121. Road Trip larp, Part Five: Larp Tourism

This is the fifth part of the series on the Road Trip larp project. If you want to start from the first post, it is #116.

A big part of the experience was driving Route 66, exploring a part of America that was foreign to most of the participants. For the Europeans, this was definitely the case, but quite a few of our Americans also said that this was a different country than the one they normally see.

That it was a tourist experience is not up for debate. Neither was there any doubt that it was a larp experience. Larp tourism is relatively new, but it’s growing, and Road Trip is clearly a part of that trend.

Since this series uses a Ten Lessons Learned format, this means I get to unveil Ten Lessons Learned From Road Trip In A Larp Tourism Perspective

  1. Larp lets you be a tourist in a new way. We could have done this road trip without the whole larp element. We could have gathered 22 people, rented vans and driven across the States. It wouldn’t have been anything like this.
  2. The rock tour gave us things to do. Each of us had a function on the trip. Some were sharply defined (drummer), while others were more loose (groupie), but everyone had that extra layer of identity that a function provides. On a normal road trip, only a few coordinators would usually have that. Here, we all had.
  3. Characters and stories gave alibi for interaction. Being a filmmaker let me interact with people in a way I don’t when I’m “just” Claus. Being a band – or just part of the tour – had some of the same. Instead of just saying “Hi, I’m Claus, who are you?”, I’d have an engaging story to open with. That meant a world of difference for how I met, and was met by, strangers.
  4. It made for some minor practical difficulties. Maciek and Nadina got married in Vegas. They put down their real (Polish) names, but ran through most of the wedding prep using their fake (Bulgarian) names. Whenever Ashley/Suzette paid, it was as Ashley. Rick Stevenson used Claus Raasted’s credit cards. It wasn’t major, but it did complicate things a little. ID at bars could have been tricky.
  5. It’s like being on a movie set. I’ve lived in the US as a child and have traveled there quite a bit as an adult. I’d forgotten how much it can feel like being in a movie. American cultural hegemony is real and insidious, but one plus side of that is that you get reactions like “Wow! I feel like I’m in Breaking Bad!” when in New Mexico. Nobody has a similar experience on the experience from Bremen to Hamburg. Movies and TV have made the US iconic in a way that’s mind blowing.
  6. The larp provided us with a schedule. Of course, it’s easy to say “We need to see the Eiffel Tower at 6 pm” when you’re in Paris. Reality is that the Eiffel Tower doesn’t care if you’re late. Our booked concerts did care, and gave us some anchor points to navigate from. It wasn’t a complex schedule (and we learned a lot for next time about how to do it differently), but it made for a rough framework that was great.
  7. We had reasons to do fun stuff. Anywhere interesting was a potential backdrop for a music video shoot. Any experience could be justified as a teambuilding event for the crew. A stop at a railroad crossing became an improvised photo shoot. It’s not that we couldn’t have done all these things without the larp – they just made more sense to do because of it.
  8. We saw another part of America. For most of us, this was our first visit to the Midwest and to the parts of the South that we went through. This had less to do with the larp and more to do with Route 66, one might argue. And yet, people who visit Czocha Castle in Poland because of College of Wizardry still get to experience a beautiful medieval castle. This was some of the same.
  9. Normal group travel requires work. One of our participants, Aurelie, said it very well. “Yes, I could have done a road trip on my own, but having someone else take care of all the hassle is amazing.” It’s easy to counter that we might have gotten the same out of organising a straight road trip with no larp, and that’s probably true. But larp is our thing, and if it makes us organise group travel, then we’re cool with that!
  10. Normal tourism doesn’t connect you like this. Most tourist experiences involve bonding with people you know. Most larps foster new friendships as well. Combine new people with a new place and new experiences, and you get a strong. chance of real connections forming. I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone who was part of Road Trip made deep connections with new people – and those who didn’t, actively chose it that way (which is totally ok). But larp connects people, and this was a great example of that.
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