Travelling musician lifestyle advice needed

March 12, 2014 11:02 AM

Have any of you been travelling by yourselves as a musician/vagabond? Do you have any advice?

I'm considering selling some stuff and going backpacking with my guitar, staying with couch-surfers/in hostels and making money by busking. But I've never done anything like this before and don't want to just go out there and get disheartened by the experience, fall into bad travel habits, or cause problems with authority.

Does anyone have any experience doing something like this? How did you make it sustainable/enjoyable? What kind of routines did you have for finding the best/most-welcoming places to stay? What were the highlights and low-points. Would you recommend it?
posted by groklock (11 comments total) has a badge specifically to designate traveling musicians; I'd look into 1) getting that badge for your profile and 2) talking to others who have that badge about their experiences.

For travel:
1) join Megabus's email list and watch for the occasional emails that announce they've extended their schedule; right after those announcements is the best time to get their $1 fares.
2) join Greyhound's frequent rider program; after a while you'll get a free roundtrip of any distance (well, any distance you can stand to ride Greyhound for).

As for authorities: you have to talk to local buskers in each place you're visiting; there definitely aren't any universal conventions re. what behaviors will or won't get you harassed.
posted by kalapierson at 5:54 PM on March 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely recommend posting this to AskMeFi to get some more advice, possibly with references to specific city. Speaking of which, if you have specific cities or regions in mind, that would definitely be helpful.
posted by Corduroy at 8:36 PM on March 14, 2014

Oh great advice on the CS badge. I'd not noticed that option before. Sounds like a perfectly sensible place to start.

And thanks for the bus info. I think I'd mainly be travelling around central Europe/Western Asia but always worth keeping in mind.

Corduroy: Good thinking, thanks. Perhaps I'll ask again there once I've thought this through more clearly, like you say. Sorry if this is in the wrong forum. I'm a bit of a MeFi newb. I figured that asking a bunch of musicians might be a good way to get in the mindset.

Gratitude for your thought guys!
posted by groklock at 7:16 AM on March 15, 2014

Definitely the right forum for the question, just want you to get more answers! Just listened to the songs you've posted, really lovely stuff. Definitely a busking voice that I would notice cutting through the city din!
posted by Corduroy at 11:56 AM on March 15, 2014

Aw, you're the best ;-)
posted by groklock at 12:54 PM on March 15, 2014

hit me up if you ever need a place to crash in Boston. Mefites are good people.
posted by es_de_bah at 1:05 PM on March 15, 2014

I've noticed! Will do. And looking forward to it!
posted by groklock at 3:34 PM on March 15, 2014

Does anyone have any experience doing something like this?

i busked on the streets of san francisco and berkeley for a month

How did you make it sustainable/enjoyable?

i didn't

What kind of routines did you have for finding the best/most-welcoming places to stay?

none, really, which is why i ended up sleeping in a vacant lot

What were the highlights and low-points.

the low point was getting my guitar stolen - 2nd lowest point was playing for 3 hours near fisherman's wharf and getting 36 cents and a toke off a joint - 3rd lowest point was getting out performed by a guy in a gorilla suit with a trumpet and someone in a tuxedo playing a toy piano - 4th lowest point was getting invited to dinner only to discover my hosts were moonies

Would you recommend it?

do you have a gorilla suit?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:36 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

That might be the most depressing story I'll hear all week, but thanks for sharing it with me. ;-) Really sorry about your guitar too, that part really sucked.

Having searched on internet blogs though yours is actually the first truly unsustainable experience I've read - but then again it's also the first one I've read from a solo guitarist, so maybe it's a case of history being told by the.... gorillas. I'm sure there are plenty of people with similar stories to you.

What kind of music were you playing?
posted by groklock at 4:56 AM on March 18, 2014

bad, i suspect - mostly my own, in an half folk half rock thing

this was back in 1977, so i'm sure the gorilla guy has hung it up
posted by pyramid termite at 7:10 PM on March 18, 2014

Well if it's any consolation I'd have given you a dollar for playing your own stuff. And I'd have given the gorilla a banana (or maybe a dollar if he was actually pretty good :-p)
posted by groklock at 6:52 AM on March 19, 2014

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