Halfway through our interview at a cosy brunch place in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, actress Deanna Yusoff has a sort of epiphany. She has been talking about the joy of travelling. It’s a form of escapism, she explains.
Perhaps she enjoys the anonymity, I suggest.
“That’s right!” she says, her eyes lighting up at the revelation. Then, with a laugh, she adds, “I don’t bother putting on makeup or nice clothes.”
Dressed in a flowy turquoise dress for our meeting, with a touch of blush and lipstick on her perfectly sculpted face, Deanna looks every bit the glamorous thespian. It’s hard then to imagine her looking any less dolled up.
“Oh, I’m a completely different person,” the 49-year-old Deanna quips. And that, she adds, is the reason why she hates taking photos of herself when she travels.
Deanna first appeared on the public’s radar in 1992 with a smashing performance in Shuhaimi Baba’s unconventional love story Selubung. Since then, the London-born actress has appeared in many well-known movies and television shows. Next year, she will be celebrating her 25th anniversary in the Malaysian entertainment scene.
But, if anything, travelling has always been close to her heart. Here, Deanna – who’s a member of a travel club community – tells us more about that other passion of hers.
Have you always enjoyed travelling? Or was it something that gradually happened over the years?
I travelled as a kid with my parents. It wasn’t a holiday necessarily but we moved from one place to another. We went back and forth to Switzerland because my mum is Swiss. So I got used to being in different countries and to different cultures, at a very young age.
Tell us about some of the places you have been to.
I’ve been to quite a lot of places in Europe when I used to live there. But recently I’ve been to places that have been on my bucket list. My mum turned 70 and I said, “Let’s go to Peru!” We spent about two weeks there, where we did the Inca Trail. That was amazing because I had never been to South America before.
And I finally went to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I think I should have gone there earlier. Back then, it was not so touristy but now it’s like one hotel after another. But I still enjoyed it. It’s beautiful.
I like places that are kind of untouched. I also like places that have five-star treatment.
What sort of accommodation do you prefer?
It all depends on the place. If I go to Bangkok, I like to stay in a nice hotel (laughs). When I went to Lima (Peru), there were all these nice hotels that you can get, but I chose a boutique hotel with colourful rooms and a nice cafe.
It sounds like you’re more of a traveller than a tourist.
Yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it. I’m not somebody who needs to go to a city and say, “OK, I have to do all these museums and landmarks.” There will be certain points of interest I’ll look at. But it’s not a main thing to check out the tourist attractions.
What do you look for in your travels?
The restaurants. I’m a foodie, I like to find a restaurant that’s known among the locals. Sometimes, I also like to do fine dining.
What are your favourite destinations?
I’m still buzzing from my trip to New Orleans (in the US). The day I arrived was one day after the opening of Mardi Gras. People were playing music in the streets and the weather was beautiful. There were musicians playing everywhere. It’s so different from the rest of the US.
I love Prague (Czech Republic) for the beautiful architecture. It’s a city that hasn’t been too renovated yet. And I love Peru because of the Inca Trail.
Would you ever move to any of those places?
Hmm … not really. I would go back to Peru and do a cooking course there. But I have been thinking (about relocating). Maybe it’s because I’ve been here for 25 years, but the place that attracts me is New York. I haven’t been there and I know it’s expensive, but there’s a little bit of every part of the world in New York.
If you could re-live five minutes of any of the aforementioned trips, what would that moment be?
Over in New Orleans, when there was music playing in the streets, a stranger just grabbed me and danced. It wasn’t uncomfortable or anything. We were laughing and having such a good time.
Share some travel wisdom.
I think everybody should travel. For some, that might be hard because they don’t have the time or the money or both. But it’s a form of growth – seeing how the rest of the world is connected.
What’s your definition of the perfect holiday?
A free holiday (laughs). Jokes aside, it’s creating good memories. It’s something you can’t buy. You want to have those beautiful memories when you travel with your family and loved ones. That’s priceless.