10: THE NETHERLANDS
11: BACK TO GERMANY
18: CYPRUS WIND DOWN
22: MEXICO Y ESPANA
The longest journey begins with a single step”. Attributed to Lao-tzu ( c 604- c 531 BC ), founder of Taoism. This is a story of a million steps.
I have been asked why I set out to put my Travels down on paper. Well of course, I can hearken back to the "Ego trip" rationale. I hasten to add my take on this definition." Ego" from the Latin word "I" or "self ", and "trip" … well hey, it WAS the 60’s when I started to wander afar-- and "tripping out" had many meanings. So -- lets stick to the traditional meaning of "trip". Each trip I took was a learning experience in ways I had never imagined--- a multi-sensory series of experiences that made me a better person. Over the years ,as I shared vignettes of my travels, many people suggested I put my travels on paper or on the WEB, for others to share . My goal is to leave a legacy for my own children, to encourage young people to see their world and to have contemporaries look back and reminisce. I chose the title to perhaps reflect my broad persona during those years. It was the "hippie" era, although I was not part of the "Hippie community", in that I tended to go to University and work-- something the hippie culture sometimes eschewed . I was also in the Canadian military, where short hair was the order of the day . My travels were, in many ways, free and easy, in the hippie sense. I did travel with some of the long haired folks , with great memories. In fact, we had a warm interaction. Ironically, these carefree single ways were to come back to haunt me throughout my military career. I would later encounter a fair share of back stabbing among married confreres, who, quite frankly, were envious, even jealous of my social and travel freedoms. Ironically, some who were most vocal about my not "settling down" would become known to be less than faithful to their spouses- their business-- but--I have been faithfully married to the lovely Mila since 1976, and I feel that "sowing wild oats" , even if it just meant sleeping on a beach alone, made me a better man for a strong marriage.
Okay, maybe this IS AN EGO TRIP .☺
When one sets out to chronicle a phase of one’s life, a bit of background is in order. In my case, the chronicling of various travels I was fortunate enough to undertake, had roots in my early childhood. My first memories are from when I lived in the small Ottawa Valley town of Vankleek Hill. My father, Francis Victor, joined the RCAF in the early days of the World War II . He became a pilot instructor in the acclaimed British Commonwealth Air Training Program. My mother Kathleen, from nearby Hawkesbury, took a train to Fort McLeod Alberta where they were married.
Interestingly, they were married on Dec 06 1941. While on their two day honeymoon in Lethbridge, Dad learned of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Their young hearts must have skipped a beat as the world sank deeper into war. I was born in this small Alberta town . It was the same year and same town as Joanie Mitchell. Sadly, she got all the talent that year.
My father was transferred to an Air Base in Chatham New Brunswick where his skills as an instructor earned him the Air Force Cross. Like so many Veterans he never spoke of himself and I did not learn of his Air Force Cross until I was thirty and in the Canadian Forces myself. He was proud to have served . He later became a member of 437 Transport Squadron and was transferred to England. One of his boyhood heroes was Charles Lindbergh. I am sure he would never have imagined that some 14 years later he would be flying the Atlantic.
My father stayed in the Air Force until 1946. In the year after the end of WWII, he flew to many of the Capitals of Europe, flying politicians and Military brass who were setting up the Post War peace process. He had been a photographer since the 1920’s and with a bit of bartering he was able to get a good Leica 35 MM camera. When he returned home and re-entered civilian life, he began developing his photographs.
This is where my quest to see what lay beyond the horizon, took flight. Vankleek Hill is a lovely Ottawa Valley town with a warm community spirit which I still remember. The tallest structure was only three stories so one can imagine how young eyes would perceive photos of Buckingham palace, The Eiffel Tower or the Vatican.
On many occasions I visited my maternal grandparents, who lived in Montreal. This was another factor in the fostering of my wandering ways. As my horizons expanded, I was often thrilled by small experiences. Giant neon signs, traffic lights and street cars were all bigger than life to a young person from a small rural town. These sites left an indelible mark. Many years later, travel became a quest- not just to see the well known and sought out landmarks-- but to live and learn the wonderful experiences of far away locations and the people of these lands.
