This is the time of year to dream of travel: past travels, future destinations. These days, travel planning can include surfing, but no need for a board, speedo or bikini, just a good wi-fi connection. On the Web there’s a world of information – and mis-information.
I’ve had experiences with businesses and attractions that have suffered from postings made by malicious trolls bent on disrupting the services and sullying the reputation of legitimate businesses. I’ve received excellent service from a bicycle rental shop in Delray Beach Florida, a camera shop in Ottawa and a hotel in Lisbon. However, each has been plagued by undeserved posts such as, “…their rentals are in poor repair and their staff are rude and un-informed”, or “…only open from 200 am-500 am on Sundays…” and “…rooms are tiny and the concierge is rude.”
I suspect it’s their competitors, ex-spouses and malcontents who make these accusations. It’s the same rascals who can write undeserved glowing reports. As with news reports, consumer beware! Try to do some fact-finding through first-hand experience.
The so-called “world of information” I mentioned is just a world – but less than the universe. The universe of travel possibilities existed long before the Internet. It was the Vikings, Columbus, Magellan and Cook whose first-hand observations made available a wealth of information for the armchair travellers afraid of leaving home port.
My travels have taught me that some of the most fascinating experiences have no websites, no presence on the internet. They are like an angler’s secret fishing hole. I’m drawn to explore what’s at the end of any road that’s posted ‘BRIDGE OUT’ or ‘NO WINTER MAINTENANCE’ or ‘TRAVEL AT YOUR OWN RISK’.
Off the beaten tracks you could come across a water-powered mill that’s almost concealed by a half-century of vegetation, or the ruins of a factory that at one time produced aircraft during WW II. Only swallows fly out of the rotting remnants of its doors that are swinging lazily in the wind, barely suspended on tracks.
This year I explored an abandoned prairie church whose pulpit is now silent. Raindrops tap on the wooden floor through gaps in the lofty ceiling. The pews are vacant and rotting. Almost hidden by a flourishing stand of weeds, a bronze plaque rests beside a bell that once occupied the steeple. Its detailed text tells the story of what once was a vibrant parish community.
Only when I grow old will I seek out opportunities to drive the Trans-Canada, speed along the 400-series highways and the Interstates, forever eat under the Golden Arches and overnight only at franchise hotels. If you’ve ever watched the movie “Groundhog Day” you know what I mean.
Why travel if there’s no exploration, no discovery, no serendipity? Only when we journey to unforgettable places and do unforgettable things, does our memory improve.