How do you think the way you travel differs from U.S. presidents? Obviously, you aren’t flying around on your own private customized Boeing 747 or staying in the President’s Suite of luxury hotels with an entourage of Secret Service. But if you stay in a room rented from a person’s home through a service like Airbnb while on a trip that is much like the way past presidents including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt traveled.
Did you know U.S. presidents were among the first Americans to stay with strangers while traveling? In recognition of the Presidents Day holiday, historians Clay Jenkinson and Alexander Shane share some thoughts on how we can all travel like three of their favorite American leaders: George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. They reveal how these men traveled back in their day plus give some insights into the types of trips these historic figures may have wanted to take if they were alive today.
Washington did homestays while making extended journeys to the South and through New England during the course of his presidency according to Jenkinson. This was a common practice for the First President who earlier in life regularly stayed at homes like a farm stay available through Airbnb in St. Stephens Church, Virginia. He often traveled back and forth between his plantation and Virginia’s colonial capital of Williamsburg which were a four-day journey apart renting out rooms from people’s homes like the one in St. Stephens Church while on the road.
In his free time, Washington’s hobbies were wide-ranging, from farming to horseback riding. Based upon those interests participating in a home hydroponics workshop in Annandale, Virginia or horse yoga in Palmerton, Pennsylvania seem like current travel excursions he might try. Because he also loved wood sculpting and whiskey making, learning to power carve a log into a bowl in Johnson City, North Carolina and how to make a classic cocktail in Washington D.C. are also activities he would be into today.
Want to travel like Washington but with a twist? Some unique Airbnb community offers in places this President visited include staying on a yacht in Boston, a secluded treehouse sleepover in Bridgewater, Virginia, and homestays at a community farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Born in New York City, Theodore Roosevelt loved homestays, according to Jenkinson. He would spread out and fit right into people’s homes, like when he would travel to the Badlands of the Dakota territory to hunt buffalo. During these trips, his hunting guide would go to bed after supper, exhausted, but Roosevelt and the host of the home would stay up to talk deep into the night, as he thrived on late night conversation. The guide would think, okay, maybe this dude will sleep in. But Roosevelt would be up at first light ready to go out hunting.
Roosevelt also traveled to places throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, which marked the first presidential visit to the Caribbean island. From Washington, D.C. to Yosemite Valley in California, this President relished exploring the country from coast to coast. He loved connecting with locals in all the places he visited often staying in rooms at people’s home or even camping at times.
What would he want to do while on vacation now? As he drank “oceans of coffee” – perhaps to recover from the late-night chats – a modern Roosevelt might partake in a coffee farm tour in San Juan. He was also into fitness, from hiking to boxing. Perhaps today he would brush up on his skills boxing with a world champion in New York City? Well known for creating national parks and wildlife refuges, Roosevelt also loved birds and may today enjoy activities like a falconry lesson in San Diego or a hiking and photo adventure in Hudson, New York. Plus, the man read with vigor, and was rumored to have read a book a day. Can’t you just imagine him on an Upper West Side bookstore crawl in New York City snagging his next read?
According to Shane, Lyndon Johnson loved spending his leisure time in the big ol’ state of Texas. The President would fly to his ranch known as the “LBJ Ranch” to show friends a slice of America they could not get anywhere else. In fact, Johnson even hosted official state dinner BBQs at the LBJ Ranch. When it came to traveling beyond his Texas ranch and the White House in Washington, D.C. he enjoyed venturing to Mexico, especially Acapulco, to relax in local villas.
A man who loved driving his Lincoln Continental around, a modern Johnson may want to try taking another set of wheels for a spin, exploring landmarks on a Segway® in Austin, discovering Chapultepec by bicycle in Mexico City, or biking for a BBQ tour in Austin. When he wasn’t on the go, Johnson could be found at the pool either soaking in the water or poolside lounging on a fiberglass chair. So obviously Johnson would be in search of spectacular pools during his travels if he was alive today.
PRESIDENTS SLEPT HERE
Add some historical context to a vacation. Visiting museums, monuments, memorials and places that presidents slept at while traveling themselves can provide an interesting aspect to a getaway. Do a Google search of a destination with your favorite Presidents’ names to see if there are any landmarks related to them you can visit or stay at while in the area.
Visiting Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania? Stop by the David Wills House which is the home of an attorney who invited Abraham Lincoln to sleep there the evening before the President gave the Gettysburg Address. It is now a museum and the room Lincoln slept in has been restored to what it would have looked like during his stay.
Going to be in Salem, Massachusetts? You can sleep in the same room George Washington slept in if you stay at The Merchant. This boutique hotel was once the house of Joshua Ward who was a prominent friend of George Washington. In 1789, Washington was in town to give a speech at an event and his friend put the President up for the night. The actual room he slept in has been identified and you can reserve “The Merchant’s George Washington Suite” during a stay at The Merchant. This room still maintains the original paneling, window seats and woodwork details that were in place when Washington was there.
While at Yosemite National Park you can discover a sign marking the spot where naturalist John Muir camped with the President urging Teddy Roosevelt to make conservation a national priority. While you can’t sleep at that same spot there are camp grounds within the park that let you enjoy the same natural wonders of this valley that they experienced.
Based upon Roosevelt’s support of the National Park system, a park was dedicated near the site of a ranch the President owned in the North Dakota badlands. At Theodore Roosevelt National Park you can visit the actual cabin he lived in. Called the Maltese Cross Cabin in reference to the brand his ranch used on its cattle you can walk in Roosevelt’s footsteps by touring the building.
Thinking about presidents and travel brings to mind Mount Rushmore. Wouldn’t it be a fun trip to South Dakota traveling like these presidents did by camping and staying at Airbnb style locations? I think it is time for a road trip! Where do you want to go for a Presidents Day holiday?