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Lonely Planet blog


Has backpacking changed?

By admin   15 March 2010 2:06pm Europe/London

Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet, recently received a letter from Bob, a dedicated traveller who had just rediscovered his old backpack in his garage. Like Tony and Maureen Wheeler, he too had crossed continents in the 1960s when the travel landscape was an entirely different beast to what it is today. Here’s what he sent (with a transcript of the letter below as the scan is pretty tough to read):


“Dear Sir,

I was going through my shed the other day and found my old rucksack that I travelled around the world with in the 1960’s. I thought it would be a shame to throw it out; I then started to think that perhaps some of today’s back packers might like to see how we travelled back then. The back packs as they are called today are so different to this 1960 model. Lonely Planet immediately came to my mind as someone who maybe be interested in the history of back packing.

I have enclosed a couple of photos, as I did a lot of hitch hiking I found that the “AUSTRALIA” painted on the pack helped me get lifts. The ticket stubs from many of the bus and plane trips that I did can be seen still hanging on the back of the pack.

I travelled all around Europe and then immigrated to Canada so I could work there, no working holiday permits in those days. On one trip I hitch hiked and caught buses all the way through Central America to Panama.

Like you but in 1967 I decided to try and drive home to Australia from England. I purchased a VW Beetle and with the aid of a couple of pages from an Atlas I set off with a travelling companion from NZ. I found out that I could not drive past India and the cost of putting the car on a boat a bit expensive so I ended up selling the car in Kathmandu. With the aid of my colour slides I re-live these times and have started to write about my travels.

If you think you could use the rucksack in any way to promote travelling I could send you some digital photos. I have encouraged young people to travel all my life as I consider it a very important lesson in life. My two children have travelled a lot and my son has been working in London for several years. We are going over to see him in March.

Hope I have not taken up too much of your time.

Happy travelling.”

Amazing to see how travel has changed – would you still hitch? – but the spirit of travel remains constant. When we spoke to Bob he said “When talking to the young travellers these days they have the impression that it would have been cheap to travel back then. I tell them that if cost me the equivalent of $400 for a one way boat ticket to England and at the time I was getting $50 a week. They then realize how cheap it is to travel today.”

Fascinating, huh? Here’s to you, Bob. May you keep racking up those travel miles.