Member Spotlight: Ann and Alan Shaver, Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Ann and Alan visited Nahuel Huapi National Park, San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina in March, 2023.

Alan and I have journeyed together throughout our lives, and we’ve often been asked “What’s your favourite place?” It’s a tough question. We’ve always been drawn to the thrill of exploring less-visited, more out-of-the-way places and how do you pick one? While traveling in the Middle East in 2011, Alan received an intriguing email from his mother, which included an attachment to a Canadian travel magazine. The article spoke about the creation of a Travelers’ Century Club chapter opening in Toronto, with Rick Shaver as coordinator. Unknown to us at the time, Rick happened to be Alan’s 3rd cousin; they shared a great-grandfather. It was obvious they also shared a passion for travel. We were eager to return home to make a connection with Rick. We joined the TCC as provisional members and have since enjoyed sharing ideas and experiences with our fellow travel enthusiasts.

Our adventure began at a university in Nova Scotia, where we met and graduated as teachers. Newly married in 1977 and brimming with optimism, we sent resumes far and wide, in search of a place to kick-start our careers. We settled on a small town in Northern Alberta and while there, had the opportunity to explore some of Canada’s stunning landscapes, including Banff and Jasper National Parks, Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii. This began a lifelong fascination with the natural wonders of the world, other cultures and travel.

Encouraged by friends, we eventually relocated to the Far North, accepting teaching positions in Pelly Bay (now Kugaaruk), located 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It was an 8-hour flight on a DC-3 from Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, to our new home. We will never forget the drone of the engines or as the wings tipped, our first glimpse of the tiny hamlet. Looking down on the 60 or so tiny, multicoloured houses, we marveled at the decision we had made and the new adventures that lay ahead. Amidst the endless expanse of tundra and ice, we found ourselves living among a community of 300, that still embraced a traditional Inuit lifestyle. They were the last nomadic Inuit community in Canada to transition from living in tents and igloos to permanent dwellings, a mere two decades earlier. Co-teaching with our Inuit colleagues helped us to appreciate and embrace life in the north. We immersed ourselves in the community, learning the language and acquiring skills such as spear-fishing, hunting and sewing skins for winter clothing. On many occasions Alan found himself helping to build igloos and enjoying the warmth and the cold of sleeping in them.

Our time in Kugaaruk was both challenging and enriching. The isolation was undeniable, especially during the long winter months when the sun remained below the horizon. Yet in many ways teaching in the North provided the springboard for our global travels. We spent hours poring over Lonely Planet books as we anticipated our summer breaks, and after visiting family and friends we were usually off for adventures further afield.

Left: early in their travels, Ann and Alan take a rest in Arusha after climbing Kilimanjaro; at right, Alan (dressed in a caribou parka made by Ann) with Ann and his mother, Pat in Kugaaruk, Nunavut; is parents visited in May, 1983.

After three years in Kugaaruk, we took a year-long sabbatical and embarked on a four-month Trans Africa tour, traversing 11 countries in an open Bedford army truck. The journey was filled with unforgettable experiences from navigating the Sahara to climbing Kilimanjaro and sleeping on the edge of Ngorongoro Crater. It was a time of intense bonding as we camped and cooked meals together, and went through dozens of military and police checks and searches. The trip was more than we expected and everything we could have hoped for.

We returned to Canada’s north to teach for another 15 years. We began our family and maintained our annual tradition of travel. As our children grew, our trips were adapted to include family-friendly activities, from exploring ruins in Central America to elephant rides and bamboo rafting in Thailand. They survived 15-hour bus trips, and some memorable toilets, and gained an appreciation for currency, other languages and cultures. They eventually carried their packs, made their purchases and helped us select accommodations and destinations. We made a lot of good memories and looking back they realize how fortunate they were to experience what they did.

In 2017 we took our first “group” trip since our African journey in 1983. We had always planned our trips and traveled alone. The rail trip from Moscow to Beijing, however, presented some challenges that we felt could be overcome by joining an organized tour. We loved it! Not only did we get to share travel stories with our companions and benefit from the knowledge and insights of our group leaders, but it was a nice break to have hotels and tours booked for us. Since then, we have had several group trips and they’ve all been excellent. As I write this article, we are preparing for an adventure to Uganda to see the mountain gorillas, something we missed on our Trans-African trip, 40 years ago.

We have lots of traveling left to do. But first ‘Papa and Grandma’ are looking forward to taking our 5-year-old grandson to Calgary this summer to visit his cousins.

From the editor: The story about the TCC bringing together third cousins Alan and Rick Shaver is amazing to me! It led me to reach out to Rick for his comments: “Alan and I kinda lived in parallel ‘Shaver universes’. Until the TCC brought us together, we only knew of each other as names on a family tree. Connecting for the first time more than a decade ago at a TCC Canada meeting was such a pleasure. World travel must be in the Shaver DNA!”

Travelers’ Century Club®
8939 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 102
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 2297
Cupertino, CA 95015
Tel: (888) 822-0228

TCC Forum is a private social networking site for members only. Registration is required. More info here »

Travelers' Century Club