Yosemite National Park

Interest Driven Travel – What is it?

What is interest driven travel? For me it has two meanings. One meaning is to focus your trip planning around a particular interest, from selecting your destination to planning what to do when you arrive. Another is to incorporate a specific interest or tradition into every trip in some way.

Some examples of planning trips around a particular interest are:
Traveling to sporting events within your own country or around the world following your favorite sport, team or athlete;
Touring all of the haunts of a favorite author or genre of authors;
Basing your travel decisions on visiting famous gardens at home or abroad;
Planning road trips or train trips staying at every National Park lodge in the United States.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

I know many people who travel to several music festivals every year. Some attend an eclectic mix of concerts or musician gatherings, others follow a unique musical genre such as fiddle tunes or blues.

When faced with too many travel choices, following your passion or special interest can help you hone in on the perfect destination. There are at least two advantages to this type of travel. It is a wonderful way to meet fellow travelers with like interests once you arrive at your destination. It also often provides an entrance into the local culture by putting you together with locals with whom you instantly have something in common.

For over ten years I traveled the world as a journalist reporting on international skating competitions. At each competition from Vancouver, Canada to Helsinki, Finland I would see the same skating fans from the U.S. and Canada. Some traveled independently, others traveled with tour companies specializing in figure skating trips. They would regroup at various venues in different countries every year and renew their friendships for the week of the competition.

During free time between skating events fans exploring the host city are pretty much your typical traveler. Once back inside the skating arena they are once again part of a community of people with whom they share a passion for the sport.

Personally I have spent time at these competitions with people from many countries and made lifelong friends that support the feeling of being a citizen of the world.

Two years ago I spent two weeks exploring the Indian Territory in Oklahoma where my grandmother spent the first 25 years of her life. My genealogy research of the prior two years inspired me to make this trip where I plowed through courthouse land records and museum papers to locate the plot of land my grandmother was allotted by the Dawes Commission in 1906.

My Grandmother's Dawes Allotment Land Oklahoma
My Grandmother’s Dawes Allotment Land Oklahoma

I also united with a second cousin that I discovered while researching my family history. I explored the beautiful country in eastern Oklahoma and met my previously unknown extended family on a trip I never would have made if I had not planned a trip around my interest in my family history.

The second approach that I like to take when traveling is to incorporate similar activities into every trip that I take. There are two activities that I incorporate into every trip when possible and a third activity when I am traveling in a non-English speaking country.

1. I am fascinated by funiculars and other vertical trams and elevators. No matter where I travel, I do some research ahead of time to see if there is one that I can ride. My favorites have been the Funicular dos Guindais in Porto, Portugal, the Montecatini Funicular in Montecatini Terme, Italy and the Santa Justa elevator in Lisbon, Portugal.

Funicular dos Guindais
Ride in the Funicular dos Guindais

2. Beautiful ceilings have always held a special allure for me and I have photographed dozens around the globe. The most spectacular ceilings that I have photographed were in The Catherine Palace outside of St. Petersburg Russia, the Alcazar in Seville Spain, the Alhambra in Granada Spain and The Pitti Palace in Florence Italy.

Alcazar Seville Spain
Alcazar Seville Spain
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
The Alhambra
The Alhambra

3. When in a non-English speaking country I take at least one afternoon and commit to making my way around without relying on English. I try to pick a particular project for that time period. It could be finding a local bakery or purchasing batteries for my camera. Whatever it is, I do a little studying the day before on the phrases I might need beyond my usual hello, please, excuse me and thank you. I also try to make certain that I will be able to understand the difference between turn left or right. What I have found is that, no matter how meager my mastery of the language is, I accomplish what I set out to do and have some interesting encounters along the way.

Bakery in Porto
Bakery in Porto

What interest driven trips have you taken? What are some of the traditions that you incorporate into each of your trips? How about finding a local volunteer opportunity in at least one destination on each trip?

We would love to hear your comments on this topic. Maybe we will even pick one of your ideas to explore in a future article.

Some inspiration for planning your own interest driven travel –

National Geographic Guide to America’s Public Gardens

1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die

Walking Jane Austen’s London (Shire General)”

The 100 Best Art Towns in America: A Guide to Galleries, Museums, Festivals, Lodging and Dining, Fourth Edition

Adventure Philanthropist: Great Adventures Volunteering Abroad

Kathy Stafford
Kathy Stafford

Kathy Stafford is a writer, publisher and editor. She was a contributing author to "Sasha Cohen Fire on Ice". She has been a contributing editor to several publications including, "Discover Balboa Park: A Complete Guide". Kathy was publisher and editor of "Skating Sketches", reporting on figure skating worldwide, for over ten years. She was a credentialed journalist as a figure skating specialist for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. She has covered international skating events in Switzerland, France, Finland, England, Canada and the United States with published articles in Canada, Japan, and the United States. Although she never accepted an assignment, she was on the list of approved Lonely Planet authors for three years. She is currently combining her love of travel, and her background as a writer and editor, as a publisher and author of travel related journalism. In addition, she blogs about her search for her family roots at www.cherokeerootsblog.com.

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