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Ian on Travel

I'm a software developer, writer, photographer, and tinkerer, but also a world traveller who loves to show and to tell what I've seen. I've been fortunate that my career as a freelance developer/instructor has taken me to some of these places for work, allowing me to explore them in the off hours, and often off-season.

I believe that travel expands the soul, by exposing you to other points of view, and by letting you see how people live in other parts of the country and the world.

That said, here's some of the places I've been. Some have plain map links, others have links to writeups. I'll be writing up more places as I have time.

Places in Canada

As you'd expect, I've been to most parts of the country at least once (nine provinces, one territory), and all the large cities. "But wait! There's more!" Some smaller or less-well-known places:

  • Banff, Alberta
  • Grand Manaan, NB - beautiful vacation island, near the border with Maine.
  • Iqaluit, NU, Canada
  • Near Midland, ON is the S.S. Keewatin, a valuable history museum as well as a lens on an earlier age of luxury.
  • South Simcoe Railway, historic steam train running from Tottenham ON to Beeton, on tracks that are the remainder of a line that once ran from Hamilton to Barrie and Collingwood. See my 2013/14 writeup and photos of their 2013 Santa Train (sadly the publisher doesn't display the pictures).
  • Killbear Park, Parry Sound, ON - A good getaway, and where we did a lot of SCUBA training
  • Kingston, ON - delightful mid-sized city where both my parents went to University, as did my dear late son Andrej and several of his friends.
  • Lasqueti Island, BC - my dad's family has lived there for over a century, and we lived there for a year when my mom passed away (I was 9 at the time).
  • London, ON - taught several computer courses there, and my eldest went to U of Western Ontario.
  • Ottawa, ON - My grandmother lived here and here while we were growing up, and I've taught courses in the nation's capital for many years. One of my "second home" cities.
  • Thompson, MB - teaching the mine engineers C programming for a CAD extension. They took me on a behind-the-scenes mine tour that was awesome.
  • Vancouver, BC - my maternal grandmother live here, and we often used her place as a waypoint when getting to Lasqueti.

What better segue from Canada to the USA than a cruise down the St. Lawrence from Montreal to Boston?

United States

In addition to most of the big cities - Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, Washington DC (Reston and Herndon, VA) - I've been to some interesting smaller or out-of-the-way places:

  • Antelope Canyon, AZ
  • Bar Harbor, ME
  • Cape Cod, MA
  • Charlottsville, VA
  • Chattanooga, TN
  • Grand Canyon, AZ
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • The western part of the old Route 66 from Denver into Santa Monica, CA. Lent a fellow traveller $20 who said he'd mail it back to me, but it never arrived. Was young and foolish at the time, so I drove far too long at a stretch on that trip. At one point, fell asleep just as I turned the car's engine off in the parking lot of a roadside cafe in the middle of nowhere, out in the desert. Woke up hours later to an urgent call of nature. When I returned from the cafe, reached for my car keys, into an empty pocket! Saw the keys still in the ignition. Called the AAA, who showed up "a while" later and let me in. Drove off into the sunset (literally).
    Drove a similar path two decades later. Went to rent a car one way, none available, tried several RAC agencies. Finally one said "No cars, but if you don't mind driving a passenger van..." So we did - that thing had a yuge gas tank; only had to fill it a few times between Denver and California, but it cost a bundle to fill! Route was mostly on Interstate highways by then.
  • Sedona, AZ, home of the beautiful red rocks
  • More to come...

Latin America/Caribbean

  • Caracas, Venezuela. Long, long ago, in a lifetime far away, my father took us on a cruise around the Caribbean on Holland-America's MS Nieuw Amsterdam II, after my mother passed away. Before jet travel was commonplace, cruise ships would leave from Hoboken, NJ (just across the Hudson from NYC). Cruising up and down the eastern seaboard in December, in an age when ships were much smaller than today, the ship was going up and down, up and down, and so was my stomach! I spent much of the seaboard traversal in the head or in bed.

    Caracas was a peaceful city in those days, decades before that country's self-immolating collapse, and a good spot for tourists. I was young, and I mostly remember the pirate castle. Oh, and the driver who toured us around part of the city in his "one horsepower, air-conditioned" open air cart.

  • Carriacou - tiny island that once had the campus of a Toronto high school "Canadian Junior College". Most of its residents live in poverty, so seeing that was good exposure for a few of Toronto's upper-middle class youth whose parents could afford to send them.
  • Costa Rica - took a wonderful bus tour with Caravan Tours, whom we recommend.
  • Cozumel, MX
  • Bermuda
  • Bahamas
  • Grand Cayman - for SCUBA diving; also of note for having a tiny town called "Hell".

Europe

  • Iceland! Guided tour by Gate 1 Travel, which we recommend. The country is a delight in many ways.

    Icelandic is linguistically the closest there is to Old Norse, the ancestral language of the Nordic countries. Yet many of the teenagers we met spoke English with no discernable accent, due to their education system and also the influence of US and UK electronic media. Middle-aged people tended to speak somewhat-accented English, and we met one senior who didn't speak any English at all.

