9-types of travelers will LOVE Selma: Are you one?

As I sit in the freshly painted motel in Selma, I stare at the blinking cursor and wonder how to write this article. It's not my usual travel-tip story, "Top 10 hot spots in Selma" or "5 best adventures in Selma." It can't be.

You see, Selma is not a destination. At least, most people don't see it as one. 

The Selma Chamber of Commerce and Alabama Black Belt Adventures, the hosts of my trip, tell me it is a pass-through, a second thought, a tag-on to an already full vacation itinerary.

Going to the beach? Stop in Selma on the way down. Take a picture on the famous bridge and sit on the steps of the Brown AME Church.

Infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of Bloody Sunday

Infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of Bloody Sunday

Even Oprah didn't film the majority of the movie 'Selma,' in Selma, locals tell me. Her production company recreated the town and its churches and filmed the movie in Georgia. 

And prior to my trip to Selma last week, I wouldn't have had a problem with any of it. But I do now.

The power of travel

That's what traveling does. It transports you from one comprehension of life to another. If lily pads are like perspectives of our world, each one a different and maturing view, travel is the message sent from your brain that tells your knees to bend and lifts your feet to new places.

Intersecting your life with locals while traveling has a similar effect.

It causes you to notice the vulgarity of striding into someone's house, taking a selfie at his or her dining room table, then walking out without even saying hello or goodbye.

And yet, bus loads of tourists do this everyday in Selma.

Historic Brown AME Church

Historic Brown AME Church

Why visit Selma?

It didn't occur to me that the significance of a visit to Selma was not a ubiquitous concept until a friend asked me yesterday, "what's the appeal of Selma? Why would I want to go there?"

Selma was the epicenter of the voting rights movement in the 1960's, but even earlier, where a group of leaders, known as the Courageous 8, pioneered the Black right to vote in the 1930's and 40's. It was the site of "Bloody Sunday" where Martin Luther King, Jr. joined foot soldiers, or marchers, in a journey across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to sure and looming violence, a wall of posse men, state troopers, and police armed and ready to squelch the civil disobedience.

"Selma was the birthplace of a spiritual movement with political and social consequences," a tour guide shares with me, "led by ministers and the Courageous 8." You can reduce it to a city with a famous bridge and some prominent churches, or you can see how all of Selma, its points of interest and its people, are aching to tell you stories that will change your life.

So, who should visit Selma?

Pin this!

Pin this!

If you are one of the travelers below, Selma is an ideal destination to get on your 2017 travel calendar. You are guaranteed to have experiences here that will fill your travel bucket. Can you spot yourself on this list? 

1. The Story Lover 

You love sitting at the feet of people and hearing their stories, because you believe that listening and compassion are lost arts. You forget the clock when there is a good volley back and forth of questions and answers, because all of it is a joy to you. When you are sharing and listening, with a stranger or a friend, you feel renewed after every interaction.

"That's me!" Dianne Harris, tour guide and foot soldier

"That's me!" Dianne Harris, tour guide and foot soldier

To fill your travel bucket:

Connect with the Chamber of Commerce prior to your trip. They can connect with you with locals who were foot soldiers in the civil rights marches. The chamber can also recommend special tour guides who understand the power of story.

2. The History Buff

The Civil War. Slavery. The Civil Rights Movement. Black life in America. White life in America. Cannons. Colored drinking fountains. Old pictures. Restaurants where heroes of history strategized. Standing where history was made--all these things set your nervous system afire! You love learning about the past and watching it collide with the present.

Old Cahawba Archaeological Park

Old Cahawba Archaeological Park

To fill your travel bucket:

Visit the Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, 20 minutes from Selma. You'll find excavations, abandoned city streets, and the grounds of Alabama's first capital.

3. The Family Who Loves Education

You are like the History Buff, only you want all of those experiences for your children. You want them to see, touch, and taste the history littered in textbooks. You want those events to come to life, because you know that this is the best kind of kid-learning around.

First Gothic revival style church in Alabama, Old Cahawba

First Gothic revival style church in Alabama, Old Cahawba

To fill your travel bucket:

Pack a lunch and do the bike tour of Old Cahawba Archaeological Park (they even have kids-sized bikes). Stick your toes in the artesian wells that enabled a city of thousands. If you're feeling extra adventurous, bring a canoe to the park and explore the wildlife where the Cahaba River meets the Alabama River.

