You know you’ve turned 40 when you remember travelling with hand-written airline tickets, Sony Walkmans and something called maps. (Martians and Millennials, these were made of something called paper, and were designed to stop you from getting lost).
There are obvious benefits to being 40, of course. Largely that you did most of your stupid stuff before the invention of social media. The idea being that no one would ever have seen this beer bath.
Or these shorts.
So anyway, this year STA Travel turned 40! And to celebrate (slash, humiliate) we thought we’d raid the adventure archives and take a trip down memory lane to answer some important questions. Such as, what was travelling really like before Facebook? And seriously, what was with all that hair?
Well, it all started back in 1979 with two Aussie backpackers. In the 70s, people didn’t typically take gap years, or big round the world trips. They went camping. And perfected album cover shots like this instead.
Inspired by their own far-flung adventures, our flare-wearing founders sought to change all this by making the world a more affordable and accessible place. They did this by creating student-only flights and tickets.
The tickets looked like this.
And if you wanted one, you couldn’t go online, or on an app. You had to go into one of these. (This is called a store, we still have these).
Where someone had to look up a price for you. In one of these. A book. (We don’t have these anymore. Since, you know, computers and science and the such).
Also back then, STA Travel didn’t stand for Start The Adventure, it stood for Student Travel Australia.
As well as being Sci-Fi AF in the 80s – and apparently advertising trips to Earth for extraterrestrial lifeforms – we also advertised trekking trips to Asia with this foot.
Trips to Great Britain with, erm… face?
And thanks to the onset of video media, trips to the USA by throwing TVs out of hotel windows.
We also displayed similarly irresponsible behaviour by encouraging members of the general public to develop mysterious and debilitating ailments so that they could go on nice holidays. (FYI, we’re totally bringing this campaign back…)
A lot of other things have changed in the travel world too.
For example, if this nice lady had wanted to meet up with Jan, the handsome Swedish backpacker that she’d met in Koh Samui. (Which incidentally, only got its first tourists in the 70s and looked like this).
Then she would have had to either leave a message on every hostel noticeboard in town, or write a letter and use Poste Restante – a system where the post office holds mail for you at local post offices.
Equally, if she’d wanted to have changed her flights, she would have probably had to have travelled hundreds of miles to an airline office or travel agent to get her ticket revalidated. Hopefully, she would have caught a ride with these early cast members of The Wonder Years, who look like a lot of fun.
And her huge backpack? Full of photos. On long trips, the protocol would be to develop your films on the road, ship the prints back home, and then once you had word that they’d arrived, send the negatives back with the next lot. So basically, if a shipment went missing, you at least still had the negatives.
You’ll genuinely never moan about the speed of loading your latest travel pics to Instagram again.
So, no digital cameras, no Google Maps (no Google for that matter), no booking apps, online trip reviews, mobile phones and data roaming. Just, well, regular old-fashioned roaming. And an incredibly hipster enforced digital detox.
A lot of things may have changed over the years. We look different, and we certainly travel differently, but our philosophy and sense of adventure is the same as it was 40 years ago.
It’s perhaps true that each generation believes that they are the pioneers. However, for us, it was this generation of sandal-clad adventurers that broke borders and boundaries, so that we could so easily tread those same paths today.
The world is infinitely more affordable, accessible, and easier to research and explore today. And we’d like to think that STA Travel played just a small part in that.
Love, peace and 40 years of adventure,
P.S. We’ve got some pretty amazing deals this month to say thank you for joining us on this crazy journey. Check them out here.