amazing churches and other sights are also a must-see. And you can easily fit a visit to a church into your daily schedule of truffle, pasta, wine and grappa tasting!

“Which is the church of the day?”, as a friend of mine used to ask every morning of our stay in Umbria.

Towards the end of the year, Orvieto is the place to be for the Umbria Jazz Festival (www.umbriajazz.com). The misty rolling hills, the Piazza, pasta, wine and jazz: the perfect way to see in the New Year.

Mexico

The indigenous cultures of Oaxaca – magical, mystical, picturesque. The world’s most beautiful and awe-inspiring abbey, the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

A lively arts scene and mouth-watering cuisine. Amazing people,  inspirational encounters. The Zapotec pyramid city of Monte Alban on the southern outskirts of the city – a truly spiritual location, where heaven is almost within touching distance.

Landscapes bathed in light, the invigorating air, the vibrant colours.

Then we head to Mexico City, where the itinerary includes visits to the Museo de Arte Moderno and the Casa Azul to see works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. We also take in the indigenous cultural market held on the Zocalo.

Sayulita, a small village on the Pacific coast, about an hour’s drive north of Puerto Vallarta, is a beautiful place to stay. Sitting in a garden up in the hills, overlooking the beach, surrounded by palm trees, hummingbirds and banana trees. Watching the locals bodyboarding. Trying it yourself – and failing miserably, again and again. Submerged in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. Life is beautiful!

Tlaquepaque, south-east of Guadalajara, is a picture-postcard town with a breathtaking main square. This is the perfect place to admire the passionate elegance of the mariachis. The town is also a magnet for Mexican designers and craftsmen. All in all, an amazing place: charming, unique in spirit, and the ideal location for whiling away the hours.

Barcelona

If, like me, you’re a huge fan of literature, then Mit Carlos Ruiz Zafon durch Barcelona (German only), a literary travel guide that follows in the footsteps of The Shadow of the Wind, is just what you are looking for.

Lose yourself in the city’s narrow back streets, try the huge selection of tapas dishes on offer at the countless bars, and take in at least one jazz concert at the Palau de la Musica Catalana.

If that isn’t quite your scene, there are plenty of small jazz bars (www.barcelonajazz.com) dotted about the city offering live performances. The homely art nouveau hotels in the Quadrat d’Or district are an ideal place to stay during your visit. Or simply breathe in some of the inspirational joie de vivre of the city’s inhabitants.