Maybe I’m a nerd…okay, no maybe about it, but I like to learn about stuff, and find it interesting to plan my travel to include some understanding of the geography, natural science, history and culture of the places I visit.
I am a big fan of being where you are and going with that, but with so many things to see and do one can’t do it all. One way to winnow down the choices is to focus on a theme for selecting them.
While I don’t do it all, or even most, of the time. A theme gives a trip focus. I have never gone whole hog and only done theme related activities, if there was something in the area I wanted to see I always added it in. None-the-less a theme (beyond eating Ice Cream) can enrich a holiday.
Some examples of times when my travel was, at least loosely, themed:
Brother Cadfael in England
We had a fun vacation with my mother-in-law when my son was eight. All of us enjoyed Ellis Peters’ series of mysteries about the monk Brother Cadfael. We chose several locations mentioned in the books to visit and there was a fun living history museum located where the monastery was located.
Prehistoric cave art in southwest France
On our “tour de glace” the focus wasn’t on the ice cream. It was prehistoric cave art. We went to Lascaux, Les Eysee and Peche Merle. It wasn’t entirely cave art, we also went to Rocamadour, Toulouse and Carcasonne because they were close-ish to our path and I’d always wanted to see them…and, of course, we ate a lot of ice cream.
The Tour de Glace was before digital and I haven’t gotten the negatives scanned yet so I can’t share. But it was a wonderful trip and our son (who just turned 30 remembers it fondly).
Confucius Temples and related sights in China
I don’t usually do a “theme” when I go to China, because my main goal is to visit with my son. However, one trip, without really planning to do so ahead of time, I had a Confucian trip. I went to the Confucius Temple in Beijing at the start of my trip. I did that in part because I thought it would be an interesting compare and ontrast to the Lama Temple near-by. Then when my son had a day when he was going to have to work late I took a by-myself overnight to Qufu, which is Confucius’s home town.
On our trip to England last summer we decided to focus our energy on visiting sites related to Roman Britain. We focused the brief time we had available in the British Museum on their Roman collections. The next stop was Bath. Then we walked Hadrian’s Wall all the way from Bowness-on-Solway to Newcastle-on-Tyne.
It was very interesting and I got to where I could, at least sometimes identify mounds in the landscape, usually those with unusually regular geometric shapes, as Roman.
A different kind of theme was the time I decided that I was going to go to all of the sites in Weifang that I could. It was a great project and gave me a better idea about the history and culture of the area. When I started looking into it there were a surprising number of things: a very good local museum (Weifang has been inhabited since the stone age), the Kite Festival, a Kite Museum, a museum/garden call Shihu Yuan that was a medieval mansion or family complex, Yang Jia Bu folk village-a living history sort of place where they made the traditional Chinese New Year’s block prints, and a visit to Shouguang’s Vegetable Expo.