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Category: Hitchhiking

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

It was November, 1971, and after two months of hitchhiking around northern Europe and having wonderful experiences, I realized it was time to head south like a migrating bird as winter closed in. It took me three days to cross France and when I reached the Spanish border, I headed west on a whim along the north coast of Spain, instead of due south towards Barcelona, Madrid and the Mediterranean beach resorts, as virtually all the other remaining backpackers did….

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Posters, Passports and British Snobs

Posters, Passports and British Snobs

I had a fascinating, if occasionally scary time in Northern Ireland in 1971, but I was relieved to leave (London) Derry and cross into County Donegal in the Irish Republic. My experiences in Belfast and especially the No Go areas of Free Derry were eye-opening and unforgettable, but I was now entering the part of Ireland I had really looked forward to travelling in. I made sure to find a somewhat disinterested Irish border official to stamp my passport because…

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A Stranger in a Strange Land

A Stranger in a Strange Land

I was having a great time hitchhiking around Europe in 1971, interacting with locals and other backpackers in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and various places in Scotland. Virtually everyone I met was friendly and every place I visited was interesting. One fellow traveller I got to know in Inverness advised me, “If you like Scotland, you’re going to love Ireland.” I hadn’t thought much about Ireland but since almost all my ancestors came from there I thought it would be fun…

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An (Un) Reasonable Amount of Risk

An (Un) Reasonable Amount of Risk

I was shocked and deeply shaken when my pal Mick handed me a London newspaper with a terrifying front page story about wanton bloodshed in Uganda. The timing and the news could not have been much worse for me. It was January 23, 1984, the day before I was scheduled to fly from London to Nairobi, Kenya, on my way to Uganda to hike the spectacular but notoriously difficult circuit trek of the legendary Rwenzori Mountains, better known as the…

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Festival Express

Festival Express

“I don’t know where you’ve been all week, but we’ve been at a party.” – Janis Joplin I always enjoy Canada Day because I love this country the way every immigrant does. On this July 1st I will celebrate it by telling the tale of my favourite Canada Day – 1970 in Winnipeg, two years after I emigrated to Canada and five years before I became a citizen. That day is part of a larger narrative – the greatest rock…

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The Ugly Americans

The Ugly Americans

I have met many delightful Americans while travelling in foreign lands, but I think it is safe to assume that collectively Americans go abroad less and are generally less well liked overseas than travellers from comparable countries because of their sense of superiority and belief in American exceptionalism. They may just be TOO exceptional for foreigners to appreciate. I encountered two of the most exceptional while hitchhiking around Europe in 1971. A few weeks earlier I had met a wonderful…

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A Walk on the Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side

I have always had a fascination with trains. It started because my parents never owned a car or ever drove one, so we often travelled on trains and buses and it was a lot more comfortable and fun to ride the trains. I would stare out the window at the scenery flashing by and imagine I was running at super speed beside the train, leaping over fences, dodging other obstacles, creating an exhilarating sense of freedom and agency that my…

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1969 – A Tale of Two Rock Festivals

1969 – A Tale of Two Rock Festivals

Purely by coincidence I happened to be very close to the two biggest North American rock festivals of 1969. Everyone knows about Woodstock, but the other one is often described as the greatest rock festival that nobody remembers. Except for the 110,000 of us who were there. That’s what happens when the organizers make no attempt to film three days of tremendous musical performances. It has no afterlife. When the most famous rock festival of them all followed 12 days…

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Flying the Hippie Airlines

Flying the Hippie Airlines

By 1971 I had hitchhiked around virtually every corner of North America except the American deep south, meeting people of all kinds and travelling through mountains, deserts, the prairies, the bible belt and the great plains, plus visiting many of the continent’s big cities and basking in that California sun. Now, it was time for something new and different – Europe. I was excited by the idea of experiencing different cultures and interacting with the local people, but a little…

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Like a Rolling Stone

Like a Rolling Stone

Sometimes I just can’t make up my mind. That’s when I leave things up to fate. It was late September 1970, and I had been hanging out at my parents’ place in West Orange, New Jersey, for about a month. It was my second visit that year and it was clearly time to move on. But where to? I could hitchhike back to Edmonton and see if I could land a job, but I was also tempted to head north…

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