Editorial: A few days ago, when I was in Amritsar, I ran into a fellow Canadian who has been travelling in India for four months. He’s probably 61 years of age, a medical doctor who retired at age 55 because he wanted to devote 20 years to seeing the world. His goal? To travel through 100 countries before he’s 75. His itinerary, although unrestricted by time, is methodical for he’s passing through each place but once. He’s travelling rough, often staying in hostels that cost $5 a night, yet never scrimping on the ‘sights and sounds’.
Earlier I travelled through Sri Lanka, a country the Lonely Planet describes as “undiscovered” due to “years of war and challenges”. It’s a magical island, shaped like a teardrop, lying just below India. The country has had its share of tragedy—a 26-year civil war interrupted only in 2004 when the tsunami struck and more than 30,000 people were killed. Hopefully that is all behind them. I saw almost no youthful backpackers when I was there but many boomers. Most of those I met were from Britain and Europe. A surprising number of them were getting around by bicycle. They were a worldly lot, many having studied or worked abroad, all travelling independently.
It was not just boomers who were there in force but also the Chinese. I swear that every second tourist staying within the atmospheric walls of Galle, a fortress built by the Dutch, was from China. Most were young, well dressed and carrying a very big camera. They didn’t appear to be travelling as part of a group but moving around independently. Four young Chinese women took over the kitchen of the small hotel where we were staying and prepared a feast of their favourite foods that they shared with everyone.
Are we about to enter a new era in travel? I hope so and may it turn the travel industry on its complacent head. In the meantime, think about going to Sri Lanka. Skip the resorts south of Colombo and instead head north to the ‘cultural triangle’, then take a train to the hill country before going on a safari on the east coast and finish your stay on a laid-back beach in the south.
Try to go before the backpackers ‘discover’ it. Or the Russians, for they like the Chinese are travelling. In fact the top three visitors by country to this website are the Americans followed by the Chinese and then the Russians.
What good company, I say.