Travelling life: Becky Anderson

Rosemary Behan interviews the Abu Dhabi-based CNN anchor Becky Anderson.

Becky Anderson at Wadi Mujib in Jordan. Courtesy Becky Anderson
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Born in West Sussex in England, Becky Anderson studied economics at the University of Sussex and mass communication at Arizona State University in the United States, where she began her career as a print reporter on various business publications. In television she worked with ITN, CNBC Europe and Bloomberg, before joining CNN in 1999.

Over the years, Anderson has interviewed figures including Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon. She is also at home with celebrities, quizzing Oprah Winfrey, Juliette Binoche and Tom Hanks.

Anderson moved from London to the UAE in 2014, bringing with her the show Connect the World. Since January this year she has also been managing editor of CNN Abu Dhabi.

"The UAE has never had more resonance and influence on the geopolitical space," Anderson told The National last year. "In many ways, locating Connect the World in the UAE is the perfect expression of the show's philosophy. Being based in Abu Dhabi will allow us to travel around the region and get more on-the-ground experience. For our viewers, it will increase the depth and breadth of understanding of the region." In July last year, Connect the World left Abu Dhabi for a four-week journey around the Middle East. Anderson visited Cairo, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Beirut and interviewed people including Lebanon's prime minister, Tammam Salam, Qatar's foreign minister, Khalid Al Attiyah, and Turkey's president (then primie minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This year the team visited Cairo and Jordan on a two-week non-stop trip and have thravelled throughout the MENA area.

How often do you travel? Do you ever combine a business trip with leisure?

Travel is very much part of my job. There have been years when I have spent upwards of 200 days on the road. I tend to try and not combine business trips with leisure. However, I found myself with a free morning at the end of a recent trip to Jordan and was lucky enough to join some local friends on a trek through the Wadi Mujib — a deep gorge that enters the Dead Sea some 400 metres below sea level. I found myself wading through the canyon’s fast-moving water, chest deep at some points, marvelling at the cathedral-like walls until we finally reached a spectacular waterfall — and one of the most invigorating showers I’ve ever had. Breathtaking — and an unexpected bonus at the end of what had been an exhausting but fascinating week of television.

Where was the last place you went for a holiday?

It wasn't a holiday per se, but last month I went to the Alila Jabal Akhdar in Oman, a wonderful eco-friendly resort 2,000 metres above sea level, which sits atop another one of this region's incredible canyons, boasting the most awesome views of the Hajar Mountains. A six-hour drive from Abu Dhabi, this small boutique hotel and spa at the top of Arabia is a favourite bolthole of mine for a weekend away from the summer heat of the UAE.

What do you look for in a holiday, and do you prefer to relax or be active? Citybreak or beach?

Having grown up in London, I’m a city girl at heart. I love the buzz of a busy metropolis. But generally, by the time I get around to taking a break, I’m looking for somewhere healthy and reinvigorating, away from the traffic and the crowds. A couple of years ago some friends and I found Amansala in Tulum on the east coast of Mexico. The accommodation is pretty basic, but the whole point of this “bikini boot camp” is that you unplug the devices and tune the body back in. My idea of paradise.

Do you find it difficult to switch off?

Not as long as I’ve left an empty in-tray at work. I put my “out of office” message on the moment I leave home and I make a point of ensuring those pesky mobile devices are for emergencies only. If someone needs to get hold of me they’ll find me - eventually.

How many countries have you visited?

Off the top of my head I’d say over 100 but I’ve never counted – ask me again in a week or two when I’ve had some time to explore an atlas.

Do you have a favourite place? If so, where is it?

I’m not sure there is one place that stands out above all others. I love the Middle East. Its people, food and diversity of culture fascinate me and I feel incredibly honoured to call this part of the world “home” these days. As I mentioned earlier, Tulum in Mexico is another one of my favourites and if you dropped me tomorrow on the stunning beach of Rio da Barra near Trancoso in Bahia, Brazil, I’d be over the moon.

Do you prefer luxury or simplicity?

The new luxury is simplicity. I’ve been incredibly lucky to stay in some of the world’s best hotels, but high-end hospitality isn’t top of my list these days. Good friends, good food and a decent bed will suffice. It’s the people and the place that matter.

What do you love about travelling?

Knowing that by the time I leave, wherever it is I have travelled to, I will be a little wiser than I was before I arrived. Travel is about opening one’s mind, learning to appreciate different cultures, embracing change, and sharing a giggle with someone who may not share your language but shares your energy and zest for life.

What do you hate about travelling?

Arriving in a new place and finding that Starbucks got there before me.

Which place do you really want to go, that you haven't yet been able to visit?

Argentina is at the top of my bucket list. I’ve been promising myself for years that I’d make the trip. I can’t imagine a better combination than great food and the fusion of tango dance and electronica that I’m promised makes for some memorable evenings.

Where do you call home?

I feel incredibly privileged to live and work in Abu Dhabi, and I love life here. This is such an energetic, creative region and there is such a buzz especially in business and the arts. Everywhere has its own unique challenges but there is a real can-do spirit here that I feel other parts of the world have lost.

Where are you going next?

We’ve spent much of the past 18 months travelling across the Middle East and North Africa covering the major news stories and uncovering the wonderful depth and breadth of the region and its people. I am hoping that we might get a chance to stay put here in Abu Dhabi for a couple of months. After all, it’s the beginning of the season when things really heat up here and it seems a shame to miss out on the fun.

Connect the World airs on CNN at 7pm daily Sunday to Thursday.