Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Best Views are from the Ground

Rediscovering Land-Based Travel

All around the world a new, revolution in the way we get around has begun. It is a nostalgic change, one that would have us humans coming in full circle after the advent of technology killed the natural joy and spirit that was inherent with travelling. I’ve seen it in many forms with my very eyes – industrious individuals with the guts to simplify their methods; rebels of modern transportation, if you will.

The Greyhound stop in Contact Creek, B.C
Land-based travel is exactly what it says it is – any form of moving from point A to point B that keeps your body firmly planted on the ground (or just hovering over it). Bikes, buses, public transportation, trains, your own two feet – whatever you choose, the purpose of the land-based movement is to reconnect with the journey of getting somewhere – anywhere – and to travel for the purpose of learning and self-improvement. Choosing land-based travel can be as easy as following a subway route instead of using a personal vehicle and as challenging as choosing to take a Greyhound across the country rather than fly. It is almost always a longer and more difficult course, but the payoff can be enormous personally, economically and, obviously, environmentally.

My fondest memories of travelling include long bus rides (sometimes over two days long!) where I’ve taken the pleasure of watching a landscape slowly change outside my window. The characters of every small town along the way, the awesome people who live there, the wildlife you see and the companions you make while trapped on a moving vehicle for endless hours – those are the aspects of travelling that make it worthwhile to me. Apparently, I am not alone on this, either.....

Meet the community of folks who take the challenge (understatement of the century) of biking across Canada, from its most Western point at the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park to Cape Spear, 9306 Kilometers away and the furthest East one can travel while staying on land in Canada. Why? Some do it to raise money for charity while others are just crazy enough to call it recreational. I’ve met a few of these people on my travels, and to call them ambitious would be an absurd descriptive shortfall.

And then you have the real loonies (get the Canadian reference there??) who look at a bike and see a crutch. Meet Kyle Pickering and Bobby McDowell – two average young Canadian men who woke up one day and said ‘today, instead of walking to my mailbox and back, I’m just not going to stop until I reach the freaking other side of the country.’ Their trip took ten months combined and by the time they too had arrived in Cape Spear, 7953 Kilometers and 40 pairs of shoes behind them, they decided their trip was over and went back to being completely normal people working summer jobs as camp counsellors on the West Coast. No big deal.

Kyle and Bobby on the West Coast of Newfoundland
Kyle and Bobby aren’t alone in their yearning for pain and punishment. Walking such large distances such as these has actually become a worldwide phenomenon and is now referred to as ‘slow-travel’, because there are apparently lots of insane people out there, too. At the heart of the matter, however, is an urge to redefine travel by focusing on just that – travelling.

This post isn’t here to convince its readers to start biking thousands of kilometers across the second largest country in the world, but instead I hope we can use these examples as an inspiration to adopt a principle of deliberate heel-dragging the next time we plan a getaway. For a trip with real substance, you have to avoid destination-centered vacations and start focusing your energy on the actual journey. When did ‘stopping to smell the roses’ become a bad habit?