Go With a Purpose.
A blog about connecting through places that matter.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Heritage Q&A With Kathryn O’Shea-Evans

With today’s post we begin a new series of Q&As with people dedicated to finding meaning in heritage- and culture-related travel. Writer and photographer Kathryn O’Shea-Evans is the first to share her thoughts and experiences for this new feature. Kathryn has written for Travel + Leisure, GOOD, and National Geographic Traveler magazines. She loves trying new foods, spending time in nature, and going to the same museums over and over again. Learn more about Kathryn's work on her Web site.

1. Where have you found inspiration and/or life-enrichment during your travels?
Museums are musts, but I always find the most inspiration through the people I meet—not just friends or tour outfitters, but everyday folks: the chatty kid sitting next to you on the train; the old woman who gives you a lift, tells you she’s won the lottery, and hands you and your friends a wad of cash (It’s happened to me! In Ireland, the most welcoming of countries).

2. Heritage Travel: Tell us about your most recent trip. What heritage or cultural sites did you visit?
My last big trip was on Thanksgiving weekend, when a friend and I headed to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. We made lots of jokes en route about wearing bonnets and ogling blacksmiths, but in truth the trip was totally fantastic—we ate our turkey dinner in an 18th-century tavern, explored a working farm that was organic centuries before the term "global warming" existed, went on a candlelit ghost tour, and learned a favorite new (ancient) buzzword: Huzzah!

3. What is your most memorable heritage or cultural travel experience?
Impossible to pick, thank you very much! I can tell you that I’ve loved sitting on William Faulkner’s front porch in Oxford, Mississippi; sneaking around an abandoned castle in Northern Ireland; and singing folk music in the stone-walled basement of a church in Harlem. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of memorable experiences, but I know they’re less about the destination than how you approach what you’re doing.

4. Where is one heritage or cultural destination you think everyone who shares your
interests should visit?
I’ve lived in New York City for a couple years now. It’s chockablock with heritage, and the stories of that heritage evolve further every day. Don’t miss the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where you can experience what daily life was like for waves of immigrants who once packed into its perfectly-preserved 1863 building.

5. What sorts of things do you like to learn during your travels?

How people live (or lived) there, and what their daily lives are (were) like. Those are the things I really take with me, and often incorporate into my own life.
6. What does heritage travel mean to you?
Going to a new place with an open mind to learning about its past, present and future. To me, “heritage” shouldn’t just translate to “history”—our future will be our past soon enough.

7. What are your favorite heritage- and culture-rich destinations?

Honestly I can’t possibly pick favorites—the entire earth is heritage and culture-rich, wherever you roam. The important thing is to get going!

If you would like to be featured in an upcoming Heritage Q&A, or know someone who travels with a purpose and finds meaning in heritage- and culture-related travel experiences, please contact us.

Monday, April 27, 2009

One Week Left to Enter the Heritage Travel "Reviews" Contest

Time certainly flies, and the Heritage Travel “Reviews” contest May 1st deadline is right around the corner.

You still have time to submit your reviews of U.S. heritage- and culture-related sites and enter to win a guided New York City theater tour. Even if you have already submitted a review, submitting more than one increases your chance of winning.

Tour highlights include:
  • A private performance by current Broadway entertainers.
  • A behind-the-scenes tour of Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater (you can even perform on stage!)
  • Tickets to 2 Broadway shows of your choice.
  • Privileged access to the New Amsterdam Theater.
  • A special visit to The Players, the theater world's most prestigious private club.
  • A private meeting with the president of the National Arts Club.
Your reviews will be among the first featured on the new Web site when it launches in late spring.

Need some inspiration? Here are excerpts from a few recently submitted reviews selected at random:

"During a trip to Memphis, you have to make time for the National Civil Rights Museum. Going into it, I thought I knew a good bit about the Civil Rights Movement. But I learned so much more from my visit. It's also a very emotional experience. The museum's use of life-sized exhibits allows you to participate in the sit-ins, join in the bus seat next to Rosa Parks, and march side-by-side with others to make change…It's like stepping back in time. Absolutely something that everyone must experience!"

"Tucked away in downtown Saint Joseph, Missouri is the final home of the outlaw Jesse James. No matter what your personal opinion, you must agree that Jesse is a true celebrity -- both during his lifetime and now. And the best thing about the Jesse James house? You can still see the bullet hole! (Although after years of visitors taking souvenir splinters, you'd think Jesse was killed by a bazooka.)"

