People like to say they live without regrets, but people can be liars. I know my travel life, at least, has been dotted by big, dumb regrets. Ones that — if I could — I’d go back and change in a blink.
For example, I wouldn’t have shrugged off my friend Chip’s suggestion of a Berlin detour on our first jaunt across Europe in 1989, two months before the Wall fell. Or, years later in Siberia, when a Hungarian film crew invited me to go camping at a gulag outside Magadan, I would’ve jumped at the chance, rather than replying, “Thanks, maybe another time.”
When, in most realities, is there another time for camping at a gulag?
To keep from racking up more travel regrets, I try to be a better listener — of what ‘Future Robert’ is shouting to ‘Present Robert’. It’s time travel, but inward, and I’m still really bad at it. For instance, it’s been a dream since childhood to see the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, the site in Montana where Sioux Indians took down General Custer in 1876. Last year, I was an hour away and somehow couldn’t be bothered to make the journey. By the next day, I was calling myself an idiot.
This came to mind recently, when every sensible nerve in my body told me to stay away from Los Angeles. The progressive rock band Rush were playing the last show of their supposedly last ever tour in the city, and RushCon, the dorkiest convention this side of ComiCon was being held there. I didn’t really have time (or money) for either, but Chip and I were talking each other into attending, anyway.
The Canadian trio Rush may be up there with the Stones and Beatles for record sales, but their music isn’t for everyone. They play songs about androids and black holes in 7/4 time signatures that fill half an album. Concerts regularly have two or three drums solos.
It probably helps to be introduced to them at age 13, as Chip and I were. We created the two-man band Censored and liberally borrowed riffs from Rush classic By-Tor & the Snow Dog for our own songs, including the bleak World War IV.
The band has meant less and less to us in subsequent decades. Still, a few days before the show, we’d already bought $150 tickets (literally the last row at the Forum in LA), and also faced a $300 flight, $210 hotel, plus the inevitable rounds of $10 beers. The pricey upgrade to a convertible rental car was a given. Did we really need to go? We debated by phone.
“What if it really is their last show?”
“Yeah, we’d be furious.”
“After so much Rush in our lives, we’ve earned this.”
“We have to go.”
So we did.
We began at RushCon, a gathering of over 100 serious Rush fans at the downtown Belasco Theater; most in baggy shorts and old Rush tour T-shirts. One grey-haired Californian sported red jeans and a homemade tee with a 1975 photo of Rush and him (front and back). We looked at merch’, mingled and swapped tales, and leaned forward in our seats to hear a sci-fi author talk about robots.
This, to be honest, I expected. What I hadn’t expected were all the women. Despite having arguably the most geeky male fan base of all time, RushCon, it turns out, is run by women. And a third of the attendees were too, including Kelly D, a 27-year-old ‘fan celebrity’ who’s seen 22 shows this tour (“It’s not just a thing for bros,” as she put it). A woman who fronts a Rush tribute band in Atlanta won the karaoke contest. There are now even queues for the ladies loos.
Regrets? I found I had none. I certainly don’t regret going and making this unexpected discovery; these fans were solid gold, the show epic. And Chip and I deserved to punctuate our (now expanded) identities as ‘Rush fans’ by seeing the last stop of their last tour.
And, this time, I think I know what Future Robert is doing: miming a complex drum solo in gratitude. Although he’s also wondering why I didn’t buy the By-Tor & the Snow Dog souvenir flag.
Robert Reid is National Geographic Travel’s Digital Nomad, based in Portland, Oregon, USA
Published in the November 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)