Compromise and Companionship on the Road (Vámonos Vol. 18)

A good family movie gets laughs from kids and adults.  The movie shouldn’t soar over the heads of young, or bore the… less young. Easier said than done.  Jokes that adults find tiresome, might be a kids favorite part of the movie, content adults enjoy could be inappropriate for young eyes, or incomprehensible to young minds.  The word “family” signals a wide aim or an inherent compromise.  If you’re traveling with companions, family or otherwise, you’re going to have to compromise.

Some relish the chance to travel alone, they love the independence, but I have always preferred to have a friend along.  Funny experiences or surprises are more fun if you don’t experience them alone.  You want to be able to say “did you see that” to someone.  But a trip with companions, like a family movie, needs to accommodate a wider audience.

Accommodating tastes isn’t something to be worried or disappointed about, but there is an art to it.  First, keep an open mind when thinking about what you’d like to see.  If you’re seeing something new there is always an element of the unknown.  Sites you visit for the first time might match your imagination or they might not.  So try to keep a guarded optimism about the things you’ll see. 

Second, I don’t recommend trying to “hit every site,” in the hopes of pleasing everybody. Yes, you have limited time on your trip.  Yes, it might seem like you don’t risk missing something if you don’t touch base at every recommended site in your guidebook.  But you risk missing a lot more if you don’t give yourself a chance to enjoy the places you visit.  Remember, tourism is not an assignment from a boss you need to impress.  Some of us have to travel for work and that is a beast of a different stripe.  If you’re traveling for your own enjoyment, see the things that engage you, not just some travel writer’s top ten sites.

Too many times the idea of accommodating others sounds like surrender to us, and compromise becomes a dirty word. But remember, the people you travel with by choice or by circumstance are likely to be the most important part of your trip. They can expand your experience improve it. They may take you places you didn’t know you wanted to go. If you can find a way to engage with them you’re both going to enjoy the trip more.

Music another Window for Culture (Vámonos Vol. 9)

Eyes and ears need training.  A photographer can see a beautiful pattern in a heap of scraps; a musician can pick out a subtle difference in pitch that would be impossible for the audience to pick up on.

Travelers are untrained in the sights and sounds of the place they are visiting, especially if they are going for the first time.  The more foreign your surroundings, the harder it is to identify what you’re seeing or hearing.  This unfamiliarity is part of the fun, of course, but just like it is useful to dip your toe in and get familiar with basic vocabulary of the language in the country you’re visiting, a little familiarity with local music can go along way in a new place.

Both foreign and domestic travel offer the chance to explore music that you wouldn’t otherwise seek out.  Some cities, like New Orleans, Seattle and Memphis, are closely associated with the music that was born or grew up within their limits.  But places not necessarily thought of as homes for music scenes, or museums to a musical past, can be that much more exciting to uncover.

For example, if you’re going to St. Louis, a quick Google search might lead you to a song like W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” while a less adventurous traveler might just pick through some old CDs to find a discarded Nelly album.  Omaha was the birthplace of Elliot Smith and is the home of Saddle Creek, the label that Bright Eyes and Cursive are on.  A little music as cultural background can go a long way.

The digital music revolution has made finding the music of whatever place you’re heading to so much easier.  Once you identify a couple tracks that come from or mention the place you’re going to, you can likely hear them on YouTube, iTunes, or Spotify.  It’s easy to sample different styles and find something you like.  Then when you are there you can have a soundtrack to play over the sites.

 

Trip Tips

Use the Internet

If you knew exactly what you were looking for you already would have found it.  Use the internet to help you find music you wouldn’t normally come in contact with.  Start with a general search about the music of the place you’re going to and let the randomness of the internet lead you to places of interest.  Once you have found something interesting, use a music-streaming site to dig deeper.

Be Adventurous

Don’t let the fact that you generally listen to genre X keep you from trying something from genre Y.  Travel is all about trying new things.  This is your chance.

Check out Smaller Venues

Baseball fans may disagree, but to me a stadium is a stadium.  Huge venues have trouble holding as much local flavor as neighborhood haunts.  If you can find an act or a place that interests you, try and venture off the beaten path.

Do Your Homework

I may have given this tip before, but it is just as applicable now as it was then.  If you can get excited about some music or a venue before, you go you’ll be all the more likely to enjoy it once you’re there.

 

This article is available en Español

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