"Esteemed for its cheap cost and blue-collar image, Pabst is the perennial favorite of college kids and your average patriotic red-white-blue beer guzzlers. Behind the legendary product, however, is the unique life of a somewhat forgotten character known as Captain Frederick Pabst an enterprising immigrant, industrialist and philanthropist... Pabst Brewing Company closed its Milwaukee brewery in 1996, and now conducts operations out of corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago. The mansion exists today as one of Milwaukee’s great architectural landmarks, and towers as a prominent link to the Captain’s life and times, bridging three centuries in the process."

So, with one week left, don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance. Submit your review today!

Kari Rippetoe is the marketing manager at Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Discovering a Place I Might Have Overlooked

After reading New York Times writer Jim Noles’ recent travel piece, "36 Hours in Birmingham, Alabama," I’m intrigued with his perspective on a place I know only from history books and associate primarily with a violent civil rights past. I don’t know much about present-day Birmingham. But Noles’ diary-like piece uncovered gems for me and showed once again that meaningful experiences abound, particularly in places I may have overlooked in the past.

Noles’ 36-hour trip to Birmingham blends the past with the present and highlights a number of local treasures, including a spot atop Red Mountain that offers an “unmatched vista of Birmingham’s downtown skyline.” The spot is also home to the Vulcan Park and Museum. In case you didn’t know, the Vulcan is the world’s largest cast-iron statue and symbolizes Birmingham’s history and the nation’s iron and steel industry.

Noles’ description below further illustrates why this city is an interesting place to visit.

Across the street from the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (site of the infamous bombing that killed four girls in 1963), the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute tells the story of the civil rights movement in Alabama and beyond and provides a somber reminder of how far the city and the nation have come in four decades.

Noles explains that these, “two very different museums offer equally compelling glimpses of Birmingham — one of its past, the other of its future,” further enticing me to visit.

Since I couldn’t just hop the next plane to Birmingham, I visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute online. The site’s resources are vast. I could easily spend hours listening to the oral histories, contained in video interviews with civil rights activists and others who were players in the civil rights movement over the years. These first-hand accounts make the civil rights movement come alive. For example, Emma Young shares her story of an encounter between Birmingham police commissioner, Bull Conner, and a group of rabbis who had traveled to Birmingham in 1963 to observe the movement and support the efforts of local Blacks working to end segregation's grip on the city. The interview was taped in 1995, a year before she died at the age of 102.

As I listened to these interviews, I came to appreciate as never before Birmingham’s significance in our nation’s history. And, after reading Noles’ engaging, informative and inspiring story, I can’t wait to experience Birmingham first-hand.

I also can’t wait for Heritage Travel to launch the new site so we can all read one another’s stories and discover new places through collective experiences. The new site will provide an engaging, informative and inspiring online community where we can share stories about places that matter; and inspire and connect with others who in search of meaningful travel experiences.

Until the new site launches, you can share your experiences by submitting your reviews of U.S. heritage and cultural sites for a chance to win a guided New York City theater tour. Even if you have already submitted a review, submitting more will only increase your chance of winning.

I look forward to reading about your experiences.

Jacqueline Gaulin is the manager of Customer Experience at Heritage Travel, Inc.

Photo credits: Birmingham, Alabama Skyline Flickr, James Willamor ; Four Girls Memorial, Flickr, acnattta.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Shocking Good Time at the National Museum of American History

Star Spangled Banner DisplayThird-graders and museums don't always go hand-in-hand. So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I chaperoned a group of third-grade boys and girls on a field trip to the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. It was the first time any of us had visited the museum since it reopened following a two-year renovation. I was excited to see the new museum and hoped my group would enjoy the experience. We set off with the goal of seeing everything on the teacher’s scavenger-hunt list.

Our first stop brought us to the museum’s centerpiece -- the Star Spangled Banner. The dramatic wall art of a sparkling flag confirmed immediately we were in for a treat. The new display is designed with climate controls and dim light to protect the flag. We walked along a ramp with wall displays that described the flag’s history, Fort McHenry and the War of 1812. As we exited, we learned more about Mary Pickersgill, the woman who made the flag. I wasn’t surprised that the kids gravitated towards the interactive computer screen of the flag, where they used the touch screen to learn more about the flag’s history.

All of the new interactive and hands-on features kept the kids interested and engaged. But the museum’s Invention at Play and Spark Lab exhibits were the two that really got the kids excited!

Invention at Play is an interactive and engaging area that let us explore the creative process and the problem-solving skills that lead to new inventions. At Spark Lab, a hands-on science lab, a museum staff scientist conducted an experiment about electricity that "shocked" the students. The expressions on their faces were priceless!

