Diane grew up a farm-girl and Alex was born and bred a city-boy, but we have spent our lives together in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. We met while working at a popular ski resort, got married on the border with Alaska, moved to Vancouver Island and now base ourselves in Northern BC. The Coast Mountains are the perfect place for us, because we try to spend as much time on the coast as we do in the mountains. After 25 years together, we are trying to see and share as much of the world as we can.
Our first vacation together was to Hawai’i. While staying at a friend’s condo, we decided to try the snorkeling gear we found in a closet. WOW! We had no idea how amazing and beautiful the underwater world is, and explored many of the reefs along the Kohala Coast. We also decided to try the boogie-boards we found in the same closet. WOW! We had no idea how fun and exciting sliding down the face of a wave is, and took every opportunity to ride the surf along the Kohala Coast.
Hapuna Beach, Hawai’i
The Best Laid Plans
Alaska Highway, Yukon
As we camped through the Yukon and Alaska on our honeymoon, we decided our life together should include plenty of adventure and romance. And what could be more adventurous and romantic than traveling around the world? We decided right then and there we would do just that.
A year later, long before smart phones and travel bloggers, we had scrimped and saved enough money to buy two round-the-world tickets, a couple of backpacks and six months’ worth of traveler’s checks. We left our tenants in charge of our three cats and condo, and set off backpacking around the world.
Hitting The Road
Southeast Asia was the perfect jumping off point for two newbie backpackers. The first order of business was to find a beach where we could decompress and wrap our heads around the upcoming year. With a bungalow on the beach and the ocean lapping at our doorstep, Tioman Island was just the place. A month in Malaysia was magic. But, after a month beach-hopping and discovering delicious foods in southern Thailand, we needed more excitement.
Our guidebook said Koh Tao was the cheapest place to learn to scuba dive, so off we went. After two weeks of diving and studying every day, we were Rescue Divers. It was a rewarding and life-changing experience, and we had found a new passion. Eventually we left the southern beaches for the northern rivers and jungles. We spent three more months exploring the Buddhist temples and Khmer ruins of Thailand and Cambodia, and spent a few days on a riverboat down the Nam Tha and Mekong rivers in Laos.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Subcontinental Homesick Blues
We headed to Nepal for a month-long trek around and into the Annapurna range, where we headed up along the Marshyangdi River, down along the Kali Gandaki River and back up to some of the highest glaciers in the world. This will always be a highlight of our travels. With its breathtaking scenery, fascinating culture and welcoming locals, returning to Nepal remains high on our travel bucket list.
From the Himalayas, we made our way to the Ganges River in Varanasi and Sun Temple on the Bay of Bengal shoreline. Halfway through our trip, we thought we were well on our way to becoming seasoned backpackers – we were wrong. India is a world unto itself and requires a great deal of patience, fortitude and perseverance, but the southern part of the country was considerably less stressful than the north. We rounded Cape Comorin and worked our way up the coast of the Arabian Sea to Mumbai.
Istanbul to Cairo
After the heat, hustle and hassle of India, we landed at the edge of Europe in the middle of the night. For the next three months we made our way from Istanbul to Cairo. Turkey was a welcome change after India – reasonably well-developed, clean and friendly. Starting on the shores on the Sea of Marmara, we crossed the Bosphorus back to Asia and made a point of visiting the country’s other three seas – the Black, Mediterranean and Aegean – before heading to Arabia.
Even prior to 9/11, western media reports about Syria and the Middle East were less than favorable. So, with some trepidation and misgivings we found ourselves at the Turkey-Syria border. If there was one place that made us aware of the unfounded prejudices, it was Syria. The hospitality of the friendly people and the tangible connection to ancient history was unlike anywhere else we had been. We are grateful for the opportunity to have visited such a special country before the start of the ongoing conflict.
Dead Sea, Jordan
The sights around Amman – including a float in the Dead Sea – the ancient city of Petra and starry nights under the desert sky kept us busy in Jordan, as we headed south to the Red Sea and Egypt. “Hello, pleased to meet me!” invited us into every shop, restaurant and dive center in Dahab. Diving some of the area’s iconic sites – such as Bell’s, Blue Hole and Ras Mohamed – are some of our most unforgettable experiences.
