I was born in Mutare, Zimbabwe, (then Umtali, Rhodesia) on November, 11, 1968. I attended Chancellor Junior School, Mutare Boys High, and Prince Edward, a state boarding school in Harare, where my father sent me because they were good at cricket.
In 1987 and 1988 I played league cricket in England, and provincial cricket in Zimbabwe. In 1989 I went to Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, apparently to study a business degree. I changed to journalism as soon as my parents were out of sight.
In 1992 and 1993 I worked as a city reporter on a Johannesburg newspaper, and then as a freelance news desk editor at Radio 702. I reported on South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994 for various newspapers and radio stations.
I moved to London in 1994 and started sending in articles on-spec to British newspapers. My first published feature, about being a drugs trial guinea pig in a south London hospital, ran in The Independent in 1994. My first travel piece, a story about hitch-hiking down the coastline of Mozambique, appeared in the Sunday Telegraph in 1997. I’ve worked as a freelance feature journalist and travel writer ever since.
I’ve visited more than 50 countries in that time, including Armenia, Brazil, Bermuda, Cuba, Eritrea, Estonia, Laos, Lithuania, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Portugal, Tanzania, and Zambia. I don’t have a favorite country, but I do have favorite cities: Buenos Aires, New York, New Orleans, Johannesburg, London and Madrid.
I write regularly for Travel & Leisure magazine in the US, and the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian in the UK, and have been published in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, the Washington Post magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, El Mundo, the Sydney Morning Herald, the London Times, National Geographic Traveler, and elsewhere.
I’ve written extensively on Africa, especially South Africa and Zimbabwe, but I do not consider myself a political writer. My favorite foreign correspondent is Waugh’s William Boot. I’m attracted to stories of ordinary people living brave, strange, imaginative, or heroic lives. Of the feature articles I’ve written, my favorites include a story on the legendary Spanish bank robber El Dioni; a piece on the favela child actors in the hit Brazilian film City of God; the phenomenon of health tourism in Cuba; a dining tour of New York’s greatest restaurants with Tim Zagat, the Orson Welles of the American food world; a piece on firing automatic weapons with a former Russian special forces officer in Estonia; a story on a sanctuary for endangered bears and snow leopards on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos; and a story on the late Zimbabwean farmer Jake Jackson, who trained 40,000 peasants in a remote war-torn corner of Mozambique to grow tobacco and other crops for export, freeing them from their dependency on western aid.
In 2003 a story I did on Bollywood and Bombay’s high life for DestinAsian magazine won the Society of Publishers of Asia award for best feature writing – beating the great Pico Iyer. The following year I won the same award for a story on a journey around Sri Lanka, then emerging, all too briefly, from civil war. In 2003 I won a British travel writing award for a piece on a Lithuanian theme park of abandoned Stalinist-era statues.
I teach travel writing at the Gotham Writers Workshop in New York, and have appeared as a guest on the BBC World Service, and the PBS show The Connection.
I live in Brooklyn, New York, and am married to the journalist Grace Cutler. We have a daughter, Madeline, and another child on the way.