Over the course of the past year and a half, as I sat down to compose my quarterly President’s Message, I have always had several constant factors in mind, several of which I have actually noted in these columns.
I always remember that I have an audience (or at least I hope to have one!) which consists of world travelers, that I have a world-wide audience of readers for whom I need to avoid parochial topics of limited interest and, as I have mentioned before, that readers of The Centurian are, like Willie Nelson, always “on the road again!”
Each of these themes came together this summer as I, like many of you, took to the skies, seas and streets to explore the world around us. A few weeks before I left, my metropolitan newspaper’s Sunday Travel section featured an article on the classic “Road Trip,” highlighting a true adventure on the Alaskan Highway (leading to one of our North American TCC destinations).
I, however, set out to the other side of the continent with a flight to New England and then our own “road trip” into the four Canadian Maritime and Atlantic provinces including numerous ferry crossings–thereby including those “skies, seas and streets” within the first few days.
Now, where these topics all came together was on the tiny French “Overseas Collectivity” of St. Pierre and Miquelon, located just off the south coast of Newfoundland. Unlike most of my friends and family who stared like the proverbial deer in the headlights, asking … “where?”… my TCC friends knew exactly where I was going, had their own stories to share and did not need to ask “why?”
These world travelers had confronted the same challenge I was facing: the need to “complete the list” of at least the destinations of our home region!
That is one of the conversations many of us have when we gather at our local chapter meetings–do we travel to our favorite places many times over or do we seek out new lands, prompted by The List? The answer to that question could fill several columns and is unique to each of us. But most of us would agree that certain locations are more pleasurable than others. After all, who would not want to go back to places we love?
But, The List … our list…calls us to places we might keep deferring until some later time which, for most people, tends to never arrive. And so, we use the challenge of completing some portion of that list to actually explore a new part of our incredible world. Thus… St. Pierre and Miquelon!
Well, summer is a great time to travel to this part of the world and St. Pierre provided a fun way to celebrate Bastille Day short of flying to Paris! We had a wonderful stay there with some great adventures, fascinating history lessons, delicious food and many new friends. OK, so the evening fog shortened the fireworks but the day-long festivities were filled with Gallic flare in a New World envronment.
Ah … but back to my “themes!” On an island with a small population (6000 on St. Pierre and only 600 on Miquelon), you tend to run into many locals and travelers over again. Some were interested in TCC and wanted to know more about our unique social club while others seemed to know more about us than I would have imagined!
I extended personal greetings to my hotel owner from a previous guest who was “a member of my travel club” and she immediately responded, “Oh, the Travelers’ Century Club?” Shocked, I asked how she knew about TCC and she answered that she had checked out our website many times and had numerous TCC members as guests.
I decided that this was the proper time to inform her that I was currently serving as the president of our wonderful club and she replied with the appropriate note of congratulations. But, sadly, she seemed somewhat surprised that I was the guy writing these messages, causing me to wonder if I needed a better photo to accompany my column! But I digress.
I was told that already, by mid-July, she had at least ten guests this season who were TCC members, realized that others must also have stayed in other hotels on the island and wondered what was going on? After all, next year would be the big celebration marking the 200th anniversary of the return of the French following the peace treaty with Britain concluding the Seven Years’ War.
Of course, I had the answer and it all had to do with one of those repeating “themes”– the leitmotif of all Centurians – the need to seek out new places in our quest to see the world, inspired by The List.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, is there? After all, basking in the tropical sun would have been a warmer way to spend the summer and wandering the galleries of a world-renown museum would have provided a more “artistic” experience but as luring as those “favorite destinations” might have been, seeking out a totally new site, even if motivated by a selfish challenge to add another check-mark to my own Country List, produced a unique experience I would not have wanted to miss!
In seeing the lands “discovered” by countless adventurers over the centuries, I trust that most of us use The List not as a competitive game of one-upsmanship but rather as a motivating tool to travel as contemporary explorers to discover lands of our own New World.