. How college football inspired me to travel : Budget Travel Adventures

How college football inspired me to travel

Cocky Gamecock football tickets college football and travel

Cocky and South Carolina Gamecock football

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.

Gamecock football Jeremy Branham college football and travelA 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?

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  1. Matt Hope says:

    It’s funny what can get you started on travel. As a fellow football lover (grew up on the Gators though, sorry!) I can definitely relate to those awesome road trips to road games.
    I’m going to be in Europe for the beginning of the season this upcoming year… It was seriously hard for me plan my trip to miss any games, haha.

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      I have taken a couple of trips to Europe during the Fall. However, I made sure to tape all the games before I left and I even listened to games while I was over there. I love college football. It’s one reason why Fall is my favorite time of the year. While I will ALWAYS watch the Gamecocks, I honestly could watch any college football game! I can sit and watch it all day long and I really don’t care to watch TV that much.

      As for your Gators, that’s OK. They are going through a transition while my Gamecocks should have their best season in years, possibly ever! :)

    • jade says:

      I grew up with the Gators too! Now Jeremy has Steve and they are doing great! (sorry, college football nerd, could talk about it forever.) My friends planned their wedding around an away game!!

      • Jeremy Branham says:

        Been there done that. Years ago, some of us were very upset with friends who got married the night we played UGA at home!!! That was RIDICULOUS!!! I brought some headphones to the wedding so I could keep up with what was going on.

        Out here, I got married the day the Gamecocks were playing. But it was a nonconference game! :)

  2. My last road trip to a college game was to Tuscaloosa to see Tennessee play Alabama. We got destroyed 41-14. After the game we were tail gaiting outside the stadium. These absolutely cool Alabama fans invited us to their party. They made a few pokes at Tennessee, but for the most part were very respectful towards our program.

    They had a huge amount of hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and booze. They were so generous and insisted we take as much food and drink as we wanted. It reminded me of the generosity I have experienced in countries like Thailand and Vietnam, so I can totally relate to this post being from another SEC school.

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      One of the great experiences in college football was tailgating. Anyone who has been to a college football game knows it isn’t just a 3 hour experience but an all day thing. The atmosphere is awesome! I definitely miss it A LOT. Writing about this and reminiscing makes me a little sad that I can’t go to games any more.

      That’s awesome that some Bama fans would be like that. However, I’ve heard stories like that from many SEC schools. We both know that fans are passionate and not all of them are great to hang out with. However, there is nothing like SEC football!

      • I think there is a big difference between younger and older fans. Younger fans are passionate to their team, but this passion sometimes manifests itself in unfortunate ways like disrespecting visiting fans. Older fans are more mature and realize there is no need to treat other fans like jerks.

        This is not to say that all young fans act like this as when I was in college I met some really cool people from rival fan bases too. On the other hand, I had some treat me not so well.

        • Jeremy Branham says:

          I’ve seen it both ways. Young fans can be immature and when they are drunk a bit hostile. However, you have the passionate, stubborn older fans that are a bit too fanatic like Harvey Updike who poisoned the trees at Toomer’s corner. They come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. SEC has their passionate fans and some good ones as well.

  3. senafp says:

    Great story on how sports inspired you to travel. But being I am not much on college football, but I did play fantasy football a few time and learned some, I have to ask, oh no….you really did watch football on your honeymoon???? Is she a fan of college football now? I think that it is so much easier to get the college football games on tape and if you are traveling in the states then televised, but abroad is much harder to get the game. Sports is always a good conversation starter with a anyone in any country. Makes one feel you are part of the locals.

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      No, my wife isn’t a fan of college football. However, she didn’t care. She knew what she was getting into when we got married. To ease the pain, we played Scrabble while watching the game. She definitely knows how much of a fan I am of the Gamecocks and college football! :)

      I do the fantasy sports thing too. Like Jade, I have a nerdy side. I have won quite a few trophies playing fantasy sports. I am not sure I have admitted that though! Definitely is harder keeping up with it just being here on the west coast. Traveling overseas is very difficult as I can attest to that personally.

  4. My cousins once rented an RV and drove around the country visiting baseball stadiums. I thought that was such a great idea. Sports can definitely inspire travel.

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      I did some of that as a kid as well. Those trips I skipped out on when I was younger was a trip my parents and brother took to see Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards (Baltimore). I’ve seen quite a few stadiums but in high school, I was wanting to play baseball and wasn’t ready to miss out on it to go on a trip to watch it.

  5. jade says:

    Love it. I’ve traveled to many away games and now in SoCal try to only watch the games where I know other fans of my team will be. I’ve even met several travel friends for tweet-ups watching college football games. That is how I met Jonathan from Epstein travels! Great
    beer, great team, great meet-up!

    You were right, Jeremy- I love this! Can’t wait until August!

