Planning a trip is often centered on a particular place. You’ve always wanted to see Fiji, Estonia, Chile. There’s something about the culture or the history that draws you to that particular edge of the Earth. You buy your travel books and learn what foods and customs to expect on this point on the map.
However there are other ways to plan a trip. Take theme travel, for instance. People do it all the time and it doesn’t involve elaborate costumes or lady boys.
Theme travel is any type of travel that focuses on what you’re doing, not where you’re doing it. It may or may not be a real expression, but I think it works. Often theme travel takes you to areas of the world you would have otherwise overlooked.
Theme travel is a group of surfers going where the waves are big, without bothering to notice which country they’re visiting. It’s rock climbers who are just as happy going to Bulgaria as they are to go to Yosemite, as long as the climbing’s good. It’s fashion lovers who plan their vacations around the shows and designers’ itineraries, instead of what sights to see in Paris.
You might think theme travel is blasphemy; the whole point of travelling is supposed to be about where you go. It’s supposed to teach you what makes each place on the globe unique. Why would you plan to go to Slovakia just to hike? You can hike anywhere!
Now calm down and look at the flip side. On your travel jaunts around the world you look for ways to meet new people, try new things, have amazing adventures. These are the ingredients necessary for you to feel like you’re actually experiencing a new place. Theme travel introduces you to local surfers/ rock climbers/ fashion enthusiasts; people who are not only new, but also share an important interest with you. You get to enjoy your favorite activities in the best conditions the world has to offer.
Why not give theme travel a chance? Here are a few ideas for theme trips that might interest you.
1. Trace your heritage
Take a trip (back in time) and go to the town, country or region of the world where your family comes from. Before you go, ask the oldies in the family for stories of what they remember from the old country, or what their great great grandpa used to tell them about it. Go see the house where your granny was born or the church where she married your grandpa. If you don’t have many family stories to go by, start off by tracing the roots of your surname.
2. Follow the historic route of someone you admire
My history professor in college used his summer vacations to retrace the routes taken by his favorite authors. His Hemmingway trip took him from Michigan to Cuba; an Alan Patton excursion brought him down my way to South Africa. If authors aren’t your thing, try following the music tour route taken by the Grateful Dead, or look further back in time to march the same trails used by the Roman army.
3. Go where the conditions are best
What is it you like to do at home? Ski? Kite surf? Paint sunsets? Then go where there are the best ski slopes/ wind and waves/ breathtaking evening skies. Give yourself the opportunity to enjoy what you do in the best possible set of conditions.
- 4. Expand on what you already know
Maybe you’re not a professional chef yet, but if you have an interest in learning more about making pasta head on over to Italy for cooking classes. Eager to impress at the next party you go to? Why not try improving your tango in Argentina? Go out there and learn something!
- 5. Meet up with old friends
You know your old college roommate who moved to Bolivia? Go visit! Knowing someone in a new place will help you get in to the swing of things there all the more quickly. Maybe visiting people doesn’t count as theme travel, but it means your trip is less about where you go than who you see there.
In some ways theme travel thrusts you into the heart of a new place more than regular, old travel. You are you still the foreigner when it comes time to order take out in Swiss, but you blend in a bit more when you hit the slopes and ski the Alps just as well as the locals.
Why not give it a try?