The Top 5 Travel Essentials from Wildsam Field Guides

Take note, gents — Wildsam founder Taylor Bruce lays out his must-haves for all your summer travel
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Jul 22, 2015 | By Liv Combe

Wildsam Field Guides are our pocket-sized go-to for whenever we're looking to have an urban experience that's anything but pedestrian. Don't expect to find your average "top ten" travel listicles within these pages — instead, you'll see handdrawn maps, vinyl recommendations, and personal essays from a handful of each city's leading voices. In that spirit, we recently chatted with Wildsam founder Taylor Bruce about his own travel essentials.

"I love creating some sort of assortment of music, even just on Spotify, that reflects the place I'm going to. We do this in our Field Guides, too. If it's New Orleans, I pull together a bunch of jazz. If I'm going to Spain, it'll be flamenco guitar. I find that even if you're not on a road trip, having music that reflects where you are will deepen the experience."

"I've done a lot of solo traveling for magazine writing assignments, and it's just not quite the same as traveling with a great friend, partner, or spouse. So I've found that having a great companion is pretty key. It really changes the dynamic of a trip."

"I've said all along that one of the reasons we started Wildsam was that we didn't really care too much for the travel guides that were out there. My version of a travel guide is usually a novel, a collection of short stories, or a book of history that's going to push me a little further into a place — kind of like a playlist does. So whether you're traveling solo or with someone, the perfect book is pretty clutch.

"If I'm going to San Francisco, I'll pick up Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion. Reading Leaves of Grass in Brooklyn changes the dynamic of walking those same streets where Walt Whitman lived and worked. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy is a great book that comes to mind for New Orleans."

"Five or six years ago, I flirted with being fluent in Spanish. Now I'm decently conversational. Whether you're going to France or China or South America, if you can arm yourself with just enough of the local language — and then study it as you travel and pick up more and more — it really changes your interactions. It'll take your experience from two dimensional to three dimensional. 

"And this idea doesn't just have to be for international travel; take it a step further and try to understand the language of the places you're visiting in the United States — the words that go along with the natural area on the coast of Maine, or the barbecue slang in Austin, Texas."

"There's a tendency when you travel, especially with technology and being able to read up on everything, to create too rigid of a plan. My most important piece of advice is to always hold your plans pretty loosely. Obviously it makes sense to plan where you're going to stay and what you're going to do, but it's always good to be prepared to change those plans. That's one of the best parts of traveling, after all: the spontaneity, the learning as you go. I always trust the advice of the local over anything.

"Oh, and one last thing — always bring a pair of desert boots."

The Wildsam Field Guide to San Francisco was part of the reason why Liv Combe moved there.
She's the Associate Editor at Huckberry in San Francisco.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Images ©: 1,3, 6, 9, 10; Kate LeSueur. 2, 5; Q Avenue Photo. 4, 7; Lisa Congdon. 8; Tec Petaja