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      For me, not a lot of Gamecock fans up here and I miss the college football atmosphere. Just doesn’t exist where I am in California. I do keep up with EVERYTHING Gamecocks by reading the online newspaper back in Columbia as well as a Gamecock message board I am a part of.

      I DEFINITELY can’t wait for this season as this may be the best Gamecock team in our entire history!!

  6. Who would have thought sports and travel. It’s fascinating to learn what inspires each of us to travel and I am so glad that sports was the catalyst to launch a lifetime love affair with travel! But seriously Jeremy, you passed up a cruise for a football game? LOL! Enjoyed this post very much!

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      I’ve been a sports fan all my life but that first football game is what started it all. As for cruises, that wasn’t even an issue. I’ve written a couple of times how I don’t like the idea of cruises. However, when I am in high school and playing baseball, I chose that over a cruise. Maybe that’s not normal for a high kid to choose baseball over the chance to see girls on a cruise but that is what I did! :)

  7. The same thing happened for me with music. Most of my first roadtrips were for concerts. Fun read!

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      Thanks Scott! I’ve seen a few concerts but never traveled for them. For me, it’s always sports! These days, I don’t travel for sports but love to make it a part of my travels.

  8. A series of fortunate events! I love reading about how people are bitten by the travel bug. I got hooked on backpacking myself after a school camping activity.

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      Camping is great! Each person finds their own inspiration to travel and that is all that matters!

  9. wow, and i thought i was into watching sports. is there an award for most committed fan?
    im definitely of the same thinking when it comes to experiencing local sporting events. for me, its one of the highlights of travel. its great how people all over the world can connect through a simple passion of sport.
    see you at a game one day!

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      Completely agree – local sporting events are an EASY way to connect with other people. One reason I like it so much – plus I like sports! As long as each person finds that one thing they like, they can always use that to connect with others when they travel.

      As for being committed, without a doubt. Honestly, every day I check on Gamecock news to see what is going on. I can’t wait for football season to start!

  10. Amanda says:

    It’s cool learning about the connection you have between sports and travel. As far as I’m concerned, anything that gets people out traveling is great in my book!

    I’m not a huge sports fan (I like sports, but I don’t have any “teams”), but I did travel for sports once in New Zealand. I planned a weekend trip to Auckland so I could see the All Blacks whip – I mean play – the Australian Wallabies in rugby. It was fun!

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      I would love to see some rugby over there. I watched an Australian rules football match a few weeks ago on ESPN. Very interesting! While I have my favorite sports here, I love enjoying some cultural sports we don’t have here in the US – cricket, rugby, Scottish games, high quality soccer (HA!). Every time I travel, I always look for some sporting event I can attend. It’s a great way to connect with other people, ask questions, learn, and engage!

  11. For me it was the NY Giants- my dad used to drag me to games. Sitting in the bleachers freezing my butt off did not endear football to me. Warmer down south-lol. I might have had a different life.

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      I can’t say I blame you. If I had to watch it in freezing cold weather, not sure I would enjoy it as much either. Plus, I am not a fan of the NFL. I could watch college football all day but may not watch an NFL game all season.

  12. Mark Wiens says:

    Excellent post Jeremy. It’s really interesting to see how we all had different things that drove our passion to travel.

    When I was a kid, I used to be a huge sports fan as well, mostly soccer and basketball. I still love sports, but unfortunately this online thing (and not having a TV, or good enough internet connection to watch tv) has severely limited my sports intake. You’ve given me some inspiration to try to get to a soccer match soon!

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      Mark, I totally understand. When traveling, it is harder to keep up. Just moving across country and I am nowhere near as connected as I used to be. I don’t watch TV that much anymore so my interest in sports has gone down from what it was. Like you, I love soccer as well and follow it in Europe as well as international stuff. It is probably the second most watched sport besides college football for me.

  13. Grace says:

    To be honest, I yet to still watch a live football game or college football. I’ve only seen Superbowl but can’t keep track of all the player on the field. I get so pverwhelmed. I just never got into it. I do, however, understand how sports and travel could be strongly connected. It’s like my love for travel and music they work well together. I do have to say that I want to watch a European soccer match one of these days.

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      I love European soccer! As for football, I don’t really like pro football. I love college and could watch it all day. Come Sunday, I won’t even turn the TV on. Same sport but completely different for me. It’s definitely an American game and takes some getting used to. However, sports are great for travel because it allows you to connect with locals in ways you couldn’t otherwise. A shared passion is a great way to open doors!

  14. Great blog post! I remember being abroad during World Cup and just feeling this instant connection to people as we watched the magic on the screen. I even bought a shirt, and I’m not even a big sports person; but it felt nice to spot others wearing the same team colors. And I admit one of my favorite words is definitely “Goooooooooooooool!” (spoken by a Spanish sportscaster).

