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The Resounding Travels of John Osborne

Amelia Tockston

The Resounding Travels of John Osborne

Amelia Tockston

What do you love about traveling?
I learn so much about the world… which I never knew previously in all my years. The only traveling I had done before I discovered ExpeditionTrips was in the Navy back in the 1940s which included Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan and Saipan. I started traveling internationally after turning 80! Since then, I’ve been to all seven continents. [John's many travels have included: Churchill; Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia; Antarctic Peninsula; Australia; Alaska and Bering Sea; Costa Rica; Peru; South Africa; Caribbean.]

Seeing that you’re planning your eighth expedition with us now, why does ExpeditionTrips appeal to you?
The staff showed a personal interest in me as well as my travel companions. They consistently answered all our questions, sent us all the material we needed, and gave us all-around excellent service.

What has been your favorite adventure thus far?
I’ve been asked this question numerous times… And, as soon as I’m ready to answer I always think of another trip to point out. There have been so many wonderful experiences; just too many outstanding things that have happened in my travels that I simply cannot select a favorite.

What is your travel philosophy? How do you choose your adventures, and what do you look for in a trip?
I look for something different and places where I won’t be with the GATs (Great American Tourists). Places that offer added adventure are most appealing—where you’re not just looking at something, you’re actually “participating.”

Your approach and appreciation for travel might be considered a little different than others. How do you feel your eye condition (Macular degeneration) has affected your travels? How has this impacted the way you view the world?

Well, I probably miss out on some things others with good vision pick up! (laughs) In the five years I’ve been traveling with ExpeditionTrips, my eyesight has gotten progressively worse. And, it’s for this reason I always take with me two travel companions who are young and spry! I’m in great shape for an 86-year old, the only problem is my eyes. So, I rely on my travel partners to read and write for me and general guidance when needed. Other than that, I’m not slowing down and I’m looking forward to my next adventure!

I recall our trip to Peru very vividly. Machu Picchu was, of course, our main objective. We also visited Lake Titicaca where the scenery was beautiful… then headed to Amantani Island where we stayed a couple days with a nice family… It was very simple, no extras, but authentic. I recall sleeping on really uncomfortable beds; but, for us the more rugged the better. I didn’t feel like tourist, I felt more like part of the community, and I remember how warm and friendly the people were towards us.

The last part of the trip was the Amazon, and for us, this was best part. I remember being impressed by the remoteness of where we were… First, we stayed one night at Posada Amazonas with quite a few tourists. But, then we took a 5-hour boat ride to a remote research station, Tambopata. Each morning, the resident researchers took census of the birds…There was no electricity, no hot water, just the rainforest and the sounds of the jungle. We were three of only five visitors at the lodge, but we still had private guides. One afternoon, we were walking, looking for tapirs and were hurrying to certain location to find them. One of my friends had gone across the river to play soccer with some of the natives. Our guide called out to the two of us, “we’ve got to get up there!!” But, I found myself getting a little worn out. So, I decided to hang back and told them to go on ahead. They agreed, led me to a sort of bench atop the cliff and said they’d come back for me later. I think I sat there for about an hour… I heard howler monkeys, birds, and all kinds of calls coming from all directions. I had never felt so alone and deep within nature. No motor boats or planes in the distance, just the sounds of nature. Sitting alone in the jungle, removed from civilization...it was an incredible spiritual experience for me. Hard to put into words... By the time they picked me up, it was pitch dark, and we could see Mars high in the sky above us.

For each trip, you bring with you two young travel companions who are typically not very well traveled. What kind of feedback have you received from them about their experience?
They’re typically college students with little travel experience outside their mission work, so it’s generally their first big international trip. They are usually overwhelmed and want to go again! The trip definitely sparks further interest in them for future travels.

What kind of trip would you like to take that you haven’t done yet?
Next, I’m off to Honolulu, Guam, Solomons, Vanuatu on "Legends of the South Pacific" aboard the Spirit of Oceanus. I’m particularly interested in visiting the World War II sites like Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands due to my service in the Navy in the 40s. At some point, I’d also like to reach the Great Wall of China and Pompeii in Italy for historical interests.

PHOTOS: White water rafting the Nenana River, Alaska; Pribilof Islands, Alaska; Navoya Chapolino, Russia