My first travels were summer-long affairs, spread out in the back of a massive Chrysler with comic books and snacks – I think my sister may have been back there somewhere – as the family crossed the continent multiple times with a pop-up StarCraft camper.
In university, backpack attached, I wandered through Europe and Down Under for six to eight weeks at a time.
Then work intruded and holidays became weekly affairs, which was okay for the U.S. and Caribbean, but Europe for a week? That wasn’t even worth going!
Funny now that sentiment after a couple of decades in the travel industry. In early May, I travelled to Germany for a travel show; arrived Saturday midday, flew out Wednesday afternoon – three non-travel days in destination. Luxury!
Over the years, I’ve done some trips that would – and did – make the head spin. There’s been many two- or three-day fams to the Caribbean or Mexico… Two-day cruises to nowhere (or even no cruise, like the Saturday-Sunday Celebrity Cruises’ Florida junket in January)… Sandals is famous for same-day down-and-backs to New York for trade events… A couple of years ago I went to Boston for lunch with a Porter Airlines exec, just because we could.
The shortest, at least based on distance travelled? That would probably be flying from Toronto to Frankfurt in 2002 for the naming of the Lufthansa plane Gander, to honour the Newfoundland city’s role as a haven for airlines during the 9/11 crisis. We were supposed to go just for the hour-long ceremony, though saner heads prevailed and at least we ended up overnighting. I learned on that trip to never travel with a bad head cold. Not only was it agony flying there, but I didn’t have enough time to get over it before having to endure the sneeze-sniffle-honk-repeat on the way back.
The craziest? To Seoul, Korea, for a weekend on an Air Canada inaugural in 2005: left Friday, arrived Saturday, returned home Monday. All I really recall is eating out at the city’s most famous chicken soup restaurant and that it rained so hard all weekend that I had to toss my shoes.
Of course, the process can work in reverse. A former colleague attending a conference got stuck in the U.K. for weeks after the Iceland volcano erupted and flights over the Atlantic were cancelled. Fortunately, or unfortunately, he was able to camp out at mom and dad’s back home, which was a trying situation on both accounts no doubt.
I was once sailing on a two-day Sunquest junket to inspect a Carnival ship that was faced with the decision of staying at sea for two extra days or turning back to another port – a day away. The problem? The two-day solution would have made me miss son’s christening.
Certainly, I’m not alone, and the travel industry is full of people subject to far crazier schedules than me – both by choice and not. I recall one former exec for an Indian airline who flew regularly from YYZ to New Delhi for meetings. I asked how he liked India, but he didn’t know, having never had the time to leave the hotel at the airport.
When it comes to the fun, crazy part of travel, today’s road warriors have nothing on the golden age of the travel industry in the ‘60s and ‘70s when the industry was flush with marketing money and airlines didn’t know the meaning of the word overbooked. I can recall stories of folks jetting off to Finland for the weekend as casually as going to the cottage; and many more stories of and in places that can’t be repeated.
Perhaps my favourite anecdote belonged to former trade editor Pat Dineen, who told the tale of once jetting off to Australia for the weekend for no other reason than to see his favourite Aussie rules football team play. It was a journey, he could say without hyperbole, that was simply for kicks!
(Note: this column appears in this month’s edition of CT/Canadian Traveller; check it out for features on the benefits of agent specialist programs, the Reunion Islands, Volcano Bay, and much more…)
backpackers from behind, freedom

Freedom to travel is a relative term.

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