When it comes to inspirations for traveling, college football and sports aren’t typically at the top of the list. However, I have loved college football ever since I was a kid. While it was Estonia that truly unleashed the passion to travel, it’s amazing how college football helped inspire my love of traveling.
It’s even turned in a travel series with the 2012 College Football Travel Tour with Expedia.
Choosing sports over travel
It all started in 1984. Not my love of travel but my love for college football.
It’s not that I didn’t travel. I went on family vacations to the beach and even to Disney World. However, I admitted in my travel confessions that the beach isn’t my favorite place.
Vacations with my family were fun but sports were a big part of my life. As a matter of fact, I actually chose playing sports over taking a cruise with my family. Granted, I don’t like cruises either. I also chose baseball over a trip to New York and a vacation to the northeast part of the US. At that point, sports was my passion and the travel bug hadn’t bitten me yet.
Oh yeah – my love of college football.
For the love of college football
When I was 9, my dad got season tickets to see the University of South Carolina play football. My dad’s office was right underneath the stadium. So each Saturday when there was a home game, we would drive to his office, park in his parking spot, walk through the building, and be inside the stadium.
For any kid attending his first sporting event, he is awestruck at the field, the players, and everything that surrounds you. The atmosphere inside the stadium was amazing as the crowd was loud and it was fun to watch college football live. For the next few seasons, my dad and I went to the games. And not only did I fall in love with college football, it was some of my best times with my dad.
College football and travel
Fast forward a couple of years to 1986. As part of my youth group at church, we took a trip to watch Furman University play a football game. It was one of the first trips I took without my parents. Of course, I loved the football.
However, I took off with a couple of other guys at half time and we explored the campus. We walked into classrooms and labs and I just fell in love with the college campus. I love the atmosphere of college students and beautiful campuses. Even now, wherever I go I will still visit college campuses.
In 1987, my dad got a new job and we moved. I couldn’t go to any more football games and had to settle for listening to the Gamecocks on the radio or watching them on TV. In 1993, I left home to go to college – at the University of South Carolina. In my four years at school, I don’t think I missed a single home game. However, it was 1994 that I took my first road trip.
In 1994, I decided that I had to go see South Carolina play our arch rival Clemson at Clemson. So I packed up and made the 2 hour drive to Clemson. While I was there, I saw some of my friends from elementary school (remember – I had moved in 1987 when I was in 6th grade). Then I sat in the warm November sun to watch the Gamecocks destroy the Tigers 33-7. My first solo road trip – a college football game.
In the summer of 1995, I visited my friend Adam in Atlanta as we spent the day at Six Flags. While enjoying the rides in between some concerts, I met a girl from Mississippi and her friend. For the rest of the day, the four of us hung out. After that, I spent the rest of the summer keeping in touch with this girl from Mississippi.
That summer, I made that first trip to Estonia and my life was truly changed. I was hooked on travel. However, in October 1995, I made another solo trip – an 8 hour drive to visit the girl I met that summer at Mississippi State. I spent the weekend hanging out with her and seeing the campus. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out the way I would have liked. However, I did get to watch Mississippi St play a college football game – against the University of South Carolina. The Gamecocks set all sorts of records that day as they won 65-38.
A few years later, a group of friends decided to head to Nashville to watch the Gamecocks play Vanderbilt in football. It was a horrible game in one of the worst seasons in history. The Gamecocks lost to Vanderbilt that day. The trip to Nashville was a little disappointing.
In May 2001, I left home and began the long drive from South Carolina to California. It was a new phase in my life as I was moving away from everything I was familiar with. No longer would I get the chance to see the Gamecocks play football any more in person. I had to settle for watching them on TV 2500 miles away. I arrived in Sacramento on May 25, 2001. On May 28, I drove to Stanford University – to watch the Gamecocks play against the Cardinal in the college baseball super regionals. The Gamecocks lost but what a great opportunity to start my new life with my favorite team in college sports.
Sports and travel
These days, I still go to sporting events and watch them on TV. I never miss a Gamecocks football game. I’ve listened to games from an internet cafe in Portugal. I’ve watched the Gamecocks play football on TV while on my honeymoon in Kauai.
I know many people don’t care about sports at home, much less when they travel. However, my experiences as a kid have led me to fall in love with college football. And it’s not just college football either. Growing up, I was a huge fan of the Atlanta Braves. Even my first airplane flight was for a baseball game as my dad won a trip to see the Braves play baseball on Father’s Day.
Without a doubt, there is a connection with sports and travel. In 1995, I took a road trip and saw the Atlanta Braves play in Game 1 of the 1995 World Series (which made my list of my top 3 sports and travel memories). In 2000, I went to a conference for work and walked around Harvard University. For that same trip, I visited Fenway Park even though the Red Sox weren’t even playing.
During my trip to Spain and Portugal, I saw Barcelona play soccer at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. Even in Sevilla, I walked around the university and stopped for lunch at a cafeteria on campus.
While many people may not enjoy sports, my experiences have taught me that local sporting events are one way to connect with locals when traveling. There is no doubt college football and sports have had a profound impact on my love for travel. To this day, I still make sports an important part of my travels.
Each of us has a unique way of connecting with certain events or enjoying particular aspects of culture or history when we travel. Because of my connection with sports and travel, I’ve shared 5 reasons why the Olympics are the greatest sporting event in the world. Aside from your own personal travel experiences and vacations, what other things have inspired you to travel?