I’ve been planning a road trip across the USA to follow my favourite band on tour, The Black Keys. I figure it will be a great way to link a personal interest (the band) with catching up with friends and seeing the sights along the way. I’m going to be travelling with a plan to see as many Black Keys related points of interest. It will make my travels focused, organised and, I believe, personally more interesting and memorable in the time I have available.
The grave of Kerouac
There is a difference between just picking out random points of personal interest on a trip and consciously making an effort to plan your travels around seeing all the related points of interest possible. Like a true fan, you’ll be dedicated, obsessive and engaged. Don’t just tick off sights that you aren’t really interested in, instead skip the cathedral and visit the otherwise regular house where your hero grew up. Strangely enough, much more satisfying.
While planning my trip around The Black Keys, I’ve realised I have organised my travels in a similar way in the past. Maybe you’ve travelled in the same way too?
On a previous trip to the USA, intoxicated with the ideas, attitude and writing of Jack Kerouac, I made a point of seeing as many Kerouac-related places as I could in my limited time. I schlepped through the bars and streets of New York and visited Kerouac’s grave in his hometown of Lowell, MA. I didn’t jump a train boxcar across the country but I did hunker down on too many Greyhound buses for journey’s into my Kerouac-inspired American imagination. I visited Oregon and imagined myself as the character Ray from Dharma Bums watching for summer fires, contemplating nature. All the time I was reading Kerouac’s novels and in turn better understanding the cultural references I was walking past every day. I finished my journey in San Francisco like any good Beat-acolyte would at Vesuvio cafe and City Lights book store.
In the end I felt closer to something I greatly admired and the influences on my life that were very personal to me. I was appreciating and paying my respects. I didn’t just take a photo, I bought the t-shirt like any true fan would (a Ginsberg City Lights ‘Howl’ book cover t-shirt, in fact).
These then are some ways you can travel with a purpose:
- Walking in the footsteps of your Hero
Visit the childhood home, school, favourite bar and drink their favourite drink there, stand in places where famous photos were taken, visit their grave site.
- Follow a Band on Tour
Maybe not for the entire tour but go to multiple shows in different towns. Not only are you close to something you enjoy, you also necessarily engage in the city you are visiting and see it through your interest an aspect of that town.
- Visit places in a Novel
Fans of the Da Vinci Code seemed to create a tourism movement on their own a few years ago. But it’s the same as a fan of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment walking around St Petersburg to fill in the gaps of their imagination. Let the novel live again by connecting with original ‘real’ settings.
If you are inspired by the work of a particular architect, then there’s no better way to understand their influences and motivation by visiting all the places their built architecture exists. What would Barcelona be without Gaudi and the thousands who travel there each year to see every notable aspect of his work there.
Vesuvio Cafe and City Lights Book Store
Sporting Teams on Tour
When you combine beautiful locations in far flung places, sport and good times you’ve got a good recipe to stir and enjoy. A classic of this backpacking combination can be found in the story of Luke Gillian. He followed the Australian cricket team to every test match year after year until he started Waving The Flag – a backpacker-oriented fan tour for other cricket tragics like himself to see their heroes on all continents.
I’m not sure what it is about graves but I’ve seen the resting places of Ho Chi Minh, Kafka, Jim Morrison, and Kerouac to name a few over the years. I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe it was the closest I could ever get to a strong influence on my life. Let’s face it, some cities have better cemeteries than others.
- Social Movements
To see where something happened, something no longer physically present except in the attitudes of (some of) your fellow humans, is pretty inspiring. You might track the movements for change in Berlin and Prague, from the deep south of the USA, to any place where there are fragments of the past are connected to the revolutions which ultimately influenced and maybe even allowed you to live your life as you now do is very powerful.
- Food and Wine
Food and wine enthusiasts are notorious for this type of travel. A holiday might involve visiting just a few valleys in a specific region or every separate winery and or cheesery! They can really indulge their specific passions and literally have their, er, cheese and eat it too.
What have I missed? Everyone is different so there are many personal reasons you may have planned a trip and carefully seen as many related places of interest linked to your obsession as possible. Good on you. Just don’t take along someone who isn’t as interested in the subject as your are.