Bands do pre-productions before recording their albums, I’m in the “pre-travel” stage at the moment. Time flies, before I know it, the madness that I experienced last year, is about to be repeated.
Although I’m not an organized person in general, there are some things that I am very particular about, and one of those things is planning my gig-travels.
It wouldn’t work if I wasn’t, there’s a lot to keep track of. It’s not just “buy plane ticket, get accreditation or buy concert ticket, book hotel, done“.
I’m sitting with Excel-sheets and files, building my own personal tour which is going to last on-and-off starting June and for the rest of the year. I buy flight-tickets when they’re the cheapest, sometimes just a one-way ticket because the return ticket might be a lot cheaper next week, sometimes next month – I just keep checking and grab it when the prices are the lowest. But thast also requires that I keep track of all the one-way tickets so I don’t get stuck somewhere.
Renting cars, finding the right hotels, closest to the venue, the airport, train station or whatever else seems the most practical. Printing maps, in case the GPS doesn’t work…
After that one time in Germany when I went to see Jon Oliva’s Pain (in Aschaffenburg I believe it was) and ended up on a hill where there was nothing but very puzzled cows and sheep, I’m trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again. :)
[The hills were alive – with the sound of….cows! Beautiful scenery, but somehow you can’t quite enjoy it when you’re lost…!]
That particular time was the worst ever. The GPS (which I got rid of, for the record…) was WAY off. The printed directions from Michelin wayfinder were if possible even more off. I was lost in some godforsaken little german village and asked a young couple for directions but they didn’t speak English at all (or didn’t want to) and my German is pretty limited. There was nobody else around.I called the hotel that I was looking for, the receptionist sounded terrified because she had to speak English and either way, she couldn’t even explain how to get to the hotel! Pretty remarkable. I even called my friend Mari in Sweden who usually steps in as my First Aid when I get in trouble on my trips, but she wasn’t home. And above all, the cellphone battery died…
The trip from the airport to the hotel, which was supposed to take 40 minutes, took 4 hours! I finally found my way, after stopping at every open pub and gas station I could find, asking for directions. By the time I got there, the band had already left and gone to the village to have dinner. I was stuck at the hotel, choosing from a wide variety of wiener-schnitzel in all shapes and sizes, in the hotel restaurant….!
After an experience like that, you make sure to take every precaution to eliminate similar situations in the future. :-)
Not that I could have forseen the nightmare in Thessaloniki, Greece last summer either…
Finding the hotel was one thing… I took the bus from the airport to save a few bucks. But the directions on the hotel website were WAY off and I realized that the bus was just going in circles, and I saw the airport 3 times on that one journey! The bus driver didn’t speak English at all and the people I asked on the bus were either tourists themselves or they didn’t speak English.
I remember telling Gus (Firewind-Gus) about my experience in his home-town and he was surprised that his contrymen weren’t better at handling tourists. It’s probably hard to know unless you are one yourself. :) The people were extremely kind, much like Italians, they are more than happy to help, whether or not they know English, but in this case, no go…
Bus ticket…Cheap but it didn’t exactly save time…! :)
I finally got help, once again emergency-central Mari had to guide me through the streets of Thessaloniki by phone, with the help of Google maps – letting me know when to turn left or right. I finally found the damn place.
But then two days later there was a taxi-strike in Thessaloniki and I couldn’t get back to the hotel after the festival that I had just been at, at the stadium. The last bus had left, no cabs, and I was far away from the hotel. This time a super-nice Greek guy who I had been in touch with on YouTube, helped me by talking to people I met on the street in Greek and then translating it to English to me so I could find the way to the last night-bus! I made it in the nick of time.
Stuff happens when you’re out travelling. It’s part of the adventure I guess. It’s never cool when you’re in the middle of one of those situations, but you get a huge kick once you’ve solved it – usually with a bit of help from friends (and sometimes strangers).
I’ve been home a month or two now and I can feel how my spirits are getting kind of low already. I live for the travels and the music. If I don’t get that, life feels boring as hell. You need something to get your kicks, whatever it is. Friends, gigs, movies, short trips maybe just to the next city just for the change of environment.
I remember many years ago when I tried an online-dating site out of pure curiosity (and left it after just a week!) and most guys who contacted me said that their “hobbies” were quiet evenings at home, nature-walks, red wine, cooking…. Hey, all that is cool, but if that’s ALL there is, I would die of boredom! I’m better off as a vagabond-loner. :)
People also ask me if I’m going alone on these trips and why. It’s simply because it’s hard to find people who have the same idea of what the journey should be about. To me it’s ALL about the music. I rarely go anywhere to be a tourist.
Most people want to do all kinds of stuff and then go to the gig in the last minute. I’m the opposite – I plan everything around the actual gig. I want to be in the front (or else I can’t see shit), so I get there early. I don’t go shopping, sightseeing, having coffee, beer or whatever – and if I do, it’s if I’ve got plenty of time or if I got there the day before.
Most people want other things. It’s usually because they don’t travel so often, so when they do get the chance to go somewhere, they want to get as much as possible from the experience. It’s so individual what you want out of a trip.
I go alone and I’m so used to it that it’s definitely not a problem, quite the contrary.
Also, traveling with other people is the ultimate test of which people you “click” with and which people you will never ever travel with again. Cause you’re stuck with eachother for 24 hours at least, and in that time, some peple can start getting on your nerves and some are a delight to hang with. You just never know until you’ve been there.
Well, this year I’m going on my own, looking forward to every single adventure I’ve got ahead of me. And with Steel Panther on their way back to the UK in the fall, I wish I could just find something sticky to glue myself to their tour bus and follow them everywhere! :)
Maybe that’s exactly what I’ll do.