BUNAC in the Swinging 60s

To kick off our ‘BUNAC through the decades’ series, we thought we'd take you back to the beginning, back to life as a BUNACer in the swinging sixties...

California Dreaming

1962 saw the birth of The British Universities North America Club or BUNAC, as it quickly became known. Founded by students Chris Harbour and Martin Truscott, its aim was to develop a special relationship between British and North American students. Run through the nationally based, locally represented club, BUNAC programmes gave young people the chance to live and work in the US or Canada.

Martin and Chris both left BUNAC in 1966 to concentrate on running BUSTA (the British Universities Student Travel Association). Chris sadly died in 1985. Martin as a Life Member of the Club and a trustee of BEST scholarships, still maintains an interest in all things BUNAC.


Leader of The Pack

In 1963, a year after its birth, BUNAC had committees at every university in England and Wales and a membership flourishing at 6,000 strong. By 1968 over 20,000 students had flown to either the USA or Canada through BUNAC. Over 45 years later, BUNAC remains a club, its members continue to play a key part in the running of the organisation and with an alumnus of over quarter of a million the BUNAC community is still going strong.

Those Were The Days My Friends

Embarking on a trip down memory lane, we dug out some slightly dusty BUNAC travel guides that provided the 1960s BUNACer with all the information they needed to prepare for their adventure…

The 1969 Travel Planner provides an interesting insight into budgeting…

“Once you had taken into account the £12 Exchange Programme Fee, £57 for the BUNAC flight to New York (including a night's hotel accommodation), £41 'Travel anywhere bus ticket for one month' and living expenses, you should find that the trip will cost you no more than £275.”

With wages at around $2-3 an hour, many participants found that they managed to enjoy a summer overseas and break even!

• In 1969, buying a car would set you back $400, and petrol (or gas) was a mere 30c a gallon.
• You could get around New York via the subway with a 20c a token.
• A room in a Youth Hostel cost $1.50 a night
• Dinner would cost around $1.50 and only 60c for breakfast.

The Times They Are A ‘Changin’

Some of the advice has changed since the 60s but we try to ensure the tips and recommendations we give are still as practical and useful…

• Hitchhiking was recommended as 'an excellent way of seeing the country and meeting people' (although it was noted that 'neither long hair nor a beard will help you find a lift while hitchhiking')

• For the more adventurous participants, camping was an option - 'all you require is a sleeping bag, a sheet of polythene, some warm clothes, food and a water bottle'. If you just wanted a floor to sleep on you were recommended to 'ask the local hippies' who 'usually live near university campuses'

• Some unusual advice about eating out… 'Don't expect an English cup of tea', 'Treat with suspicion signs saying 'Inn' or 'Tavern' and 'The temptation to indulge in endless soft drinks is sometimes overwhelming'

• In the 1966 guide participants were kindly informed that 'Having a haircut in North America is an expensive item and BUNACers are advised to visit a barber before leaving England’


Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

Today, BUNAC has grown significantly from its North American roots. With work and volunteering programmes in every continent, from China to Nepal, Christchurch to Calgary, there are options to suit everyone with a desire to travel and a sense of adventure. View all current programmes and your BUNAC days don't have to remain a distant memory...

Back to the BUNAC Blog