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Pick a Theme, Any Theme


Sadly, you are not the first clever tourist to take a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa “falling” on you. Nor are you the first to wittingly ride a camel in Egypt or eat a Belgium waffle in Belgium.

Sure, we all like to believe that we are pioneers for every backpacking trip we’ve been on, but the more easy and cost-efficient traveling becomes, the more likely the novelty of our unique pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower will be swept away with the hundreds of similar pictures taken by our friends, acquaintances, and strangers that love to brag about their one-time Euro trip.

Well, travelers, the time has come to reclaim the individuality of backpacking! Themed trips are glorious catalysts for this reclamation as they help us personalize our own unique adventure, turning our backpacking voyage from a measly trip into a gallant quest.

For years, the idea of a themed trip has been a great platform for many artists, namely writers, who use the premise of their travels as a distinctive, topical thread in their work. Take Tony Hawks’ Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, for instance. In this book, Hawks’ traveling adventure is founded on his mission to track down the Moldovan football team and play them at tennis. In other themed travel books, The Four Letter Countries: The Zany Adventures of the Alphabet Traveler explores David Jenkins challenge to visit all ten of the four-lettered countries of the world, and Joe Bennett, who wanted to find out how his “Made in China” underpants were made, traces their production in its entirety in Where Underpants Come From: From Checkout to Cotton Field. All these books are soundly entertaining as a result of the radical events that happen along their unique journey, demonstrating the underlying power a theme can have on your overall travel experience.

Of course, your theme doesn’t have to be so extreme. Just take something that interests you and run with it. Perhaps you have an oral fixation and are on a quest to discover the best beer, chocolate, or coffee variation in each town you visit. Maybe you’ll want to mark each destination of yours by participating in an outdoor sport that particular country is famous for—you can ski in Switzerland, hike the Spanish Meseta, and fish on the Greek islands. You can make it your mission to seek out the religious centers of the world, or possibly you would rather buy a souvenir shirt from every country you travel to and have the people you meet there sign it. Is there a favorite band of yours going on a European tour? Follow them! I, myself, quickly grew fascinated by the various toilettes I encountered while I was traveling Western Europe and took to documenting the lavatories that wowed me the most. I’ve never before been so excited to use the restroom!

But whatever your theme ends up being, don’t forget to take lots of pictures and scrapbook or write about your efforts. So what Aunt Ruth has a picture in front of Big Ben? You have a pair of pants that have been autographed by street-corner vendors across the world and that’s definitely something to brag about.