I first came across TCC in a book by the traveler Ben Fogle [an English TV presenter and writer]. When I checked the TCC list of countries I was surprised to find that I had been to 97. My wife and I visited three more countries, joined the club and we were thrilled a while later when the club opened its first overseas chapter in the UK. But I started my travels when young.
In 1948 Castries, the capital city of the Caribbean Island of St Lucia, was almost entirely destroyed by fire. At the time St Lucia was a British colony so the British Government sent a team of builders to rebuild the city, of which my Dad was a senior member. Dad flew to St Lucia in July 1949. The first leg of his flight was by Pan Am Stratocruiser. Amazingly for those times the aircraft had two decks and after a meal the passengers trooped downstairs to beds on the lower deck. My mother, sister and I flew out a few weeks later on a DC4 of Trans-Canada Airways. The journey took four days. No sooner had we taken off from the overseas terminal of London Airport—at the time two small converted army huts—than an engine failed. So we stayed the night in Scotland whilst the engine was fixed. The aircraft was too small to cross the Atlantic in one hop, so the next day we flew first to Iceland, then to Goose Bay Labrador and finally to Montreal, where crew and passengers spent the night. The third day was from Montreal to Bermuda and then to Trinidad. Finally on the fourth day we arrived in St Lucia. That was my introduction, aged nine, to foreign travel.
By the 1970s I was working in South America and was invited to tour Coca-Cola bottling plants across the continent. In 1973 I checked into an hotel in Bogota Colombia. The bell boy took me to my room and drew back the curtains. “Look,” he said, and there a few hundred yards away the 17th and 18th floors of a 25-story skyscraper, the Tundama building, were on fire. Helicopters were lifting people from the roof. During the three days I was there the fire gradually burned itself up to the top floor.
In the 1990s I was Finance Director of a company with an office in New York so crossed the Atlantic on Concorde a few times. On one occasion on takeoff from Heathrow one of the engines failed. We turned back and by the time the engine had been fixed it was eight at night. We took off in darkness. As we flew the sun “rose” the wrong way and we landed at Kennedy three and a half hours later at 6 p.m. in broad daylight.
Since retiring we have been on forty or so cruises and seen some amazing sights from the decks of cruise ships. We have seen a humpback whale breach right next to the ship; picked up from the middle of the Mediterranean a tiny boat packed with refugees; seen Shanghai at night from the Bund and Manhattan from Brooklyn; icebergs in Disko Bay Greenland and a polar bear on a beach in Spitsbergen. At night also we have sailed through the canals of Venice and down the Golden Horn past Istanbul. We have been in a category 3 hurricane in the Southern Ocean with winds up to 110 mph and 60 foot waves damaging the ship. In the Arctic we saw a pod of 600-800 dolphins that took an hour to pass, packs of killer whales and a fin whale 40 feet long.
Shore tours from cruise ships have not been without incident. We were once tear gassed in Manger Square Bethlehem and toured the Church of the Nativity with tears streaming down our faces.