All places have a story and you need a key, a cocktail or both to unlock them. When I came to Austin, I was thirsty for the stories. I had fallen for the place, its natural beauty, its emerging skyline, its topographical layout, its brew & coffee culture, its active lifestyle and the way it all intermeshed. While I knew I could access it all, love for place would take time. What I yearned for was the soul behind the city, the stories that bring the place, and reasons behind them, together. Stories and places should flow together as freely as water through an aquifer; and Austin is full of water. Bewilderment, adventure, despair, greed, glutony, love, passion, irony, chance, risk, joy, brutality, any so many more are often the driving forces behind the stories behind the places - places that iconize our cities. I look for field guides that tell those stories. Those are the ingredients to love a place.
I came upon Wildsam Saturday morning while having coffee with a friend in a little east Austin cafe. Like other adventure travel brands like House of Spoils or Monocle, I fell instantly for what it represented. The guide weaves together “Best of Lists” with the personas and the narratives that breathe life into the city. It’s authentic, original and unapologetically biased towards why this fair city is of unique ilk. The Austin Wildsam guide speaks about the historical cultural establishments like The Armadillo World Headquarters and how Willie Nelson helped the now defunct venue get its start:
“But it wasn’t until the night of Aug. 12, 1972, when Willie Nelson walked onto the stage of the Armadillo that everything changed. That performance in front of a mixed crowd of hippies and rednecks is recognized as the starting point of the modern Austin music scene.”
The Austin Wildsam guide also provides a dozen page, dozen perspective, account of the 1964 Charlie Whitman UT Tower shooting massacre. If you’ve been to Austin, you’ve seen the tower jutting up from the UT campus but unless you’ve heard the story of the famed Whitman shooting, you’d think it was just any old belltower that turns orange when the longhorns win a football game. The Wildsam guide also interviews Liz Lambert, the former lawyer turned hotelier who helped transform South Congress to the “SoCo” it’s known as today. These are the stories that give context and fabric to a city and its monuments. Wildsam’s guide is helping to weave that fabric for me.
If you want to travel like a local, you can’t just visit, take a snapshot and move on; You have to tune into the stories that make a place special. I’m glad to have found a companion for my local touch in Wildsam - “Essential spots for a local experience”