I showed the Woolworth lunch counter from Greensboro, North Carolina to my group. I was surprised by how this multicultural group of kids was unfazed by my dramatic explanation of the civil rights sit-in that had occurred at this site back in 1960. It was good to see such progress in just under 50 years.

If you’re looking for Fonzie's leather jacket or Archie Bunker's chair, they are no longer on exhibit. And the First Ladies dress collection seems downsized. But don't let these changes keep you from going. The museum feels fresh and contemporary as it presents America's past and inspires you to connect with history in your own way. It was fun to watch my group of third-graders discover history through the interactive exhibits and connect in a way that was different from how I experienced history at their age.

I'll return to this museum someday soon. But on my next trip I hope to move at a slower pace, lingering a little longer to soak in America’s history.

Have you visited the renovated National Museum of American History? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Mary Billingsley is the Director of Media Relations at Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Photo credits: Star Spangled Banner, Flickr, catface3 . Woolworth Lunch Counter; the Smithsonian National Museum of American History Web site.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Links to Places that Matter

Welcome to the first edition of “Links to Places That Matter.” This weekly post will provide you with a summary of articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts and other online resources related to America’s heritage and cultural destinations.

Today’s roundup of inspiring and meaningful places focuses on the U.S., spans two coasts, and represents places in the North, South and off the mainland. The writers showcased below offer their perspectives about travel experiences that offer meaning and life-enriching discoveries.

Sedona, Arizona, a place of majestic beauty and mystical wonder, is where LA Times travel writer Rosemary McClure’s search for enlightenment took her to a cliff-top chapel, “where visitors are often deeply moved,” on a jeep-ride through some Hollywood film history and on a hike where she discovered Sedona’s spiritual past—and present. Read more about Sedona in her article.

Looking for a unique fixer-upper opportunity? How about a lighthouse? The New York Times writer, Graham T. Beck, reveals the endangered state of New York’s lighthouses and how the public can help save them from extinction. Read more about historic lighthouses that need a little TLC.

One of the best ways to learn about a place is from someone who lives there. Maine’s Big Robby (as he’s known on his blog) shares some of his home state’s hidden summertime gems, including a small mountain perfect for easy family hikes and a drive-in movie theater circa 1938 that still shows films. Personally, I love drive-in movie theaters – they bring back some happy childhood memories. Read more about Big Robby's Maine summer suggestions.

You may have heard of drive-by history, or even walk-by history; but what about “float-by history?" Donna Hull shares her experience tubing down an old irrigation canal through the old Lihue Plantation in Kauai. Read more at her blog, My Itchy Feet.

The Traveling Mamas share their first visit as a group to Puerto Rico, a place full of rich history and culture. They have posted a video of the Castillo de San Cristobal, the largest fort built by the Spanish in the New World. Visit the Traveling Mamas' Web site to view the video.

Is there a place that matters to you? Through the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Places That Matter campaign, you can call attention to special places in your community before they are endangered – the small, famous and infamous, and even some relatively obscure places that collectively represent the nation's cultural consciousness. Find out how you can participate.

Don’t forget to submit reviews of historical and cultural places that matter to you for a chance to win a New York City theater tour!

If you have interesting travel links, photos, or videos you want to share on the Go with a Purpose blog, email them to us and we might include them in an upcoming post. You can also post them on the Heritage and Cultural Travelers group on Facebook.

Kari Rippetoe is the marketing manager at Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

photo credits: Sedona's Red Rocks, Flickr, Adamos Maximus; Execution Rock Lighthouse, Flickr, muckster; Saco Drive-In, Flickr, Joe Shlabotnik; Kauai Tubing, Flickr, CellPhoneSusie; Castillo de San Cristobel, Flickr, Kathleen Leavitt

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Segway Tour of Washington Offers Unique Perspective

My family and I recently took in the monuments and sites around Washington, D.C. Now comes the special part: we made our way around all the usual sites in just about two hours, by riding on Segways!

Capital Segway offers terrific tours of D.C. using this unique personal transportation device. It’s easy to get the hang of riding the Segway. The friendly staff at Capital Segway showed us a safety video and then demonstrated riding techniques before we each gave it a try. Basically, if you can ride a bike (and probably even if you can’t), you can ride a Segway.

After all 15 members of our tour group donned helmets and got assigned to Segways, we spent about 20 minutes zooming around on the sidewalk in front and then in the park across the street. All went well. In fact, it wasn’t long before we were all ready to head out for our tour.