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      Anis, I LOVE soccer and follow all the action in Europe very closely. I have a number of World Cup jerseys I wore when I was in Europe in 2006. It definitely is more than a sporting event. I think that is why I like it so much. Where else are you going to unite that many people, culture, and languages in one place? And despite the adversarial nature of sports, it is mostly friendly between fans. It may be the great cultural travel event in the world!

  15. Haley says:

    That was a fabulous performance, congratulation to you.I also love football so much.Please keep your passion with football forever.

  16. This was a very interesting post! I think for the most part, California has missed on the college sports hoopla. Not sure there is really anything out here like back east which is too bad.

    I can’t say I am a sports lover but I do enjoy football, baseball and basketball most. I like the idea of tailgating :)

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      You are COMPLETELY correct on that. California has no clue about college sports. Completely frustrates me out here! Back in the South, midwest, and some on the east coast, college sports are AWESOME!! And yes, tailgating can be included as a sport in itself and is a must on football days! :)

  17. Rebecca says:

    Anything that gets you to travel, YAY!

    I don’t care about sports at all, but music and concerts is what used to get me to travel a lot. I loved going to concerts back east during the summer (or even a long weekend!) when I was in college.

    In fact, I am heading to Oakland (from Los Angeles) tomorrow for the U2 concert! YAY!!

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      Hope you enjoy the U2 concert! I like U2 but haven’t seen them play. I used to love music years ago but not as much now. However, I totally understand how that inspires people to travel!

  18. Hey Jeremy, something I don’t quite understand as over here, there was never any college football or baseball in Southeast Asia. We had school trips though :)

    • Jeremy Branham says:

      There are many things that inspire us to travel. I am sure there are many things in Asia I don’t really understand. You can add cricket to that but I am definitely intrigued by it!

  19. Never would have thought of sports as a way to connect to people since I don’t usually talk much to seat mates or when I do it ends there.

    But the idea of exploring university campus appealed to me. Especially in foreign countries but even in the usa


  20. Charlotte says:

    One of my favourte ever trips was to Australia with the schools netball team. We travelled all over, saw loads of sites, watched a rugby international and were billeted with the families of the schools we were playing. It was a great way to explore a country.

  21. Pete Heck says:

    Very cool Jeremy. Sports has always been an influence in my life, either playing or watching and now traveling. We always try to take in sports events when we can.

    In Honduras I actually had the opportunity to join a mens baseball team. A little dream of mine came true. In Canada ball is not overly that competitive but the talent that is down here in Central America is quite amazing. It was a real privilege to play alongside some of these guys and we developed quite a bond. Plus I started to become quite known in the community as the only gringo in the league 😉

    • Central America is loaded with talent in baseball. Growing up it was my favorite sport and I still love the game. To me, one of the most pure games there is. I would love to be a gringo and play baseball there! :)

  22. Liz says:

    I always try to hit up some sports things when I travel. Soccer in the UK, and when I go to other US cities I always try to catch a game of some sort, the Braves in Atlanta, and the Astros in Houston. I went to Tallahassee specifically to see a FSU game. I adore college football, so am planning on making a pilgrimage to the South for a game on of these falls. Tried to see Auburn last season, but they were better than I could afford!

    • Tickets for college football aren’t that bad. However, the passion is at a level you don’t see in many sports or cities. Like you, sports is an important part of my travels because there is the cultural aspect of it as well as the competition itself.

  23. Honey Cane says:

    I love the story of you. I remember the time when my father is still alive. When he go to far away I always crying because I wan’t to go with him. In my life, there’s only two I love the most and that is travelling and playing soccer. Since I was in grade school, my hobby is to play football when I get sad until I grow up and still I play that kind of game. It help me to make myself happy.

  24. Charu says:

    Jeremy, I feel the same way about soccer. In India, we would watch tennis and soccer games with such passion– I was so thrilled when the World Cup was held last year and tried to go to every game or watch it. Need to pick up that passion with an American sport–hasn’t happened yet…but hey maybe baseball.

    • I actually love soccer as well and am somewhat knowledgeable about the sport. I follow it in Europe and enjoy the World Cup and Champions League as well as the EPL, La Liga, and more. Sports truly has bridged a gap in culture and has been an exciting part of traveling!

  25. I’ve never really been able to get that interested in the game (don’t tell anyone back home!), but I LOVE game days! The fanfare, friends, burgers, and beers is what it’s all about GOOOOO COCKS! :)

    • Now that’s just blasphemy right there. At least you enjoy the game day experience but to say you don’t like the games themselves is enough to get you kicked out of the state. Fortunately for you, you left of your own accord. :)

      And yes, Go COCKS! Don’t forget – College World Series starts this weekend too! :)

  26. Leslie says:

    Interesting topic! Side note: I like bearded Jeremy :)

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