Name: Ralph Foulds
Occupation: Director of Encounters Travel

Why do you love to travel?  
It started being all about discovering and exploring new places, and that’s still a huge attraction. However, I do now love revisiting friends and contacts in various countries around the world (probably partly because it gets me lots of home-cooked local food!)

Who would be your ideal travel partner and why?  
My wife, every time. Boring answer perhaps, but travelling is never boring with her. We love the same things when it comes to exploring out of the way places, trying all kinds of local food and drink, and balancing time in cities with getting out into nature.

What’s been your favourite destination this year and why?
That’s tricky as it’s been a very busy year. I’d normally always say Nepal is my favourite place to visit, and going back this year to Bardia National Park where we’re helping build an eco-lodge was definitely a highlight. However, I’ll never forget our honeymoon on safari in Botswana this year. 

Describe the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in while travelling.
I think the bribes we had to pay to cross the Pakistan India border once were pretty odd. A made up ‘tyre tax’ on the Pakistan side was pretty standard, but a large bottle of whisky on the India side to get an American girl in whose visa had expired was unexpected. We thought that buying the bottle would do it, not to realise that they expected the driver and her to drink the whole bottle with them before they’d let us cross. Needless to say, that was his driving done for the day!

Name two up-and-coming destinations for 2012 and why.
I’d pick Sudan as one, as it’s a country we’re just starting running tours in, and we’re excited about introducing people to the numerous pyramids and other sites there. The other one is Syria, perhaps more in hope than expectation. It’s a great country to visit, and for everyone in Syria’s sake I hope we’ll be able to take people back there again soon.

If you could return to any country you’ve been to, what would it be and why?
I’d love to go back to Iran and Pakistan. We spent a lot of time in both countries in the 1990s when we were running overland expeditions, and they’re both fascinating, beautiful and very different to most people’s expectations.

Give us an overview of what you’ll be discussing at the TNT Sun And Snow Show:
If you haven’t got months to spend backpacking around India and Nepal, they’re still great countries to visit. I’ll be talking about different ways you can pack a huge amount of exciting and different things into a relatively short visit, and some of the practical issues involved.

Who will find your talk relevant?
Hopefully everyone there. I want to talk about how both India and Nepal are great places for combination tours. You can mix cultural sightseeing, religious sites, wildlife viewing, and active adventures like trekking and rafting. That makes them great destinations for pretty much anyone.

Where’s your favourite place in London?
I spent a few years living in Blackheath and working in Islington, so they’re up there. Some of the riverside pubs in west London are great, but I think the friends I have around Highbury and Stoke Newington, and the Turkish kebab restaurants around there put them top of the list.

Sum up the capital in five words:
Big, green, mixed, exciting, food