Interview with Miquita Oliver: “I will never get over the horror of being caught in the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004” | Travel



OWhen I was growing up in Ladbroke Grove, West London, we were skinny and had no holidays, but every summer I was sent to my grandmother’s house in Bury St Edmunds with my cousins ​​Phoebe and Theo . Suffolk is beautiful and I fell in love with the countryside there. Grandpa Ray taught me to swim and took us for long walks, teaching us about trees and stars.

When I was eight, my grandmother took us to Canada to meet our great-grandmother and various aunts who had moved to Toronto. We went to Niagara Falls, and I felt overwhelmed by its power and its vastness, and by the distance that separated us from home.

My mum (chef and entertainer Andi Oliver) took me to Andalusia when I was 11 for my first real summer vacation. Her best friend, singer Neneh Cherry, had moved there and they missed each other terribly. I didn’t want to go – I thought it was going to be hot and desert – but once I got there, I never wanted to leave. That’s where I learned how to salt a salad and I remember that trip to Spain every time I make one now.

I’ve been working in TV since I was 15 and never went away with friends because they were on vacation while I was hosting T4 summer tours. We stream from all over the UK, and my favorite locations were Scarborough, Tenby and the South Wales Valleys.

When I was 17, I started presenting popmonde with Simon Amstell and regularly traveled abroad for press junkets. We visited Japan, Australia and toured North America. By age 20, I had been to Las Vegas eight times and flew to Los Angeles twice a month. We were arriving for the junket and leaving the next day, staying in hotels like the Four Seasons. It was exciting, but I was tired and homesick.

Oliver had been to Las Vegas eight times when he was 20


I had a life-changing experience while filming at night in Aspen. We drove to the top of a mountain, arriving at a spectacular sunrise. I felt real peace and happiness at that moment and thought to myself, “Remember this. Skied there for the first time and picked it up instantly, but haven’t since, so would love to come back.

In 2004, Simon and I spent Christmas together in Thailand. It was Boxing Day, I was hungover and didn’t want to get out of bed, but Simon dragged me to the beach. If we had stayed in bed, it could have been fatal. We were sitting on the beach and saw a huge wave. It was like a city of water coming towards us.

When you experience a natural disaster, it is difficult to fully understand what is happening at that time. The whole beach started screaming and we all ran. We knew it was serious because the people who worked at the hotel and the locals were shouting and knocking down the fences to clear the way. It was like being in a horrible action movie.

We broke up which was devastating because I thought Simon was dead. Eventually we found ourselves and ran up a hill, staying there for hours as we were told another wave was coming. After a while, we ran to the waiting cars to leave the island, and I’ve never been so terrified in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever really analyzed the impact of surviving the tsunami, but I’m sure it screwed me up a bit.

By the time I was 30, I had made some very public mistakes – including going bankrupt. I lived with a lot of shame and wanted to hide. I had a nervous breakdown and there was no vacation on the agenda.

During those early years on television, I often felt lonely and isolated because no one looked like me. Doing the Caribbean TV series was very soothing. I hadn’t been to Antigua since I was 11 and needed to feel surrounded by my ancestry. Each time I entered this sea, I felt closer to them and it rekindled my love for water after the tsunami.

It took me a while to figure out what a vacation is, and now that I have one, I want to go to Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Trinidad for Carnival. I’ve never been to Italy and would love to road trip there for my 40th birthday in a few years – eat pasta, go to the mountains and swim. It would be the trip of a lifetime.

Miquita Oliver, 37, is a television and radio host. The Caribbean with Andi and Miquita is available on BBC iPlayer, and she also co-presents The Sunday Times Culture Show on YouTube. She lives in Clapton, East London.

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