Morocco was our last stop, and the final straw. We made our way down the Atlantic Coast, turned inland to visit as many Imperial Cities and desert towns as we could, tried crossing the Tizi-n-Test Pass, and ended up stranded in Ouarzazate (where’s it at?). So, we turned around and headed home.
We returned home and immediately started planning the next trip. We spent another year and a half working, skiing and biking, then found another set of tenants to look after the cats and condo. This time we circumnavigated the globe in an easterly direction. We started our first trip about a degree north of the equator in Singapore, and we started our second one about a degree south of it.
Starting in Quito, we and spent the next month working our way south to the border of Peru. From the Pacific coast, we flew to Iquitos where we took a speedboat to the border area with Colombia and Brazil, and spent several days at a remote lodge deep in the Amazon rainforest.
We hiked through the cloud forests of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and ended up at the world’s highest navigable lake. We crossed into Bolivia at Lago Titicaca, and headed to the stunning Andean Altiplano and salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni.
Isla del Sol, Bolivia
After a few days exploring the wetlands of northeastern Argentina’s Esteros del Iberra, we made our way to the spectacular Iguazu Falls and onward to Brazil, Carnaval and the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean.
Under African Skies
Nkhata Bay, Malawi
The Dark Continent was another exotic blend of cultures and traditions, along with thrilling close up encounters with the continent’s “Big Five” – or six if you count Great White Sharks! Much like our trip to South America, we started through East Africa about a degree south of the equator in Nairobi.
Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves adrift in a cargo dhow off Swahili coast trying to get to Pemba and Zanzibar islands, and then made our way to Lake Malawi for some fresh-water scuba diving.
Making our way to the Atlantic Ocean, we spent time in Zambia on a safari through South Luangwa National Park and exploring the area around Victoria Falls. Without reliable public transportation to Namibia’s main attractions, we decided to rent a car and buy a tent and see the country independently, rather than on an organized tour.
Zambezi River, Zambia
We did a self-drive safari along Etosha’s watering-holes and stayed at places like Twyfelfontain, Cape Cross, Fish River and Sossusvlei as long as we wanted. Often we were the only people there.
Cage Diving in Gaansbai
South Africa’s dramatic coastline reminded us of British Columbia, and we followed it from the Atlantic back to the Indian Ocean. Along the way, we spent several weeks surfing at Cape St. Francis, and diving with Sand Tiger Sharks at Aliwal Shoal and Great Whites near Gaansbai – the latter in a cage.
A Slow Boat Through China
China is one of the most challenging places we have visited. Fascinating, frustrating and foreign. A country so vast it’s impossible to see it all in one trip. Diane almost suffered another near breakdown when she saw the condition of the sleeper bus in Guilin on which we were to spend the following thirty hours – but we survived. We took buses through Guangxi and Yunnan, flights in and out of Tibet, and trains to Xian, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. China is the only country where we have taken every form of long distance transportation, including three days on a boat through the Three Gorges.
Sleeper Bus, China
Vancouver Island, Canada
Back in Canada once again, our priorities and outlook had changed – funny how travel does that. So, we decided to follow through with a plan we hatched in South Africa – buy and operate a guesthouse.
We could still be part of the travel lifestyle and host travelers to our part of the world, and had a great time welcoming and sharing stories with visitors at our guesthouse on Vancouver Island.
But after several years, mountain life came calling again and we bought a property farther north – lots of space, a small house with a large garden, biking and skiing trails out our back door, and a stunning view of the mountains across the valley.
Since moving to Northern BC, we’ve been exploring our own backyard with annual dive trips to Mexico, which seemed to provide some balance in our lives and satisfy our wanderlust. The travel bug’s been itching for a while, so we packed everything we own into a storage unit, rented out our house and hit the road.
The Blue Path
Two things we notice wherever we go are:
– the deteriorating condition of our oceans, lakes, rivers and other waterways, and
– the effects and impact of travel on a local culture and environment.
There are simple actions every person can take, at home and abroad, to minimize their effect on the planet’s natural ecosystems. There are also more profound attitudes and behaviors we can all adopt to improve the condition of the people and places we visit and where we live.