When it comes to life changing vacations people wanderlust for, major cities and exotic landmarks are amongst the most popular destinations. It is not necessary to go to London or New York to have an amazing vacation. For the lucky ones, the life changing experiences happen in less likely locations.
For seasoned travelers, Florida’s gulf coast city of St. Petersburg is full of sandy beaches, fishing docks, boutiques and shops and most importantly many opportunities to escape reality. Whether taking a break from a draining desk job or an icy winter in Winnipeg, St. Pete is ideal for swimming, sea shelling and enjoying a frozen drink under the hood of a cozy cabana. What could possibly be better than treating the body to rest and relaxation alongside a healthy dose of Vitamin D?
But for those searching for more than just a walk on the beach, St. Pete also offers more exotic adventures to stimulate the most overworked yet easily forgotten part of the body- the mind. Haslam’s Book Store is one of St. Petersburg’s many famous stores though unpopular to many tourists seeing as though it lacks beach balls or sun glasses. But for the adventurous spirits, the store has everything from Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Dan Brown. But what Haslam’s has that any large bookstore chain does not is simple: Jack Kerouac. Not talking about his many famous works of literature, but his spirit. That is to be taken completely literally.
Haslam’s is known as “a haunted book store” because it is rumored to be the unresting place of the brilliant mind of the author of On the Road. But what many people do not know is that the rumor is entirely factual- that is if one opens their heart to the passion and inspiration of Kerouac’s words, they will feel his presence whilst traveling through time and emotion in ways only books permit.
Visiting there on a similar vacation was life altering, as for an ardent devourer of literature, Kerouac is most definitely present in Haslam’s book store. His accounts of travel and the meaning of life while not conforming to societal norms are evident in his works but also in the bookstore itself. He breathes passion and exudes life, palpable immediately upon entering the portal to a book lover’s palace rich with character and history.
It is said Jack Kerouac would move the books to eye level in the hopes of selling more copies to unsuspecting customers. He frequented a local dive bar, Flamingo Bar, while in St. Pete and was known for his counter-culture lifestyle defining the Beat Generation. He could easily “haunt” the bar, but that was not truly where his heart lies. Instead, his heart is poured onto the pages of literary greatness. Not only does Kerouac’s wandering spirit rest upon altars of which many great works reside, but also his legacy on the literary world and the overlooked “Sunshine City”.
Jack Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, Florida in October of 1969, a city he was deeply fond of. But more than Kerouac’s body remains there. His entire being inhabits St. Petersburg. He may “haunt” Haslam’s book store with the hopes of selling copies of his spirit in word form, but his soul will forever live in that city. As long as the “mad ones” who “burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars” continue to relish in his works, the bookstore will continue to be “haunted” by Jack Kerouac’s ghost.
St. Petersburg, Florida is the perfect vacation location for those desiring to catch some waves on the gulf or in a great book. Only the traveler can decide. And Mr. Kerouac will be there waiting as the wandering soul searches with the intent to discover the inner most fabric of their true being.
When it comes to St. Petersburg and Haslam’s book store, be a traveler who follows their heart and who writes a story all their own, just as Kerouac did. Who knows, maybe someday someone will write an article about how they followed a less traveled path. But for now, Haslam’s book store and Jack Kerouac will forever be a spirit making St. Petersburg, Florida their home. Though one could find the tale of Kerouac’s “haunting” in a guide book, they will never understand that he is not actually haunting the store- or the city for that matter- but instead living within passionate readers and his stories. Jack Kerouac’s adventurous spirit will never truly die, and neither should the spirit of the well-read traveler. Kerouac gave some of the best advice as a traveler himself, it would only be appropriate to accept his wise words as he says “there was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”