Where you at

Mindful Travel, Music, USA

A couple of weeks ago we flew up to the U.S. from Costa Rica, first heading to San AntonioTexas for a few days. On arrival, just as we were about to take the public bus from the airport, a passenger getting off gave us his travel card, meaning we only had to pay five cents to get to our accommodation just north of the city.

Before leaving a city, I always try and give away any leftover travel cards, or return train tickets (in some places return is cheaper than one way) and even though we only saved a couple of dollars, it was great to come across someone else doing the same thing. Just be aware that sometimes these exchanges can be pretty awkward – people generally don’t expect to receive something for free and immediately assume that you’re trying to sell them something!

That night we walked to The Limelight to catch a psych band from Seattle. Unfortunately, you could tell that they didn’t want to be there and at one stage, it even looked like they weren’t going to play at all. As the only band on the bill, they didn’t do the soundcheck until 11:15pm and then took a thirty minute break before eventually coming on…

The lack of numbers in the crowd probably didn’t help matters, but focusing on the people who had turned up to see them, rather than those that hadn’t, might have been a more mindful outlook.

Luckily, all of the staff members at the venue were pretty friendly, so we ended up chatting to them and making the best of a bad situation. One of them was even certain that he’d met my friends, Tristan and Simone at Austin Psych Fest!

The next day we ate some brilliant Mexican food at El Milagrito Café, before walking all the way along the San Antonio River to the city centre. Highlights included the River Walk, The Alamo and The Cathedral of San Fernando and it’s fair to say we were pretty knackered by the time we had walked back to our accommodation, clocking up over ten kilometres (six miles) for the day.

It was back to North St Mary’s Street that evening, this time to The Mix for the main reason we had come to San Antonio – Blaak Heat, a psych rock band out of Los Angeles, via Paris and New York, that I’d been hanging out to see live.

I’d been in touch with guitarist/vocalist, Thomas Bellier through email over the past couple of years, so it was also great to finally meet him.

The majority of their set consisted of tracks from their new album, Shifting Mirrors, along with a couple of songs off the last album released under their previous moniker of Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of An Era.

In the end, the decision to head to Texas was easily justified, with each song sounding even better live than I had expected.

Local act, The ManEaters of Tsavo also put on a great show and the previous night’s debacle made it even more satisfying to catch some good live music!

Lisa, an old friend from high school in Tasmania joined us for the concert, after driving a few hours from her place so we could catch up in San Antonio over the weekend. We’re not entirely sure when we saw each other last, but it was great to see her again, after what must be sixteen or seventeen years.

We also caught up the next day and, as is so often the case with old friends, it really didn’t feel like much had changed. Obviously we’ve done completely different things since high school, but there’s always some familiarity with someone you grew up with.

Possibly the only thing we didn’t see eye to eye on was my taste in music – something that has definitely changed since the days of listening to the Chili Peppers together back in the mid-90s!

Quite often you see travel quotes along the lines of “it’s not where you’ve been that matters, it’s where you’re going”, but from a mindfulness perspective, another focus could be on “it’s who you are and where you’re at”.

When you travel, you feel a connectedness to fellow travellers, even those you haven’t met. Being present also means that you’re more open to opportunities, whether it’s striking up a conversation with a stranger, or deciding to go somewhere that you’ve only just heard about. Who you are is also the driving force behind the purpose of your travels.

Even though we only spent three days in San Antonio, it was still enough time to be reminded of these benefits of mindful travel – without them there would have been no brief interaction with the guy helping us out with his old travel card, I wouldn’t have met the barman who knows my friends, or finally got to see one of my favourite bands. It might also have been another seventeen years before I caught up with Lisa!


If you’d like to check out Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors is available through Svart Records in Europe and Tee Pee Records in the U.S. and The Edge of An Era is also available through Tee Pee Records.

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