We went a few blocks south and west and found ourselves directly in front of the first stop on our tour: the White House. On Segways, you can go just about anywhere pedestrians can go; so we were able to Segway ourselves on Pennsylvania Avenue, directly in front of the White House where, sadly, cars are no longer able to drive.

From there, our next stop was the Washington Monument. We learned that the monument’s construction happened in two phases, as construction was halted midway due to the Civil War.

We continued along the National Mall and passed by the Smithsonian museums, including the National Air & Space Museum, where the tourist traffic was so heavy we had to weave in and out of the people on the sidewalk. (It was fun seeing the looks on faces as they saw 15 of us whiz along so effortlessly.) We stopped in front of the Smithsonian’s headquarters, known as the Castle. We were not permitted inside the gates because the exterior garden – on ground level – is, in fact, a rooftop garden that sits on top of museum space underground.

From the Castle, we navigated past the Federal Aviation Administration buildings to the U.S. Botanical Garden. Now, I’m from New York City originally and, I must confess, I think the real botanical gardens of the U.S. are in the Bronx and Brooklyn. (I’m also aware of The Arnold Arboretum in Boston.) This was my first visit to the U.S. Botanical Garden, which is quite a bit smaller. But it is well worth a visit!

Next came the Capitol building. After a failed attempt to attend President Obama’s inauguration (I had one of those notorious blue tickets – it’s a long story...), it was nice to easily enter the grounds and stand in the very spot from which our new president first addressed the nation following his swearing-in.

As we wended our way back, we passed the Newseum, and noted the modest tribute to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) across the street (not to be confused with the larger FDR Memorial along the tidal basin).

The Segway tour of D.C.’s monuments and sites was fantastic, and I recommend it highly to anyone seeking a novel way to take in more sights than is usually possible on foot; at least in such a brief period of time. Not only did the Segway tour gave me a unique perspective on the city, the experience also gave me an alternative way to experience a place. In fact, a few days after my D.C. Segway tour, I was in Chicago and discovered similar Segway tours there, too. Although I didn’t have time this trip; I definitely plan to take one of their architectural tours the next time I’m back in Chicago.

John I. Williams, Jr., is President and CEO of Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Have you ever been on a Segway tour, or taken another another unique sightseeing tour? Post a comment about your experience!

photo credit: Segway

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's All About the Experiences

As I write this, I’m making the commute into Washington, D.C. I recently moved to Charlottesville, Virginia from the D.C area, so now I’ve switched from a daily, one-hour commute via an underground train to a weekly, two-hour commute – on an above-ground train.

It’s a very different way of commuting for me – and a different way of traveling in general as well – which is what inspired me to write this post. I’m able to take in the scenery and savor the journey, which I feel quite lucky to be able to do. I can look out a picture window at the trees, hills, streams and towns going by.

Today as I gaze out the train’s window, I think about my challenge last fall when my parents came to visit me from Texas. I had to come up with an agenda of “stuff to do,” something I struggle with because I don’t really share the same interests as my parents. They love antiquing, while I’m not all that keen on it (unless I’m looking for a specific piece). I like visiting museums, but museums bore my parents. I still remember how anxious I felt as I tried to figure out what to do. But when they arrived, it became much easier because I stopped thinking of “stuff to do” and instead thought of how we could best enjoy our time together.

One thing both my parents and I like to do is travel, and they love taking little road “jaunts” to nearby towns and cities to discover something new. So, that’s what we did. We drove to Winchester, Virginia and explored the downtown area, visiting several antique shops (naturally) and a farmer’s market (I’m a foodie and localvore), as well as stopping at the Blandy Experimental Farm and State Arboretum of Virginia on the way. We drove up to Annapolis and visited the Naval Academy, taking time to experience the other historical and cultural treasures the city had to offer. We drove around without a plan, stopping along the way at anything that interested us and just soaking in the journey without worrying about the destination.

I think both my parents and I enjoyed the trip so much more when we were less focused on the destination and more focused on the journey. We were all able to experience things that each of us enjoyed without getting bored or worrying about “what do we do next.”

As I sit here on the train watching the scenery pass before my eyes, I realize that I now have the opportunity to experience the journey rather than having to tolerate the trip – which is what made my parents’ visit that much better for me. I encourage you to do the same whenever possible during your travels – whether you’re taking a cross-country train trip, or just road-“jaunting” through local towns. It’s the experiences that matter and the experiences we take home with us. The new online community that will be launching soon will be a place to share your experiences with those who share your interests and passions.

What is your most memorable travel experience? Share a part of your journey in the comments section below.

