Spring 2003,
Volume 24, Number 1

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Thelma Brooks and Jim Earl on a cruise around South America.
Alumni travellers have helped to raise more than $500,000 for students and alumni programs.

Thelma Brooks is quite the accomplished traveller. From China to Australia, Peru to Italy, she’s seen a good part of the world, and many countries she’s visited twice, for good measure. Her love of culture, physical geography, and world exploration may stem from her adventurous nature, but it’s also a result of her time at the university.

The geography major graduated from UVic in 1972, and went on to teach geography at Parkland Secondary in Saanich.

On summer breaks she managed to sneak a trip or two into her schedule, but it wasn’t until her children left the nest that she had a chance to truly explore.

“I’ve visited Japan, New Zealand, Costa Rica,” she says. “Recently I traveled to the Galapagos Islands, which was spectacular.”

Last February she and her spouse Jim Earl embarked on a cruise around South America with the UVic Alumni Travel Program. “My days of tramping with a heavy backpack are over,” she laughs. “I’d looked at UVic’s trips with interest, and the timing was right. It was a chance to visit a part of the world we couldn’t have got to on our own.”

The Alumni Travel Program, celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, offers a variety of cruises and land tours to destinations around the globe each year. Since 1987 the program has allocated $688,000 to help support student grants, awards and other alumni projects. More than 1,100 alumni and friends have experienced tours through the program.

Brooks and Earl flew to Chile to join the boat mid-way through its 55-day cruise. From there they sailed the coast of Chile, through the Straits of Magellan, down to Cape Horn, then up the coast of Argentina, to Brazil and Rio de Janeiro.

“There were countless activities on board for the days we were at sea,” she says. “And in the port cities there were always multiple choices for land excursions, to the point where we often had trouble choosing.”

The ship was a smaller one, as is the case with all of the ships that UVic’s Alumni Travel Program books. “There were only about 600 people on board, so it didn’t feel like we were on a giant floating hotel,” says Brooks. The ship’s size also meant that it docked in smaller ports uncluttered by other cruise lines.

Days at sea were often spent on deck, where Brooks says a loudspeaker provided narrated details when appropriate. “And there was an excellent educational program,” she says. “There were historians giving lectures about regions, and at night there was an astronomer to help you identify stars.”

The real stars of the trip, however, were the countries visited. “The west coast was tremendous, especially the small coast cities,” she said. “I could spend a lot more time there.”

This year Brooks has no immediate travel plans, but says she’d like to go on one of UVic’s Mediterranean tours in the future.

She’ll have no problem keeping herself busy, however. Since retiring from teaching six years ago, Brooks runs a commercial berry-picking business out of her farm in Central Saanich. “I’ve really found paradise,” she says. Her farm is now a destination for those who want to spend a few hours picking fruit under the Vancouver Island sun.

—Joy Poliquin

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