This is Islwyn Roberts, who was photographed in 1958 by Welsh newspaper Y Cymro as he set off to hitchhike around the world. It was a different world back then–flying was only for the rich, and many countries were sealed off behind the Iron Curtain. Mr. Roberts would have seen traditions and cultures that have all but died out today.
It must have been an amazing journey. The only problem is, nobody seems to know what happened to him. There are no other reports of his trip, so it isn’t known if he achieved his dream or gave up before he even got to France, which according to his sign was his first destination.
The National Library of Wales wants to know. It’s launching an exhibition on October 16 called Small World–Travel in Wales and Beyond and it’s made Roberts the poster child in the hope that someone remembers his tale. The exhibition, which is located at the library in Aberystwyth and will last until 2 April 2011, will look at the history of travel from a Welsh perspective. Some of the treasures on display include maps, diaries, and old railway posters, including rare 16th century maps by Welsh explorer Humphrey Lhuyd.
I hope they find out more about Roberts. Just looking at this photo I know I’d like him. He’s got a quirky, determined air about him as he sets off into the unknown, nattily dressed in a jacket and tie, with the practical addition of a pair of sturdy boots. One of the biggest mysteries of this photo is–did this guy have any luggage?
[Photo courtesy The National Library of Wales]