This is Why I Travel to Follow Idols

Travel to Follow Idols
Written by Carl Hedinger

The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view. ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Travel To Follow Idols

I keep reading and trying to find the right person to bring along when moving. A great man wisely wrote of Kerouac’s On the Road as a fitting travel companion but for me, it’s the man behind the book that started my journey. He’s one of many heroes who I thank for forming thoughts of traveling. Around every turn, there was a new book with a different place to see and path to take. These people were my heroes. We all have them. Mine all found a way to get out and inspire me to do the same. This is why I travel to follow idols. My goals always centered on some sort of sports fame but after developing into an undersized and under skilled athlete, some other dream had to step in.

I felt lost until stumbling upon books full of people who’d lived lives worth retelling and aspiring towards. I wanted to follow them and discover the same feelings. Imagination was something that never troubled me but after years of wasting time, books occupied the void. These names, places, and events recharged it and gave me a purpose again. My mind filled with tales of trips across the U.S. and throughout the world. Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary introduced me to life on an island. Hemmingway’s Sun Also Rises had me longing for Spain. I wanted more. More idols to follow.

Most of the classes outside my major focused on history – a wise decision. One traditional lecturer wetted my travel appetite with stories of Siberian Railroad travels and 1960s visits to the Soviet Union. Another truly colorful and kind professor brought her passion for life to the classroom, with brilliant stories of life in Barcelona and an absolute love for that city’s food culture. Graduate school came and I was studying history fulltime now. While researching a topic related to Japan, I started reading a book about Kyoto’s Silver Pavilion. The story surrounded a failed Shogun who retreated to the mountains and became a monk while his country descended upon a century-long civil war.

I had to visit this place and got the chance thanks to a friend who mentioned traveling to Japan as a great way to supplement graduate school. I jumped at that chance and learned and failed all along the way. Within a year of living there, I had seen Kyoto and that very same Silver Pavilion. It’s wonderful. I returned home after a year and struggled to survive reverse culture shock; awkwardly spending a few years in a place that I loved yet wanted to leave. I always felt like that particular era would be brief and there’d soon be a plane back to Japan – or wherever – with my name on it. I kept reading, always. Fernand Braudel’s History of Civilizations sticks out as a great influence during that time.

The fact that he wrote from memory while sitting in a wartime prison inspired me to do more with what I had, though it took time to truly realize that ambition. Time passed and I kept reading. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. “Don’t panic. You’ll get back,” I always told myself. Then, there’s the girl. The one. It seemed that getting out seemed more an escape from myself than anything. I wasn’t following my idols. Something was chasing me away. Sadness. Regret.

But now, staying at “home” was okay. I kept reading. The imagination continued to flow. Anthony Bourdain soon became a fixture in our living room, with his travels to faraway places keeping us up to date on the world that existed outside our own. Christina had traveled as well and after a while together, we decided to get out and live elsewhere and started reading. Pursuing an ESL life, guides on how to live and teach abroad flooded our space. We researched and looked into every possibility that life abroad could offer. Yet upon arriving in Korea, we were still wrong. My idols lived lives different from mine.

I soon learned that I had followed my idols for too long. It was time to create my own story but to keep reading, even though I’m back in a distant place. The words maintain my hunger while seeing new things keeps me humble. I follow idols like Khaled Hosseini who remind me that life is a bit more serious in other parts of this world while Anthony Bourdain – in print and on the screen – offers a sarcastic yet philosophical look into life on the road. Haruki Murakami offers some fictional balance and helps me go to unseen parts of Japan through his dreamy dystopian visions.

I still follow idols but know that their paths are much different from my own. They had heroes to chase as well and must’ve stumbled upon the same answer as me. I am searching for the same things as my heroes but in different forms. I’m following my dreams through their words until I realize that all along, the thoughts and ideas are all mine. I travel to follow my idols but to set myself apart from them. It’s a struggle with no end but when the finish line comes into view, I’ll know that I went along similar paths. Maybe I’ll never find what I’m looking for but that’s okay. I keep reading and searching and trying to find the right path through more and more inspirational figures. This is why I travel to follow idols.

Why do you travel? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below!

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About the author

Carl Hedinger

I’m a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family’s travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.