This piece is tricky because it does not fit into one single category. My column is not a travel column, although travel is absolutely one of my favorite things. I also hope not to repeat here the same themes that were in my piece about loving cities. But, since my trip to Nashville this past weekend, I have been reminded of this: one of the greatest ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone is by exploring a new city like a local. Of course, this is difficult if you do not have a native tour guide, but I try to give it my best effort.
I have this obsession, which was bestowed upon me by my parents, to try everything that is local. It is actually a curse. If read about something in a guidebook, say, a specific desert that is common to a certain part of a country, or a type of music that was born there or (especially) a historic landmark, I will rush to make sure I can experience all of these things. For example, even if it means walking a mile, I refuse to leave Philadelphia without a cheese steak. I was there over the summer in one hundred and five degree weather trudging through parking lot after parking lot just to get one. I wolfed that puppy down. In Buffalo where I go for the holidays, we eat wings every day while occasionally switching it up with a beef on weck sandwich, a Western New York specialty.
My trip to Nashville is not the best example of trying new things because I did not have time to visit any of the famous sights or even Music Row. But I was reminded of how wonderful it is to be with people who genuinely love their city. Nashville is definitely one of those cities.
While there, I heard a lot of musical acts, some of which originated in Nashville. Even if the musician was not from there, he/she would mention how great the city is. Every musician of every genre is in awe of this place. Every night on Broadway, a street with a lot of bars and open mics, people are playing live music. Places that are right next to each other play loud music with open doors even in the cold, rainy weather. Nashville is definitely the “Music City” — and having a communal theme unites all of the people who are there.
One of the musical acts I got to see was a duo, a husband and wife who met in Nashville and are now based in Los Angeles. The name of the group is Johnnyswim and they were wonderful. Their music is a mixture of folk and pop and the two sang beautiful harmonies. I loved hearing about how they met in Nashville, but I felt even more connected to them because I was there hearing the music live.
Most indigenous people are very open to tourists trying to experience the local culture. Usually I try to blend in with the crowd and not look too unaware of my surroundings but admittedly, this does not always work. However, I still find that people appreciate it if you make an effort.
I love to travel and I love to (attempt to) pack every local activity into the small amount of time I have in the area. I hope to go back to Nashville, hear more local music and even visit Music Row. Until then, I will be listening to other kinds of music to prepare myself for another trip.