I’ve been traveling for over 40 years old – by thumb in my first days, by boots in the Scouts, a Lambretta came next and after that my first old banger followed by newer older bangers into the beaches of the Costa Brava.
My thumb, boots, bikes and bangers took me around Europe and the UK before discovering that a charter trip to Spain on a classic ‘Connie’ can get me into the beaches and bars a great deal faster and allow more time to enjoy the local travel chances by horse and cart along with the occasional bus and train.
‘Go West and Prosper’ appeared to be a good idea so rather than carrying an 8 hour trip that I took a 8 day transatlantic crossing from Tilbury to Montreal on the Stephan Batory of Polish Ocean Lines ensuring that jet lag did not bother my travel plans. Several years after I grabbed the pond again on a boat but this time it was 5 times bigger and I travelled in style on the QE2 and dined from the Queen’s Grill somewhat removed from my earlier encounter. I highly recommend ocean voyages however can’t see myself on a few of the modern cruise ships moving from port to port with constant line-ups to get on and off to purchase t-shirts. But, I have done 10 Windjammers and also a Star Clipper cruise in the Caribbean that were all memorable (let us trust Windjammer Barefoot Cruises recover from their woes). But I digress.
I’d read that Canada is a stunning country, from sea to shining sea, and my entry to the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and then heading west at an old Econoline van in the Great Lakes, across the Prairies into the Rocky Mountains before ending up whale watching from the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island was a trip of miracle to some bloke out of London. Today the scenery remains spectacular and the perfect thing to do is still by road so rent or purchase a car, motorhome or motorbike, take the train or tour bus but recall the maps, a fly rod, excellent boots and don’t rush.
My favourite portion of Canada / USA for adventure travel has to be Northern BC / Alaska, to increase the Chilkoot Trail at the measures of the goldseekers of 1898. If you prefer the outside and may put up with a few bugs, then throw a scale and fly a few hills or push on endless dirt roads sharing the area with moose, caribou, elk, bears and eagles, then these are the places to put on your listing. I’d have mentioned the Alaska Highway but today it’s an easy drive unlike the above.
Now the costs of driving these distances may signify that sharing the trip with other people is required, however RVing or just vanning and camping is a superb way to see past the horizon. Some enroute adventures now have to be booked beforehand whereas once I improved Denali and the Chilkoot Pass it had been just a case of turning up, registering with the local ranger office and going on out. A little more forward planning is needed for today’s traveller and cost concerns of lengthy flights or drives need to somehow be countered with more careful preparation. From the days of reasonable gas prices I wouldn’t even consider the driving or flying costs and have pushed to Key West in the northwest coast, down the west coast to the Baja and into the west shore from New York. I once even flew my 1946 Fleet taildragger from the Pacific into the Atlantic and back having around 5 gallons an hour of avgas. Ahead of the oil and charge crisis I drove from Rio de Janeiro to Lima, down to Tierra del Fuego and back to Rio covering over 15,000 miles of spectacular scenery and with no consideration about the cost of gas. South America should be on your itinerary too! Another memorable drives that may now Need a mortgage with the gas companies include London into The Nordkapp, Norway, Skippers Canyon in New Zealand along with the proximity of the far north of Australia and also the Remarkable coast of Western Australia stopping by at Monkey Mia and Wave Rock.
We have a tendency to forget that the real cost of travelling is often less now than over the 40 years of my travels. In 1977 my round-trip airfare from Canada to Australia cost over $1700 in 1977 dollars so now it is much cheaper to fly, in spite of all the airlines gouging for fuel, extra luggage, no support and no enjoyment. The ‘Big Mac’ method of cost comparison as developed by The Economist paper gives us a great gauge for the majority of expenditures of today compared to yesterday however my $1500 price to get a private pilots licence from the 1970’s seems cheap by comparison to now, but obviously not when employing this Big Mac principle. Other travel costs will also be far cheaper now but this should not mean that travellers should discount the numerous methods of saving costs that can then be placed to extended or enhanced travel experiences
In my 40 years of journey I have been required to work with travel agents to create even the easiest of reservations and buy tickets, not even thinking to ask them when they’d “been there, done that?” It was just a case of there being no other options to buying travel. Now we’ve got infinite choices and can find better travel brokers, better deals, better choices and data about any place in the world for our journeys – without even leaving home.