  • Stockholm, SE - a wonderful city to explore. Must see: The Old Town ("Gamla Stan"); also the Vasa Museum. Touring with my dear late son Andrej, we stumbled upon this museum. The Vasa was the King's personal flagship, the first with two rows of cannon. On her launch in 1628, and in front of the king, entire nobility, and thousands of cheering fans, she heeled over and sank in the lightest touch of breeze, going down so fast she took 83 sailors (and 5% of the entire GDP) to a watery grave. Sweden's navy never recovered, and ceased to be a major naval power (having rivaled England and Spain at one point). Vasa was recovered in 1961 through the efforts of an amateur archaeologist, and through public subscription of funds a purpose-built museum now houses her for all to see. Right on the waterfront, and Worth the trip.

    Another tale of Andrej - on a later flight to London (before 9/11), this cute lad (he was then 11) beguiled a stewardess into asking the captain if we could see the cockpit, and he said yes, so we "rode jump" across part of the Atlantic (but not for the landing).

    Andrej would later go on to become a sailor, working through the Canadian Sea Cadet program and finishing his Canadian Yachting Association sailing instructor program. He stopped sailing when he went to University, took time off from studies before graduating, and made many friends in the gaming community in Kingston and online before he passed away.

  • I taught computer courses at Malmo, SE
  • Lisbon, PT - teaching an onsite course for a telecomms company. I know enough Spanish to be able to understand a a bit of Portuguese. On the first morning, the local convenor introduced me with "This guy doesn't speak Portuguese, so we'll be doing the course in English. Hope you don't mind." Nobody did. People there seem to live on strong espresso coffee! On the last night of the course, they took me out for dinner - half an hour away, to a tiny fishing village on the south coast (though not the tiny village some believe was Columbus' last European landfall before the voyage that changed the world forever).
  • London, UK - we did our honeymoon there, and have been several times over the years on various business trips. It's another city I love and feel at home in.
  • Stafford, UK is a small town in the English Midlands, near where Wedgewood pottery used to come from, former home of an R.A.F. base, and former home of Staffordshire University, where I did an M.Sc. in Computing. The Uni has since closed this campus and consolidated everything in its Stoke-on-Trent campus.

    It was on my first trip to Stafford that I purchased a SIM card from a then-new startup called https://www.virginmedia.com/mobile/ Virgin Mobile, a great mobile provider. I kept and used that SIM for many years after, when travelling in the UK and on the continent.

  • Malmesbury, UK is a small town in Wiltshire, England where AT&T had/has a large commercial presence. I stayed in an inn next door to where King John established a library in the 10th Century.

Asia

  • Singapore Had a nice time there, but the return trip was a real downer... Had to circle in fog for a bit before landing for a stopover to change planes at Narita (Tokyo). Finally got to the gate... just in time to see another Air Canada plane pulling away... They knew we would be 10 mins late and refused to hold the flight for us. Last flight of the day. After futzing around for an hour or so, they agreed to put us up in a local hotel, and arranged to put us on various flights the next day. Mine was Narita to Chicago O'Hare (my least-favorite airport in the world at the time), then on to Toronto. The next morning I went to the airport and tried to get them to change it to one with a stopoever in Vancouver instead. Took JAL and the other Japanese carrier involved over an hour of non-stop talking on the phone, but they eventually booked me on the Air Canada flight - the same one we had just missed the day before, e.g., at 24-hour (minus 10 minutes) stopover. Total flight time home, including all legs of travel: 48 hours. Longest ever. Bleargh.

    To rub salt, on my next Air Canada flight, they made us wait before departure, in the plane, for half an hour so some people from a much shorter distance away could make their connection. If you're not from Canada, you may begin to realize that, while we often remain loyal to Air Canada, it isn't always because of their excellent service. It's because they ate their main competition (Canadian Airlines) some years ago.

  • Hong Kong - was there once, on the anniversary of the handover to the communist mainland. There was a demonstration outside my hotel, with protesters on one side and guards with machine guns on the other. I stayed away (in fact, this was mega-jet-lag day, so I just closed the curtains and went back to bed). But the authorities had learned from Tieneman Square, and there was no bloodshed.

Impact Statement

As a frequent traveller and travel writer, I am cognizant of the fact that our decisions affect the world around us, both in terms of local air pollution and global greenhouse gas emissions. I do what I can to minimize my impact, including:

  • buying an electric vehicle (a Tesla Model 3) for my own local trips;
  • walking!
  • preferring mass transit over taxis/limos when available;
  • preferring electric limo services such as EcoRides when available;
  • travelling by train (Via Rail) rather than by air for short- and medium-length trips (it's way more comfortable, takes roughly the same length of time, and burns a lot less fuel because you only have to overcome inertia, not gravity);
  • Working from home, or my home city, when possible;

... and otherwise minimising the impact of my travel.