Around the world by… armchair 1

I have no idea why, but from a young age I’ve always been interested in where other people live. When I was a kid I loved watching films or seeing photos of peoples’ travels – no matter where in the world. It’s a long time since I was a kid, but I still have that childhood curiosity about other places. I haven’t done much real roaming, so most of my exploring has been as an armchair traveller.

Holiday videos usually focus on the traveller’s point of view. This one focuses on the means of travel – in this case the VIA Canadian train on a small part of its journey across Canada. The complete trip from Vancouver to Toronto takes four days; this part, from Kamloops in British Columbia to Jasper in Alberta, takes a few hours. The cameraman is The Old Railfan (aka Hans-Joerg Mueller, who claims he was “born March 1945; railfan since 1947”) and he does a superb job. Although his interest is mostly the train, he also manages to make a very nice travel documentary. He says in his uploader’s comments, “This is as good as it gets! A beautiful sunny day and enough time to get to the pre-selected shooting locations to catch a twenty-one car Canadian in typical landscape through British Columbia into Alberta.” H-J has numerous videos on Youtube and Vimeo.

This map shows the location of Kamloops and Jasper. The distance between the two is about 450km (or about five hours) by road, so H-J had a busy day!

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A secret treehouse hiding in the woods of Whistler

When Canadian Joel Allen’s career as a software developer came to a sudden halt in 2006 he decided to retire. Without sufficient funding that idea fell flat and so, at 26 years of age, he decided to change direction.

But… where to? A timely meeting with an old man inspired Joel and gave him a new and exciting vision for the future. With no practical experience he became a carpenter. His first project was a shed for his parents – built solely for the experience gained. His second project was The Hemloft, an egg-shaped treehouse clinging to a tree on a steep slope in Whistler, British Columbia. He built it on Crown (public) land, in his spare time, and with as many free materials as he could lay his hands on. At first he worked alone, but for the last few months of the project he and his new love toiled on it together.

The result was a beautiful building in an amazing setting with wonderful views.

When asked – much later, when the project was complete – “Why?” Joel eventually responded, “I guess… I just wanted to build something cool”.

He writes,

It seemed too simple, but it was true. The driving force behind the whole thing was a simple, yet inexorable desire to build something cool. There were no practical motives or profound meanings. The fact that it was hiding below some of the richest properties in Western Canada wasn’t a political statement, it just happened to be where I found the perfect tree. And building with free materials wasn’t out of some principled ideal, it was just the only avenue I could afford. In the end, I was mysteriously compelled to build something cool, something beautiful… and apparently, I was willing to go to maniacal lengths to make it happen.

Joel’s website chronicles the whole story and includes great photos of the loft’s construction and of it complete. The video provides a good introduction to The Hemloft.