Hippie Trail Conference

 ‘Touch the Sky: the Hippie Trail and other forms of alternative tourism’


The History Research Unit at the University of South Wales is organising a two day conference dedicated to the Hippie Trail and related forms of alternative tourism.

Dates: 11-12 October, 2013

Venue: Cardiff Story Museum, The Old Library Trinity St, Cardiff, CF10 1BH

One of the last great expressions of alternative tourism in the twentieth century, the hippie trail to Morocco, Afghanistan, Nepal, India and other points east, flourished between 1957 (when Jack Kerouac published his influential road narrative On the Road) and 1978 (when the Iranian Revolution closed the land route from Europe to India). North American and European travellers used VW vans, motorbikes and Land Rovers to travel East. Their exploits quickly became a media cliché: in popular consciousness, knowledge of the hippy trail is still based mainly on stereotypical stories and images. Hard facts are more difficult to ascertain. Who were these travellers? What was the catalyst for their journeys? What routes did they take? What forms of transport did they use? What impact did they make on the local population, and vice versa? What was the scale of this movement? What is the enduring legacy of these alternative forms of tourism?

We invite proposals on the hippie trail or related topics raising analogous questions concerning power, globalization and cross-cultural encounters. Possible topics include: spirituality and tourism; discussion of relevant key texts; sites of alternative tourism (e.g. Glastonbury Tor, Stonehenge, Père Lachaise Cemetery, the Alhambra Palace, the Buddhist statues at Bamiyan); sites of religious tourism and pilgrimage (Lourdes, Jerusalem, Mecca);  ecological tourism; tourism, imperialism and Orientalism; the economic impact of various forms of tourism.

At the end of the conference we intend to hold a round table discussion in which ex-travellers will share their experiences.

Please submit proposals as a single file (.doc, .docx, or .pdf) including your name, institutional affiliation (if appropriate) and email address, as well as the title of your contribution, a note on whether you prefer to contribute to a panel of academic papers or to a roundtable discussion, and an abstract of approx. 200 words to brian.ireland@southwales.ac.uk or sharif.gemie@southwales.ac.uk by June 14th, 2013.

3 Responses to Hippie Trail Conference

  1. Brooks Goddard says:

    I’d say the key places for me were Istanbul, Isfahan, Persepolis, Herat, Lahore, Srinigar, Amritsar, Delhi, Kathmandu, Pokhara, south India, Cochin, Bombay, Ellora & Ajanta, Sanchi, the S. S. Karanja from Bombay to Mombasa, Gedi in KE, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, the Kano market, Akusambo Queen in Ghana, Kumasi and environs in GH, Volubilis, Fez, Granada, Toledo.

  2. bireland says:

    The ‘Touch the Sky’ conference was held in Cardiff on 11 and 12 October. Some twenty-five people attended: they included academics from Britain, Spain, Greece and Canada, independent researchers and activists, and hippy-trail travellers from Britain and the USA, two of whom had self-published their accounts of the trail. There were two elements of the conference. Firstly, people who had done the trail in the 1960s and early 1970s were invited to share their impressions of the trail and similar experiences. We heard Carolyn Kingson’s approach to writing her Wander Year, about living in Iran in the years before the Revolution of 1978, and of John Worrall’s and Michael Taylor’s memories of the trail. These papers were copiously illustrated by photographs taken by the speakers. Alan Dearling compared the trail with the development of a semi-permanent festival culture across Europe, in which like-minded activists created Temporary Autonomous Zones.

    Academics provided an analysis of the nature and impact of the trail and considered a wider context. Papers were presented on the notorious ‘Redlands’ bust of the Rolling Stones in 1967, on the influence of Buddhism on Jack Kerouac’s writing, on the books and cassettes which travellers enjoyed while on the trail, on the commercial effects on backpacker tourism in Mexico and Malaysia, on the varied responses to hippy trailers by the dictatorship of the Greek colonels, on ‘Hippywood’—the treatment of the trail in films, on the nature of hitch-hiking in 1970s Canada, and on Australian approaches to the hippy trail. Finally, Ali Wardak told us about growing up in Afghanistan, and how he had valued the presence of hippies in Kabul as they provided him with an easy way of learning English.

    These two elements were fused together in the last afternoon in an informal discussion session, in which all participants contributed ideas and perspectives on the trail. One dramatic moment came at the end, when Irene Milburn suddenly pulled out her photograph album, full of photos from more than forty years ago.

    This conference was both a forum to share our research and an opportunity to create links between researchers from different disciplines who share similar research interests. Thanks to History colleagues at the University of South Wales for providing the funding for this event, to Ceri Carter for her conference organisation skills, and thanks also to our hosts the Cardiff Story Museum.

  3. bireland says:

    Carolyn Kingson has written an interesting piece about the conference: http://www.carolynkingson.com/

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