By James Grottola
For two weeks in July, I was given an opportunity I never thought I would have ever had.
I’ve spent a decent portion of my life involved in the “underground” music scene that comes from seeing bands play to 40 or 50 people in bars that don’t normally see traffic from people over 30. Through the interactions that come out of going to concerts in these bars, I met three people who perform under the name Sinai Vessel.
About a year after meeting Sinai Vessel, I was given the option to accompany them on a two-week tour that would have me going from Boston, to Buffalo, to Philadelphia and back. I’m no stranger to traveling or meeting people from outside the state, but Buffalo was certainly the farthest I would have been from home without at least being accompanied by my parents.
Of course, I originally had my doubts about taking two weeks out of my summer to travel the northeastern United States, without even having the certainty of a place to sleep every night. The worries about not being able to get an internship, or take summer classes that stretched through July immediately flooded my thoughts.
However, I decided to take a risk and tell Danny, the bassist of the trio, that I would be taking the fourth seat in their Honda minivan for the two weeks in July.
What would follow would prove to be two of the most interesting weeks of my life and a sense of experience that would trump anything that an internship in a New York City office could have hoped to have ever given me.
Instead of pushing papers and opening and closing Microsoft Word documents for another four lines that could be put on my resume when I left college, I found myself cliff diving into lakes in Western Massachusetts, taking photos of newly made friends silhouetted against the Rochester skyline, climbing to the roof of an abandoned grain mill in Buffalo and simply overall making the most out of the sights of the northeast while I was still young.
Now when most of the people I meet talk about traveling, their experiences normally revolve around the common sights of a city or a resort that’s based entirely around a hotel. In my case, out of the 14 nights I spent away from home, two of them had me in cheap $75 motels, while the rest had me sleeping on the floors or couches of either complete strangers, or friends I had yet to meet that were associated with the band I traveled with.
After comparing the stories I was able to tell with those of my friends who worked harder to afford a more luxurious vacation, I was able to confirm that I could definitely win a non-existent storytelling competition and that my experiences were going to stick in my mind way longer than theirs.
The point of this anecdote isn’t to downplay the fun of spending a week on a resort, or the importance of work experience before graduating, but to talk about how unorthodox experiences are beneficial to metaphysical development in ways that the standard “college summer traditions” just can’t match.
Unfortunately, not everybody is able to have the background in music that I have, in which I regularly make friends who are attempting to make a living out of traveling the country and ideally, the world, spreading their art. The key message to take away isn’t the fun of touring a part of the nation with people making music either, but again to talk about how beneficial the idea of going from unknown town to unknown town, sleeping on the floor of a stranger’s house and finding out the tales that humanity has to offer.
My suggestion is to just save up enough money to take a week off of work, find a friend with a car big enough for a group with three to five people, find some towns you wish to explore, load up on necessities and just make a break for the road.
In traveling there’s so much talk about going places that sometimes the physical act of traveling doesn’t even take place. In touring, the sentiment is much more on “just going for it,” which I believe is a sentiment that everybody should have when leaving their hometown.
So much thought goes into “Where am I going to stay?” “What am I going to eat?” and “Will I even enjoy it?” that people forget how much easier things are in the heat of the moment than they think.
In my experience, I was able to go two whole weeks only sleeping in a small amount of $75 motels and the floors of friends of friends, while binging on cheap fast food combos and promotions that had me spending less than five dollars per day on feeding myself.
Given, this isn’t the healthiest way to treat oneself when trying to make it out of the home state, but even on the cheapest of budgets, it’s still relatively simple to travel the country.
You don’t need a resort to put cool Instagram filters on a post captioned, “#vacation,” but you can do it on a small budget if you’re willing to drop a bit of luxury for cool life experience. Travel agencies advertise luxury, but the real life experience that comes from traveling comes with the stories that are created by putting yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Given, I may be a bit biased in the advice I’ve given simply based on how good of a time I actually had, but if I can do this making seven-hour drives most days because those are the only places we could get a show in, I’m sure that you’ll have an even better time being in charge of the route of your experiences. The road is freedom and freedom is the feelings that are given by the road.