4. The Southern Foodie

You want the chance to eat anything fried and anything mashed, with a heaping side of collard greens. You love the opportunity to eat at the secret holes in the wall, as long as it serves grits and biscuits. Your mom started you on BBQ and sweet tea as a babe. You can also pick the white gravy from the brown gravy in a blind-folded taste test.

Turkey and dressing, The Downtowner Restaurant

Turkey and dressing, The Downtowner Restaurant

Fried chicken wings and okra, Lannie's BBQ Spot

Fried chicken wings and okra, Lannie's BBQ Spot

To fill your travel bucket:

Try Lannie's BBQ Spot. Sit at the tables where community leaders strategized the marches and meetings over pulled pork and fried chicken. Also, don't miss lunch at The Downtowner Restaurant, featured in Southern Living. They serve Icebox Lemon Pie, one of Alabama's "100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die."

5. The Curious Traveler

Anywhere new is the best place to visit. You care more about seeing new things than about what those things are specifically. As long as the people and the sights are new to your eyeballs, you are one happy traveler.

To fill your travel bucket:

Park in downtown and peek inside the historic St. James Hotel. Currently, in disrepair, you won't understand how such a beautiful structure, perched high above the Alabama River, is not a 5-star boutique hotel. See it before it is gone.

6. The Off-the-Beaten-Path Explorer

You are tired of the same 'ole suggestions, and the point of traveling for you is to see the places that most people miss. The destination is less of a concern when weighed against this: you want a unique experience.

Charlie Lucas, artist 

Charlie Lucas, artist 

A Lucas original

A Lucas original

To fill your travel bucket:

Arrange a visit to Charlie "The Tin Man" Lucas' art studio. His art has hit world-wide renown. Rivaling his art was his personal story of leaving school after 4th grade, leaving home at 13, breaking his back in adulthood, and finding freedom via art. The experience was akin to a personal TED Talk in a quirky studio in Selma. Contact the Selma Chamber of Commerce for help in arranging a tour.

7. The Non-Luxury Traveler

Some say, 'If you want the comforts of home, you should stay home.' Traveling is less about convenience and 5-star ratings and more about the destination for you. You know that small towns don't have Westin Hotels and spa retreats, but that's not why you travel anyway. The location doesn't have to offer you pillow-top mattresses and mimosas in champagne flutes, but it does have to be safe and interesting and worth the trek.

Affordable and safe accommodations in Selma, AL

Affordable and safe accommodations in Selma, AL

To fill your travel bucket:

Book your stay at the Selma Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express, TripAdvisor's #1 and #2 hotels in Selma. They offer typical accommodations with interior hotel room doors, so even solo travelers can feel at ease. The Hampton Inn offers free breakfast in the morning for those traveling on a budget.

8. The Inspiration Junkie

Traveling is more fun to you when it means something, when you learn about life and intersect with locals and traditions. You love discovering regional folklore. You experience a place with all of your senses, but mostly your heart. You walk away changed from your travels, carrying armloads of life lessons back to your tribe to share.

To fill your travel bucket:

Stop by the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute and get your fill of old pictures, foot prints of actual foot soldiers who marched, a jail cell, and old drinking fountains. You'll be transported back to that era, and come away with lessons for today.

9. The Responsible Traveler

You, beautiful soul...I admire your kind. You know that travel is not just for you, but for others as well. You want your travels to bring resources to the local area, not drain it. You want to leave a small footprint, taking away stories of local culture, and leaving an economic boost in your wake.   

Responsible tourists ask: What can we do for Selma? Here's the answer.

Responsible tourists ask: What can we do for Selma? Here's the answer.

How can you explore the stories and the places of Selma responsibly and respectfully?

1. Stay overnight in Selma. Don't just ride in and out on a tour bus that same day. 

2. Eat or shop in the city.

3. Hire local tour guides to show you around the city; I recommend Dianne Harris Historic Selma Tour! Not only are you supporting local residents when you do this, but you will have the opportunity to speak to community members in a way that outside tour companies cannot provide.

Miss Harris, Tour guide extraordinaire

Miss Harris, Tour guide extraordinaire

Wondering what there is to do in Selma?

Wondering what there is to do in Selma?

 

 

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