When MARLON of Nerdcoolture said he was working on a series of blog posts about “nerd travel,” I immediately volunteered as tribute. After all, I basically started this blog to talk about the intersection of my wanderlust and geekery, and I had recently gone on the nerdiest trip of my life (so far).
And while Marlon and I had first “met” during a remote podcast*, we really connected over the topic of planning geeky vacations. So I’m excited to be blogging about the topic in collaboration with him. A little about Marlon – he’s all about bringing the geeky into everyday life, particularly through fashion! He’s also super into the Simpsons and takes epic travel photos.
So what is “nerd/geek travel”?
It’s travel but with a geek lens! Marlon and I are exploring this idea and what it means to us individually with this series of posts. I hope you’ll stick around for all of them as we talk about what inspires us to travel, how we prepare for trips, and how we keep it all geeky!
Marlon already posted his Inspiration for Nerd Travel (spoiler: video games!) on Monday, which I hope you’ll check out. And now I’m sharing what inspires me to travel…
Essentially, it all comes down to STORIES. Before I was any other kind of nerd, I was a book nerd, and aren’t books so many people’s easiest way to travel? Add to that other forms of story – songs, shows, history – there are so many ways to be taken to another place and time without your having to actually go anywhere.
And that’s the magic of a good story: it builds worlds and transports you. But there’s also something magic about experiencing the settings in person. You may not have a time machine, but walking the cobblestone streets of historic downtown Boston will definitely make you feel like you could run into the Sons of Liberty.
Related to all this, my wanderlust stems from…
THE DESIRE TO ENGAGE – In the song “Schuyler Sisters” in the musical Hamilton, the sisters sing “History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world” and I can tell you it sent a thrill down my spine the first time I ever heard those words while sitting in the Public Theater in New York City, watching a play that had yet to become the cultural juggernaut it is now. Obviously, not every adventure we go on is going to end up being straight up historic, but the fact is that when you are in the place where a story you love unfolded, you gain another connection to that story.
In some ways, you become more actively engaged with it because you can see where the idea came from, walk the ground those people walked on, actually experience the forest or sea or city. The story – fictional or not – becomes more real.
Like I loved Alexander Hamilton for years, but it was amazing to stand in his actual house, and though I’ve feasted in my imagination with Harry Potter in the Great Hall for most of my young adulthood, actually tasting butterbeer in the quaint streets of Hogsmeade in real life was something else.
THE LOVE OF LEARNING – Like a true Ravenclaw, I love learning new things and there’s nothing cooler than learning the thing when you’re standing right at the spot where it happened. The benefit of seeing Hamilton in NYC is that afterwards, you can run all over town to see many of the real locations, learn more about the history and people, and immerse yourself in the soul of the city. The thrill of reading Seabiscuit and then seeing the movie was that parts of it took place at my local racetrack, Santa Anita Park. I’d seen the statue of Seabiscuit in the paddock and the track framed by palm trees dozens of times, but now I knew the context.
When I listened to the NPS Ranger talk about the colonists marching across the Old North Bridge to face the English Redcoats in Concord with the bridge and river right there, the relative size of the skirmish with the enormity of the action (this was the Shot Heard ‘Round the World!) really sank in because I could see it so clearly in front of me.
THE NEED TO FILL THE WELL – We all get burned out, and the best way to remedy that (other than maybe more naps) is to travel. Our world is full of wonder – the kind that inspires better living and better creating. Sometimes, I want to go to a place simply because it is breathtaking – because I know it’ll help me adjust my mindset and remind me that there are things bigger than me and dreams I haven’t dreamt. From a writing perspective, this kind of inspiration is invaluable.
When I watched the sun washing the spires of old Prague gold, it made the wish-granting workshop of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone book seem like it could exist tucked in one of the city’s twisting alleys. When I emerged from an autumn forest in Bavaria to the sight of a white castle nestled among the trees, I believed in fairy tales. When I walked the length of Lower Antelope Canyon, the soft sand beneath my feet and sunlight illuminating the walls around me, it was like being in a different world**.
Imagination is a muscle that needs to be stretched and horizons can always be broadened. The experience might convince you there is magic in our world.
My love of stories and my wanderlust are a self-sustaining cycle. It’s about consuming and creating narratives. You don’t need a Destiny (with a capital D) to find your own adventures, and journeys don’t have to end when you turn the last page or switch off the screen.
So that’s why I travel and what I look for when I do.
Catch you next week for Part 2 in this series!
Q4U: Why do you travel?
*The podcast we both participated in was a review of ANT-MAN. **I waxed poetic about Antelope Canyon in Color Memory. Supplement: (TV) Sons of Liberty | History Channel (Book/Movie) Harry Potter series | J.K. Rowling (Music) The Schuyler Sisters | Hamilton Original Cast Album (Book/Movie) Seabiscuit | Laura Hillenbrand (Poem) Concord Hymn | Ralph Waldo Emerson (Book) The Daughter of Smoke and Bone | Laini Taylor