Kari Rippetoe is the Marketing Manager at Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Photo Credit: U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, Annapolis, Md., by Kari Rippetoe

Monday, April 6, 2009

Win a Guided Tour of NYC's Theater World

The response to Heritage Travel's "Reviews" contest has been thrilling! Registered members have been submitting reviews of heritage and cultural destinations and sites for a chance to win an exclusive New York City guided theater tour. And now, the contest deadline has been extended to May 1st.

The winner could be YOU -- submit your review today
Community members like you keep adding reviews every day. It’s exciting to see so many travelers contributing to this growing community by sharing their travel experiences. Each review helps inform and inspire other travelers, and once the new Heritage Travel site officially launches later this spring, your review could win you and a guest an amazing tour of New York City theater.
The tour highlights include:
  • A private performance by current Broadway entertainers.
  • A behind-the-scenes tour of Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater (you can even perform on stage!)
  • Tickets to 2 Broadway shows of your choice.
  • Privileged access to the New Amsterdam Theater.
  • A special visit to The Players, the theater world's most prestigious private club.
  • A private meeting with the president of the National Arts Club.
Personally, I’m a fan of both Broadway and musical theater, so winning this tour would be a dream come true. But as a Heritage Travel employee, I’m not eligible to win. But YOU are eligible. If you enjoy Broadway and musical theater, or are curious about what goes on beyond the scenes, I encourage you to submit a review today. This tour truly is a once-in-a lifetime experience.

Each review earns you another chance to win
If you haven’t submitted a review yet, now is your opportunity. It’s free to sign up and share your reviews - all you need to do is login (or sign up if you haven’t already), choose a destination or site, and submit your review. You can submit as many reviews as you like, and each one will earn you one entry into the “Reviews” contest.

A few people have asked about review length limitations. The limit is 2,000 words for each review you submit. This gives you a lot of room to share your experience; however, keep in mind that the winning review will be the one that best embodies the spirit of heritage travel: engaging, informative, and inspiring.

I encourage you to provide as much information as possible about the site or destination, such as recommended local hotels and restaurants, must-see’s, best times to go and other helpful tips.

Submit your review for a chance to win! If you haven’t signed up yet, sign-up for free today. And tell your friends. (We’re on Twitter and Facebook, too.)

Good luck, and keep the reviews coming!

Kari Rippetoe is the Marketing Manager at Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

If you have any questions about the contest, please see the Official Contest Rules.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Heritage Travel: Connecting Through Places That Matter

When I spend even a few minutes perusing the list of places on the Save America’s Treasures Web site I’m reminded of the sheer breadth and diversity of heritage- and culture-rich destinations and sites in the U.S. alone. I find myself reflecting that, from sea to shining sea, such sites comprise a mosaic of heritage and culture that shapes our collective experience and gives greater meaning to our lives every time we visit.

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness."

President Barack Obama
Inaugural Address
January 20, 2009

Heritage Travel, Inc. was created recently by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to provide a unique and new service: helping people find and explore the places that matter to them. Our mission is to help people who are curious about the world enrich their lives through heritage and cultural experiences.

Now, the task of creating this online community is humbling, perhaps even a bit daunting, as “heritage” and “culture” are broad terms indeed! Yet, our mission could not be more inspiring because in exploring the diversity of our heritage and culture we discover what we have in common and what brings us together.

The new Heritage Travel Web site will be launched soon. Its powerful search engine and extensive catalog of destinations and sites will help us all discover heritage- and culture-rich experiences that we never knew existed – both across town and around the world. We will have a place online to review the destination photos and recommendations of others who, like Lewis and Clark, have paved the way. Then, we’ll be able to pay it forward by contributing our own trip journals so others may trace our steps and share the joys that result from our unique heritage travel experiences. The hundreds of reviews already contributed to this prelaunch, mini-site – GoWithaPurpose.com – are just the beginning. As we engage with one another online, we will find ourselves connecting more and more through places that matter and re-discovering the common denominators that shape our shared heritage.

Heritage Travel is a global idea. Any place that people have ever lived, toiled, explored the wilderness, waged war, yearned for peace, erected great monuments, created art forms or aspired to bring meaning to life is a part of this rich landscape. Our heritage journey drives us always to follow our truth, wherever it may lead, and to discover more about ourselves and how we relate to those around us.

All of us at Heritage Travel are thrilled to contribute to this collective journey. We look forward to connecting with you as we embark together on this never-ending exploration of heritage and culture.

John I. Williams, Jr., is President and CEO of Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

photo credit: Eric Purcell (ep_jhu) from Flickr.com

Invite Friends

Send an invitation to friends who share a love of learning, traveling and connecting with others. Invite them to join you in growing this new online community!
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