Monday, January 16, 2012

Travelling the indie way

I don't own a backpack, I'm rather partial to a business class seat, and I've never stayed in a hostel. So when I saw that last weeks prompt for the BootsnAll 2012 Indie Travel Challenge was 'Are you an indie traveller? What makes someone an indie traveller?', my heart sunk a little and I had that same feeling you get when you're picked last for the rounders team. I didn't really know if I'd be justified in calling myself an indie traveller - don't you have to be a bit out there and grungy, have several oversized jumpers that look good over leggings and have a life long subscription to the Inspiral Carpets fan club to call yourself indie? Thankfully, Mr T set me straight on that one and a little googling later I can tell you that an indie traveller is one who is not being led by a tour guide.

Apart from a few forays as a teen and early twentysomething into the alcopop fuelled 18-30 package scene that are best filed in the most dusty depths of my memory for time immemorial, and the odd one or two Canarian weeks away as a kid, I have, by definition, always been an indie traveller. As a family, we don't do packages, I don't recall us ever following a tour, and it generally suits us best to move to the beat of our own drum. But I suspect there's a bit more to it than that, and such a simplified definition doesn't really do much justice to the whole mindset that lies behind the notion of an indie traveller.

A sense of adventure must surely be the first pre-requisite. A desire, almost a need, to explore and discover more, wherever you may be. They've got the wanderlust gene and they just can't help themselves from exercising it.

A longing to experience it. Reading about it isn't enough; in fact reading about it just makes it even more paramount that you go and see for yourself. You want to see, feel, taste, smell it for yourself. Whizzing through, seeing the sights from a bus just doesn't cut it for the indie traveller, you need to get right in there and be part of it.

Living like a local is important too. Sit quietly and watch, adnd you'll be amazed by what you discover. walk the back streets, and get off the beaten track. Chat to the locals and find out what they recommend, use their language, even if it's only a few words or key phrases and you will make connections and reap the rewards. The indie traveller wants more than just the top five sights to see in Lisbon, they want to discover the hidden gems too. And they generally want to spent more than 4 hours exploring a city. We regularly used to tack weekend trips onto the end of a business trip and we'd try to pack as much as we could into a weekend, but we learnt a while ago that when you're travelling with a toddler, moving to a different spot every day or visiting eight sights on 6 hours is no fun for anyone, and as a result we're having a much better travelling experience and discovering many more interesting moments.

Buying local produce on market day in Duras was a great way for us to see what the locals were up to and practice our French. 

Indie travellers take every opportunity to seize the moment and explore. Every day becomes a viable circumstance for a new experience. Some, like us, take an extended portion of time out from their everyday lives (or a long term lifestyle change) to allow the opportunity to fulfil their travel desires. Others take regular trips, and others still have a home base that they stick close to, but they're tourists in their own town, and know their locale intimately.

Change is exciting. Sure, it's a little bit scary for most people, but that adrenalin rush that it gives you is pretty addictive, if you're that way inclined, and you'll always be on the look out for your next new experience hit.

What's it's not about is money. Whether you stick to $11 a night hostels and sustain yourself solely on jam sandwiches and water or you stay five star and quaff Cristal on a weekly basis is irrelevant. Indie travel is all about the experience, and if you're that way inclined you make it happen no matter what.

Anyone for champers, what? 

You don't have to be a hippie to be an indie traveller. You are allowed to wash your clothes as often as you like, and wearing shoes isn't a problem. You don't even need to hitch-hike. You make your rules and do it your way; it's all about the experience.

In my mind, you can't WANT to be an indie traveller. If that's the way you feel then you already are one. You're on a spiritual journey and you've got that internal yearning that keeps you discovering and you can't hold yourself back. Don't fight it! It's something you were born with and no matter how you bash it down, it'll keep popping back up and making you search for your next experience - go out and make memories!

Experience is the word of the day for the indie traveller. I realise that I've used it A LOT in this post, and I spent a while thinking about alternatives but really nothing else sums indie travel up so well to me - it's all about the experience.

What does indie travel mean to you? Are you an indie traveller?

This post was inspired by and forms part of the Boots n All 2012 Indie Travel Challenge - a prompt, question or challenge, every week for the year of 2012. I'm hoping that it will be a little more realistic for me to achieve than a photo a day proved to be in 2011!


  1. I love the idea of being a backpacker! I reckon it would be cool - wonder why I never had the itch when I was younger?
    The Indie travel challenge is such a great way to think differently about travel! Love your idea of mixing with the locals.


  2. I am loving it Lisa, it's great seeing how other people's responses to the same questions can be so different. It's giving me some great inspiration and ideas too! Mixing with locals is one of the things I most enjoy about travel - it gives me a much better grip on a place.