Another factor that fostered my travel curiosity, was the fact that ,in my early school years, TV had not yet come to Canada. I also seemed to get every childhood illness from croup to measles and several in between. When I was home in bed my mother would bring the kitchen radio into my room. It was a Halicrafters radio with a shortwave band. I would hook up the antenna wire to the mattress springs and the world ,that I had seen in dad’s photos, was now in my room. BBC, Radio France, Radio Moscow, Voice of America…and some intriguing voices from what I later learned where "Ham " radio operators. In my late teens I earned my ham radio "ticket" and the voice of VE2BUP was heard around the world. I was inching towards my early goal of seeing over the horizon…this book is about some of those adventures and experiences.
In Dental school, a long time girlfriend ( Actually fiancée) showed me the curb. At a mid-twenties point of life it was quite traumatic; but, it was one of those "blessings in disguise". I still recall walking home from a date wondering if I would ever see Sydney Australia if I were to marry at this point. Australia was kind of a fantasy destination for me. My mother and father often spoke of the Aussies and Kiwis in the Commonwealth Air training Program, and how many never returned home, as they were casualties of the war.
My new single life was an eye opener in many ways, and heralded an explosion of wanderlust curiosity, fermented by dad’s photos and my shortwave and ham radio experiences. Expo 67 , in Montreal, was held to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. There were 62 nations from every continent, with a total of 90 pavilions which reflected the theme of the fair-- " MAN AND HIS WORLD." I visited EXPO over 60 times. I kept track as I wrote down each visit on the EXPO "Passport".
I remember the opening day of EXPO--April 28 1967. I was in third year dental school, with upcoming exams. Those were put on the back burner for the day. I still remember every detail of that day. But, I have no idea which exam I wrote the next day. Of course, I tended to study with some discipline, so there was no need to "cram".
For the first time in my life I felt a sense of awe that would continue to permeate my travels. I felt like a roving camera taking in everything. It sounds almost simplistic; but in my view, life should be enjoyed without question and to the fullest possible potential .
The US pavilion was a magnificent structure , a dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. The Russian pavilion was tauntingly within eye sight of the US Pavilion. Most pavilions had line- ups. Attendance predictions for opening day were for 200,000 attendees; yet, over 320,000 came to see the first day sights.
I went to the Ethiopian Pavilion first, because it seemed to be less crowded. As I entered, a charming gentleman came towards me and said "Welcome to Ethiopia"-- a simple yet poignant greeting that would set the mood for EXPO 67. In 1972 I would have the pleasure of spending 4 days in Ethiopia. At the Ethiopian pavilion, I asked a few questions and found my host to be most informative. I learned that Ethiopia was the second Christian nation, after Armenia-- a fact I would recall on my visit to Addis Ababa where I visited a church and attended mass. I also was treated to an amazing coffee at this pavilion. Now my culinary world was also about to to expand. ☺
During the summer of 1967, I undertook the Royal Canadian Dental Corps summer training at Camp Borden, north of Toronto. I managed to make it back to Montreal most weekends to share the beauty of EXPO with my military friends. I visited most pavilions several times and spent the occasional moment in the many pubs , bars, etc. which were located at most pavilions and throughout the grounds. I acquired a taste for what I considered exotic "foreign" ale. There was a British pub that featured a good cross section of UK beer. A German Beer garden had an October Fest atmosphere. The beer there was what was then considered an exorbitant $1 a glass. Remember this was 1967 and most beer was 50-75 cents in Montreal. In a brilliant act of damage control, the management of the German Bier Garten let it be known that their "bier" was served in larger 1 liter steins. That was good enough for me.
Back at dental school, one of my first patients was a Norwegian exchange student. He knew most of the people at the Scandinavian Pavilion and told me that the lovely gals there were eager to meet some Canadians. I was still engaged at that time, and as was my style, I was a 'One man dog". But when were went our separate ways I was armed with a knowledge that there were many great people to meet and many were pretty gals.