Trying to find travelling for over 40 years – by thumb in my early days, by boots in the Scouts, a Lambretta came next and then my first older banger followed by newer old bangers to the beaches of the Costa Brava.
My thumb, boots, bikes and bangers took me all over Europe and the UK before finding that a charter flight to Spain on an previous ‘Connie’ could get me to the beaches and bars a lot quicker and allow additional time to enjoy the local travel opportunities simply by horse and cart and the occasional bus and train.
‘Go West and Prosper’ seemed to be a good idea so instead of taking an 8 hour flight I took an eight day transatlantic crossing from Tilbury to Montreal on the Stephan Batory of Polish Ocean Lines ensuring that jet lag did not trouble our travel plans. Some years afterwards I crossed the pond once again on a ship but this time it had been 5 times bigger and I journeyed in style on the QE2 and dined in the Queen’s Grill somewhat taken out of my earlier experience. I highly recommend ocean voyages but cannot find myself on one of the modern cruise ships going from port to slot with constant line-ups to get off and on to buy t-shirts. However , I have accomplished 10 Windjammers and a Star Clipper cruise in the Caribbean which were all of memorable (let’s hope Windjammer Barefoot Cruises recover from their woes). Yet I digress.
I had read that Canada is a spectacular country, through sea to shining sea, and my entrance into the St . Lawrence River to Montreal and then proceeding west in an old Econoline van from the Great Lakes, across the Prairies to the Rocky Mountains before winding up whale watching off of the Pacific Coastline of Vancouver Island was a journey of wonder to a bloke from London.
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Today the scenery continues to be spectacular and the best way to go remains by road so rent or buy a car, motorhome or motorcycle, take the train or tour bus but remember the maps, a fly rod, good boots and take your time.
My personal favorite part of Canada / USA intended for adventure travel has to be Northern BC / Alaska, to hike the Chilkoot Trail in the steps from the goldseekers of 1898. The Northwest Territories to canoe the Nahannie River and the Yukon to drive from Dawson City to Chicken, Ak. If you like the outdoors and can put up with a number of bugs, cast a fly and scale a few hills or generate on endless dirt roads sharing the space with moose, caribou, antelope, bears and eagles, then they are the places to put on your listing. The pleasures and experiences within driving to Inuvik on the Dempster Highway or to Prudhoe Bay within the Dalton Highway or even the Canol Street can only be felt by doing all of them. I would have mentioned the Ak Highway but now it is an easy drive unlike the aforementioned.
Today the costs associated with driving these distances may mean that sharing the journey with other people is required, but RVing or simply vanning and camping is a great way to observe beyond the horizon. Some enroute adventures now need to be booked in advance whereas when I hiked Denali as well as the Chilkoot Pass it was just a case of turning up, registering with the local ranger office and heading on out. A little more forward planning is needed for today’s traveller and cost considerations of lengthy flights or even drives have to somehow be countered with more careful planning. In the days of reasonable gas prices I would not really consider the driving or flying costs and have driven to Key West from the northwest coast, down the western coast to the Baja and to the west coast from New York. I actually once even flew my 1946 Fleet taildragger from the Pacific towards the Atlantic and back using around 5 gallons an hour of avgas. Before the oil and credit crisis I drove from Rio de Janeiro to Lima, down to Tierra del Fuego and back to Rio covering over 15, 000 miles of magnificent scenery and with no consideration in regards to the cost of gas. South America should be on your own itinerary too! Some other memorable hard disks that may now require a mortgage with all the gas companies include London towards the Nordkapp, Norway, Skippers Canyon in New Zealand and the loneliness of the far north of Australia and the amazing coast of Western Australia stopping by at Monkey Mia and Influx Rock.
We tend to forget how the real cost of travelling is often much less today than over the 40 years associated with my travels. In 1977 our round-trip airfare from Canada to Australia cost over $1700 within 1977 dollars so today it is far cheaper to fly, even with the airlines gouging for gas, extra baggage, no service and no pleasure. The ‘Big Mac’ way of price comparison as developed by The particular Economist newspaper gives us a great gauge for most expenditures of today in comparison to yesterday but my $1500 price to get a private pilots licence in the 1970’s seems cheap by comparison to today, but obviously not when utilizing this Big Mac principle. Various other travel costs are also far cheaper today but this should not mean that travellers should disregard the many ways of saving costs that can then be put to extended or improved journey experiences
In my 4 decades of travel I have had to use travel agents to make even the easiest of reservations and buy tickets, not really thinking to ask them if they experienced “been there, done that? ” It was just a case of right now there being no other options to buying take a trip. Now we have unlimited choices and can seek out better travel agents, better prices, better selections and information about anywhere in the world for our travels – without even leaving home.
