The beauty of travel is its ability to give us a different perspective on the world. Sometimes the modes of transport we use can seem increasingly standardized, whether it’s planes, trains or automobiles. We peer out of the same small windows of the same vehicles on the same routes as everyone else.
G.K. Chesterton famously wrote; “The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see”. So, let’s throw off the shackles of transport as a means of just delivering us from point A to point B and take a look at how different types of transport can be an experience in themselves!
1. Aerial Tramways
There are few better ways of seeing a city or a landscape in its entirety than by being able to glide serenely above it and get a bird’s eye view. There are so many incredible routes in countries across the globe, viewing a famous landmark like Rio De Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain, experiencing the world’s steepest aerial tramway route at the Rosh Hanikra grottoes in northern Israel or ascending Mount Stanserhorn in Switzerland on a tramway with an open air deck (are you brave enough?).
2. Snow coaches
Sometimes if you want to go to extreme places and see extreme things then you have to invent your own transport. In the 1960s and 1970s, various types of large passenger vehicles were designed to operate on snow and ice to transport visitors into areas like the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park or for the purpose of viewing polar bears around Churchill, Manitoba.
3. Reed boats
Thor Heyerdahl’s epic 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition brought an ancient mode of transport back into the modern consciousness. Reed watercraft are still a viable mode of transport in various parts of Africa and South America. Perhaps the best known are the Uros people of the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, who doesn’t just construct reed boats for travel on the lake but actually lives on floating islands made from the same Totora reed.
4. Maglev trains
What’s so unusual about a train? How about one without wheels that don’t touch the ground and can travel at speeds people thought an impossibility until recently? An Asian innovation, Maglev trains currently only operate in three countries (Japan, China and South Korea). The most ambitious of these, Japan’s Chuo Shinkansen transit project will connect Tokyo with Nagoya and Osaka, 400km away, in a total journey time of 67 minutes. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until 2027 for it to be operational for the public.
5. Horseback safaris
African safaris are always a hugely popular travel experience. Even from the conventional confines of a Toyota Land Cruiser, it’s amazing how close you can get to the majestic wildlife of Africa. But an entirely different experience has become hugely popular in recent years via horseback safaris. It’s eco-friendlier and a far more immersive experience whether you’re in the deserts of Namibia, on the beaches of Mozambique or amongst the Great Migration herds of Kenya and Tanzania.
6. Dog sleds
When we think about authentic travel experiences in the colder parts of the world, many of us conjure images of indigenous people using dog sleds as they have for centuries. Most countries within the Arctic Circle use this form of travel to a certain extent, Alaska/Canada, Scandanavia and Russia are all popular destinations for dog sledding experiences. You don’t need to undertake something as grueling as the legendary Iditarod Race, many resorts offer half-day or full day experiences into their local wilderness as a taster.
7. Canopy zipline tours
Another great example of a unique perspective is to traverse rainforest areas via a series of ziplines which make up a canopy tour. They certainly don’t lack for excitement and adrenaline too! These experiences can be found in many countries, South Africa and New Zealand have several but the original innovator of these tours has to be Costa Rica. They have become a staple of the country’s ecotourism principles and are often combined with other fun physical activities such as rafting or mountain-biking.
8. House boats
If canopy tours sound a bit scary then, at the other end of the scale, perhaps you’d enjoy the pure relaxation of a house boat? There are over 40 sites in the US alone, like the spectacular Lake Powell. House boats also have a long history in other parts of the world. The Norfolk Broads in the UK are synonymous with boat-based holidays as are the Indian states of Kerala and Kashmir.
9. Sub-orbital space travel
The final frontier? Despite years of hype, it does feel as though space tourism is now very close to a reality, even though it might be a few years before it’s affordable for most of us. Only Hollywood has been able to show us what it might be like to look down on our own planet from the ultimate vantage point, but the tenacity of the likes of Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson will surely mean it’s an inevitability in the next decade (or maybe two).
10. Your own two feet
Ultimately, the only truly unique travel experience you can ever have is the one you choose and travel under your own power. So, if you want to take your own path and see the wonderful, unexpected surprises that only travel can deliver, don’t forget the most important form of transport you have is your own curiosity. I wonder what’s around that corner if I just go a little further….
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