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Semester in London: Tales of a rock music pilgrim

In his last blog of the semester, SPM blogger David Marino travels solo across the U.K.

Semester in London

Semester in London: Tales of a rock music pilgrim

In his last blog of the semester, SPM blogger David Marino travels solo across the U.K.

I saw a meme on a Facebook page recently that said, “It’s not where you travel, but who you travel with.”

That is definitely true to some extent; if I’m going to a resort town in Italy, I would much rather be with close friends or family then flying solo. And of course, when I do travel with someone, obviously I’d prefer to be with those who I enjoy being around.

But as I witnessed myself during this last week, there is nothing wrong with traveling alone if you have the right attitude. In fact, I found it pretty liberating. I learned a lot about myself during this trip in a way that I’m not sure I would have had I been with another person. 

I am not exactly someone who loves to be alone a lot of the time. Although everyone needs to get away from the flashing lights of society once in awhile, I prefer the company of others. I love bouncing ideas off people, discussing social issues, talking back and forth about the movies we heard about. Even a quick conversation about the weather can be interesting if you put the effort in.

When I had a week off this semester, a segment of time equivalent to ASU's spring break, I had a few different chances to travel with people I really like. 

Traveling like this probably would have been easier to explain to my parents (who were pretty fearful of me traveling alone). I would have probably had some really fun times, and I could have gotten a few cool Instagram pics. Should I follow the Facebook meme, I thought? 

I did a lot of soul-seeking and pondered why exactly I came to the U.K: to explore this wonderful nation. It didn’t take me long to realize what I really wanted to do: a cross-country trip across Britain.

I stuffed my backpack with several shirts, pairs of jeans and underwear, along with hygienic items and chargers (basic living necessities for the modern traveler). I was off on my quasi-Bohemian journey early Sunday morning

An American agnostic in Canterbury 

The first part of my trip was to the southeastern city of Canterbury, longtime a place of religious pilgrimage most famed for its cathedral. 

I wasn’t really sure what I would find in Canterbury, only that I wanted to go to the old pilgrimage city where The Canterbury Tales famously took place.

What I found was a beautiful city with a hearty history and several famous religious sites. I ventured to the famous Canterbury Cathedral, the official cathedral of the leader of the Church of England, and one of the most famous religious sites in the U.K. 

I spent a few hours in the cathedral, pouring over the vast amount of rooms filled to the helm with intricate stained glass art, memorials to war-dead, and dedications to Christians lost, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King Jr. 

Just to be clear, I am a not religious person by any means. I was raised Catholic, but I fall more into the agnostic camp nowadays. But my religiousness notwithstanding, I found the whole display quite beautiful, although I do have to note that my trip was a little soured from overhearing two employees complaining about a lesbian character on a television show.

The Church of England’s relationship with LGBT rights is complicated and is currently under heavy debate. Either way, I don’t think it’s exactly a good look for a church to have its employees openly discussing controversial subjects like that. It pissed me off and made me remember one of the reasons I no longer identified with a religion.  

Either way, It was all very overwhelming; I must have taken hundreds of pictures within the confines of that Cathedral. I was probably letting my inner-tourist show, but looking around, I definitely wasn’t the only one. 

The inside of Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent. Photo taken Nov. 2017.

Twelve bedrooms mixed dorm - $10

Taking the train, I arrived in Brighton rather late. I Google mapped the directions to the hostel I had booked a room at earlier and set off for my first hostel experience ever. 

I walked into the dark room, climbed upon my top bunk and, after some rustling, fell asleep for the night as loud dubstep music blared below me. I couldn’t stop laughing at the idea of putting a hostel directly above a club. I think I was paying like $10 for the night, so I wasn’t outraged or anything. 

The sliver of time when silence wrung through the hostel as the club changed songs were the moments I really valued that night. 

I woke up to a breakfast of cornflakes, toast and jam. I heard a hostel staff member politely tell an inquiring patron that eggs were only served on Saturdays. Such is life.

Brighton shock

I had first come across Brighton from the classic Queen song “Brighton Rock” back when I was a preteen. It was strange to actually be in the place itself nearly ten years later. 

Brighton struck me as a place quite a bit like southern California; the docks were filled with couples and children buying sweets, playing arcade games, and going on rides that blared a strange remix of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)”. 

It’s a bit of a resort town, but not really my thing; I’m more of a culture guy, and there weren’t a lot of museums in town that I was interested in. I ventured into the shopping district, where I bought a low-priced Velvet Underground shirt.

I didn’t particularly like Brighton; I thought it was fairly unexciting. At the time I was a bit demoralized, but now that I reflect, you don’t exactly have to like every place you go to to have an enjoyable trip. No matter what, it’s an experience, and it’s one I glad I had, if only because travelling is a privilege that unfortunately, not everybody has the means to do. 

Isle of insight 

I left Brighton for Portsmouth before taking a ferry to the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight is an English Channel island Brits have long vacationed in. It also has a whole ton of history, most famously containing Queen Victoria’s summer home where she died in 1901. 

But I had arrived at the Isle of Wight for one reason, and one reason alone: It was the sight of the Isle of Wight Festival 1970, which featured, among other artists, The Doors, The Moody Blues, Miles Davis, Sly and the Family Stone, Chicago, Joan Baez, Jethro Tull and, most famously, Jimi Hendrix, giving one of his most memorable concerts just weeks before his untimely death. Having listened to a lot of my favorite bands play there, I very much wanted to see the location of what was, at the time, the largest rock festival ever. 

I checked into a hotel in the central city Newport, for the night. I made small talk with the woman at the front desk, telling her I just came back from Portsmouth. I told her I thought it was nice. She didn’t agree, telling me it was plagued with “multiculturalism.” Ugh, I did not like where this conversation was going. I awkwardly went to my room.

I was taking the bus to the village of Freshwater, the location of the festival in 1970 when I realized something: I was going to a largely barren location in the middle of an English island because of my devotion to music. 

The coast of the Isle of Wight where the Isle of Wight music festival takes place every summer. Photo taken Nov. 2017.

I really do think experiences like this help you determine what you really value. I’ve always been into music, especially classic rock music, but I never thought about it being an almost integral part of my life. But now that I think about it, I listen to music every day. I own a whole ton of music shirts, concert memorabilia, DVDs, CDs, Vinyl, you name it. But it’s more than that; it’s kind of part of my central identity as a person. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be there. 

I hiked the trail to the exact location of the festival on Afton Down in Freshwater. I looked out in front of me to one of the more beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. I sat staring for a while, contemplating life and it’s many pratfalls. How I’d be graduating soon, what it means to enter the job market, what it means to really live. I thought back to the magnificence of life as I stared beyond the horizon. 

I took a selfie with a nearby Jimi Hendrix statue, a memorial to the 1970 concert, and left for Bristol. 

Reach the blogger at or follow @Marinodavidjr on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this blog are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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