The Internet now gives travellers ideas and options of Where to go, When to go, Why to go, How to proceed, Who to book with as well as how to save money and offset costs. We can search and find experts for every journey option. If we are comfortable with the Internet we no longer have to go to a local travel agency to make reservations and buy tickets other than to book with some of the larger travel companies that still produce shiny brochures and offer all inclusive packages or even tours that only sell through the agency system. The Internet also allows those of us who are smart enough to find out when to seek out a top travel agent with knowledge, experience and expertise (KEE skills) of destinations and actions about where to find them. There is no lengthier any need to only use our own local agents when we can find one somewhere else in the world. When we do not need ‘the knowledge’ and can do it ourselves we all simply surf the web so that we can book directly with tour and vacation operators wherever we have decided to go.
Some travel agents operate their own trips, some are both wholesale and store, some limit consumer selection by only selling their ‘preferred’ suppliers and some have professional consultants with years of experience invested in gaining information, experience and expertise and are worth their weight in gold to the savvy traveller. Beware though, as some are also called destination specialists plus some of these designations merely require the agent to take a rudimentary test offered by tourism offices, destination marketing and advertising groups or even tour operators and in my opinion can harm the reputation of the travel industry. A specialist is not always an expert.
Travel is probably the most used commercial aspect of the Internet and if store agents want to harness this exciting medium to offer ‘the knowledge’ plus their ‘kee’ skills to a worldwide audience, not just their local community, they must embrace the changes that are happening. Travellers now have the ability to seek solutions to the 5 W’s of journey and the important ‘How to’ spend less and offset costs by having info just a click away.
And then this occurred to me that even internet travel prices often include a commission element even when sold directly to the consumer. If we book directly with operators we should not have to pay full store prices as we are doing for ourself what a retail agent would normally do for us. A dilemma for the operator is that to show a both a retail and a cost price option could deter many agents from selling the services as travellers might use an agent for free advice and book directly with the operator to get a ‘net of commission’ price. Clearly this two tier pricing isn’t often available but travellers who do not need advice should also not be penalized by retail pricing. A new way had to be found and I believe I have found it!
The need for fairer fare prices is why I developed the Top Travel Voucher program at the very top Travel Club and I even discovered a dot com for it. Just about all travel selections on the site are at ‘net of commission’ prices for members who handle there own journey arrangements directly with the operators linked on the club website using the voucher program.
I am inviting journey operators from around the world to join this program, from B&B’s, Motels, Hotels, Luxury Lodges, Eco Resorts, Beach Major resorts and Tour and Adventure Operators who want to promote their products and services to travellers who are comfortable with direct bookings and reservations.
I am also welcoming Travel Agents with knowledge, experience and expertise of destinations and activities to showcase their abilities to a global audience of vacationers and to the members of this brand new travel club. I am leery of ‘specialist agents’ and only want specialists to showcase their services.
This opportunity is available to the travel industry at no cost except for them to offer net, wholesale or outlet prices in order to club members and visitors to the web site using top travel vouchers. I believe this program offers fairer fare costs to direct-booking travellers. The owner would normally be paying commission payment anyway but now travellers get the cost savings because they make their own arrangements.
The Top Travel Club opened in mid-April 2008 offering thousands of top vacation vouchers for travel in over 70 countries with around a hundred and fifty travel operators onboard. Every week we add more travel operators with additional choices for members. Currently you can get cost savings on accommodations, adventure travel, motorboat charters, culinary tours, hike, bicycle and dive tours, auto plus RV rentals fishing lodges and guides, safaris, vacation rentals, single journey, women only and dude ranches. Members get the vouchers free of charge by paying an annual membership fee and non-members can buy the vouchers on the web at Top Travel Sites at deeply discounted prices to the face-value. The long run growth will include restaurants, travel clothing, travel insurance and the opportunity to access air flow ticket consolidators who want to deal straight with consumers.
The way I have travelled and the way I see travel is that consumers should have unlimited access to every single travel opportunity with the ability to do their very own due diligence or to find a professional who can offer quality advice and services at fair prices, and to discover all of this without needing endless hours of searching.
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