Let us put "JOY" in your travel!
The Magic Bus was a song written by Pete Townshend of The Who in 1965 and released in 1968. Although the song concerned a bus passenger (Roger Daltry) who eventually bought the bus in order to visit his girlfriend, the allusion was also to the overland hippie trail from Europe to India and Nepal that was considered by many young people in the 1960s and 1970s to be a rite of passage.
The Journey would inevitably include a combination of hitch hiking, train journeys and private travel bus; some drove the route in camper vans but few of those vehicles made the entire journey; many were abandoned en route. The legendary Magic Bus was a private bus that departed from Amsterdam for the hippie trail to India.
Much of the allure was the mystique associated with the east and much popularised by the Beatles’ visit there in 1968. The general ethos was one of freedom and peace; some sought spiritual enlightenment whilst most sought adventure and excitement.
Although evocative of the Grand Tour of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that had been considered to be a rite of passage for rich upper class young men of that era, those who took the hippie trail came from a variety of social classes and were quite cosmopolitan, consisting mainly of western Europeans, North Americans (including many Vietnamese War draft dodgers), Australians, and Japanese. Some were hippies, but the majority were simply ordinary folk on a gap year.
Setting out from London and Amsterdam travellers would make their way slowly to Istanbul and then travel either north and reach India via Tehran, Kabul, Peshawar and Lahore or alternatively travel to Pakistan via Syria, Iraq and Iran, finally crossing into India at Ganda Singh Wala. The favoured Indian cities were Delhi, Benares, Bangkok, Kathmandu and Goa.
The hippie trail was brought to an abrupt end in 1979 by general political turmoil; in Iran there was an Islamic revolution; Lebanon fell into an era of civil war; and Russia invaded Afghanistan. Of course places like Goa remained popular destinations for the young, but no longer could they travel there overland.
Over recent years the availability of cheap long distance bus journeys has opened up new hippie trails, or at least the equivalent of them. Now you can take a bus all the way from London to Sydney in Australia and retrace much of the original hippie trail, and there is a bus route that follows the old Silk Road trade route across Asia and Africa. If you want to start your journey a little more modestly, then the iDBUS connects London with Amsterdam, Paris and Lille. Although the ethos of the old hippie trail may no longer be appropriate, every year tens of thousands of young people from the UK spend a gap year that often combines travelling to far flung places with voluntary work.
This is a guest post by Claire Sim a new Londoner, travel passionate and animal lover. She blogs about Pets and Travelling in Europe. If you want Claire to write you specific content, you can find email her here or contact her on Twitter (Claire_Sim).