A Little Purpose… Nature of Communities Around the World

My recent whirlwind tour of the US with my job at Geeks Without Bounds gave me pause recently when I thought about all I have learned in the past six weeks. I marvel at the fact that I had never even heard of hacker and maker spaces less than six weeks ago and now I have visited 13 of these alternative communities in 11differenct US cities.

Lock Picking Tutoring at HacDC

Lock Picking Tutoring at HacDC

Hacker and maker spaces are pockets of intense community and they share a common interest, normally in the realm of technology and computers. And though they’re united under the common label of a name, each one was so different. DC’s space reflected more of they yuppy (so in a good way) demographic of US policy makers and activists while the southern hospitality in Louisville was a direct representation of the totally unique culture permeating the south.

Before I took this job I had previously visited many of the cities on our tour, and yet I had never seen this side to the cities. They were in neighborhoods I would never normally visit, hosting events you’d never find on a city’s official “calendar of events,” and making projects and sharing ideas I rarely find my self exposed to in the course of my every day life.

So now I look back on my RTW trip and on the last two years of my travel and wonder how much I missed because of the lens/purpose through which I viewed my travels.

Similarly though, I’ve also gained experiences other travelers may miss because of the lens through which I personally view the world, my specific passions and interests. As a performer I was drawn to the summer street theatre in Slovenia and actually stayed an extra two weeks in the capital just to see shows and feel the fever pitch of excitement in Ljublijana as performers dotted the sidewalk with their street shows.

Swan Lake in Slovenia

Summer Outdoor Swan Lake Performance in Slovenia

A Wandering Sole travels the world running marathons – the community and experiences she discovered over the past several months are totally unique to her travels.

Last week in LA, the hula-hooping community sprung up in the city and descended on the La Brea Tar Pits for a day of hooping and fire-sticks—yet another example of a subculture and experience you’d miss unless you happened to find yourself at the Tar Pits last weekend or already have a keen interest in hula-hooping.

Visiting these spaces  demonstrated one way that purpose plays a key role in shaping individual travel experiences. And our lives for that matter. The communities and culture of the hacker and maker spaces was once completely foreign to me, but by putting a different lens and purpose on my travels my experience in these cities was completely altered.

Knowing this, or at least considering travel in this light, I’m eager to see what experiences I can uncover if I look for things outside of the guidebook, outside of my pat personal interests, and perhaps dig a little deeper.

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14 Responses to A Little Purpose… Nature of Communities Around the World

  1. zablon mukuba October 23, 2010 at 7:20 am #

    great post, i liked the part you changed your routine

    • Anonymous October 24, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

      Thanks, it’s pretty essential to travel to keep things interesting!

  2. Mary R October 21, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Good reminder to shake things up a bit when we travel, or even when we’re at home. I usually try to experience something a little bit new during my trips and challenge myself to get out of my box. I’m pretty adventurous, but I still find myself gravitating to my “usual” activities.

    • Anonymous October 24, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

      I agree – I have my set “way” of traveling through places so I have to make
      myself come up with new ways to shake it up, try something new or seek out
      something I might not usually in a new place! :)

  3. Anil October 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    There are some pretty interesting hacker conferences out there – a bit technical, a bit artsy, like visiting another planet. You probably already know by now but DEFCON is a good resource: I might just have to make the next one in Vegas :)

    • Anonymous October 24, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

      I went to Makerfaire in NYC last month and it was like an initiation into
      this world – there were robots and all kinds of mechanisms – all spread out
      over a huge faire area in Queens…it was pretty neat! I have heard of
      DEFCON…might have to look up the Vegas dates and see if I can make it too!
      :)

  4. a wandering sole October 21, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    Thanks for the mention :) It’s funny because I never would have thought to go to Jordan until I looked into a marathon there, so it’s definitely influenced where I go. But people have totally different experiences based on interests like you said. I think that’s why visiting a place multiple times is always interesting- you can take comfort in the familiarity of a place but also discover places and events you didn’t on a previous trip.

    • Anonymous October 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

      You are so right about revisiting places you loved, it won’t be the same as
      the first (or second) time, but if you love it you get the chance to explore
      different aspects. :)

  5. Andy Hayes October 20, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    It’s amazing to think that there is more than likely a community for everything you can think of. They’re hidden and tucked away in every spare nook and cranny… And like Earl, I have no idea still what this one means :)

    • Anonymous October 24, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

      Umm.. I would explain in more depth about the hacker and maker communities
      but I’m still trying to figure it out too! :) It is neat to think that any
      interest you have, there’s probably a group of people talking about it
      anywhere you go!

  6. Audrey October 20, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    One of the reasons why I love running into scientists and musicians when we travel is that they usually have close and fascinating communities everywhere they go. Even if they don’t speak the same language, there is a common bond. And, it’s fun to be invited into that community and see that place through their eyes, even for a short time.

    Like Earl, we’ve been traveling around without a guidebook this summer (in Europe) and it has been a lot of fun. Sure, we don’t know the name or date of every church, but we usually let our interests guide us each day, whether it’s a weekly fresh market or a recommendation for a doner kebab across town. I find that travel just for traveling’s sake gets old after a while, but having a purpose or community to plug into changes the equation and makes it like a little educational adventure each day.

    • Anonymous October 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

      That’s a great point Audrey, I never really thought about the fact
      that musicians are able to sit down and jam anywhere in the world, and thus
      have an amazing “in” off the bat…makes me wish I could play :)

      I haven’t gone completely guidebookless yet..I don’t pull it out for
      everything but I still kind of like that umbilical cord a bit :) Around
      Bali I didn’t have one (but planned to) so it was neat to, like the European
      churches, wander into a temple, admire it for whatever I found, and then
      wander out again, never knowing the history, but enjoying it nonetheless.

  7. Earl October 20, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Interesting post and it happened to be the first post I’ve read in a couple weeks due to my current travels. I’m currently guidebook-less on this current trip and I’m certain that I’ve ended up doing things that I simply would never have come across had I been following a guide. And I like the idea of traveling with a purpose. Even if that purpose is as simple as meeting new people, having a set goal such as that allows you to delve deeper into that aspect of a culture instead of just skimming the surface…

    (And I still barely have an idea about what these hacker spaces entail!)

    • Anonymous October 24, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

      Props to you for going guidebook-less – probably part of the reason you’ve
      met so many friendly faces already since you’ve landed in Syria -you’re
      gathering your information from locals rather than stuffing your nose in a
      book! I agree about the goals, no matter what they are, having something to
      focus gives you permission to ask more questions and seek out certain
      experiences that you might normally shy away from.

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