Lonely Planet Writer

76-Second Travel Show: 'What's a travel animal?'


If you hadn't noticed, animals are going berserk lately. In Colorado, a bear took a Toyota for a 'joy ride' and smashed it into a tree; in South Africa, a whale jumped onto a sailboat (perhaps it had watched Duran Duran's 'Rio' one too many times). Are they trying to stop travel? Or are they merely trying to travel too?

I've been interesting in honoring certain 'travel animals' for a while -- but previous efforts tended to be on animals you see, not animals that travel like we do. An official at the Bronx Zoo -- probably the USA's best -- deflated my hopeful notions of finding real 'travel animals' (meaning one detouring to learn things, have fun, goof off, smell the roses). He said, 'Animals travel to get food or find habitat. That's it.'

But I didn't give up. Michael Macek, the bird curator at the St Louis Zoo, told me birds like jays are surprisingly curious, and that oceanic birds have such an abundant food supply they'll spend time for a little fun. 'If everything's right in the world, they'll expend some energy being curious, investigating things.'

Nice, but they don't get my vote. Recently prepping for a trip to Manitoba, I found the one animal that gets my vote for Poster-Animal of Travel in the book 'Sentimental Journey: An Oral History of Train Travel in Canada.'

Eunice, a cat in Edmonton, hopped on a passing freight in 1983, then was discovered by rail workers at the station in Churchill, 1000 miles away. Why'd she go? Who knows? Maybe to learn about polar bears, to have a tale to boast about, or just to relax on the long journey and strays and hoboes on the ride up from the prairies to permafrost? Whichever way, it's travel.

--> Do you have any suggestions for 'travel animals'?

See past 76-Second Travel Show episodes here.