Travel in­spi­ra­tion

Canadian Geographic - - DISPATCH -

As a young kid, I spent count­less hours scan­ning my par­ents’ book­shelves, flip­ping through pages in search of pic­tures and ig­nor­ing nearly ev­ery­thing else. I wanted to be trans­ported out of ru­ral eastern On­tario to some­where — any­where, please! — fan­tas­ti­cal, and the seem­ingly end­less lines of text in most of mum and dad’s books couldn’t take a boy who had just started learn­ing to read far enough away. I say “ig­nor­ing nearly ev­ery­thing else” be­cause there was an ex­cep­tion. Among all those books I dis­re­garded, there was one I kept re­turn­ing to: Where the Bong Tree Grows, Amer­i­can writer James Ram­sey Ull­man’s 1963 South Pa­cific trav­el­ogue. What drew me in was the il­lus­trated map that ex­tended across the in­side front cover and first page. What kind of name was Bora Bora, any­way? And could you re­ally take a So­lent Fly­ing Boat — what­ever that was — from Samoa to Tahiti? Might I one day pad­dle an out­rig­ger ca­noe around the Aus­tral Is­lands? Where the Bong Tree Grows was my ini­tial brush with the life-chang­ing po­ten­tial of travel, and I thought of it be­fore as­sign­ing the first fea­ture for this is­sue, Stephen Smith’s tale of is­land hop­ping in Tahiti. Ull­man’s book may have ex­er­cised some in­flu­ence on my un­con­scious be­cause three of the other four fea­tures in these pages also cover des­ti­na­tions that are, ar­guably, far-flung, or at the very least on the ge­o­graphic pe­riph­ery of some­thing: Bonaire, the Florida Keys and Canada’s East Coast. What­ever the lo­ca­tion of these and the other sto­ries in this is­sue — be it Bri­tish Columbia’s Okanagan Val­ley, Ja­pan, Lima’s bo­hemian quar­ter, Cal­i­for­nia or Is­tan­bul — I hope they have the same ef­fect on you as Where the Bong Tree Grows had on me.

—Harry Wilson

To com­ment, please email editor@can­geo­ or visit can­geo­ For in­side de­tails on the magazine, fol­low us on (@Can­geo_­travel) and (@Can­geo­travel).

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