Thursday, 23 February 2012

On Indie Travel

Planning a big trip can get stressful. If planning a simple vacation creates stress then planning a round the world trip that will take you through many countries over many continents with many visas is bound to be confusing. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Let me tell you my story. Every traveller has a reason as to why they want to travel, specifically for why they want to travel the world as a vagabond, moving freely from destination to destination without boundaries or limitations. Mine started rather embarrassingly, basically I was on my first vagabonding adventure living on Cape Cod in the summer of 2009 when I saw this for the first time: it’s a popular video and I bet most of you have seen it before. It flipped my world upside down. I loved living and working on Cape Cod and was looking forward to my Kerouacesque adventure through the states. I guess I had never experienced freedom like I had in those four or five months, in my entire life. Then it clicked, watching that video taught me that it never had to end, that there are more places and more destinations and that most importantly you don’t need a lot of money to experience those places.

I started planning immediately. I’ve been planning ever since really. I moved here to South Korea in August of last year to begin what I had been dreaming about ever since I left the USA. I’m living as frugally as I can here (despite a brief spending spree on an amazing trip through Japan with Natalie) and leave for the adventure three years in the making in August. I wanted to talk a little about my preparation for that trip and what I’ve done so far.

My original plan included a stupid amount of countries. It looked something like this: Korea – Thailand – Laos – Cambodia – Vietnam – Kuala Lumpa – Singapore – Borneo – Papua New Guinea – Australia – New Zealand – Fiji – China – Mongolia – Russia – Poland – Romania – Serbia – Germany – France – Home. I had my reasons for wanting to visit all of those places and I romanticised this dream trip all out of proportion. What I began to realize as I planned was not only that this trip would take years if I was to do it right, but that it would cost upwards of my target budget. Those things aren’t a big deal right? If the trip takes years then so be it? If it costs more than the budget allows then I could stay in Korea for another few years and save the money I need. Whilst those things are true what is integral to the success of the trip is that time is taken over it. That to be truly happy about my trip I would have to set out to do exactly what I planned to do: Live freely for an extended period of time travelling through different cultures and learning about different ways of life.

If I’m rushing through countries and ticking them off just to satisfy some country count goal in my head then I’m sacrificing that freedom. Moral of the story is: the countries have been cut down. Whilst I still want to visit the countries that have been cut I want to keep within my budget, and I want to experience each country to its fullest without worrying about that budget. Essentially the amount of countries visited isn’t what is important. What’s important is the way I experience the countries I visit, to be able to say I spent enough time in a place to get to know it a little without rushing on to the next place.

So, now, it looks like this: Korea – Thailand – Laos – Cambodia – Vietnam – China – Mongolia – Russia – Poland – Germany – France – Home (UK). Much tighter. Whilst I still want to visit the hill tribes of Papua New Guinea or bask in the sun on the beaches of Fiji, I understand that all will come in good time. The trip I have set out in my head now is well paced, well researched and well budgeted and although I’m trying to cut back a little on the extortionate costs of Europe it’s pretty much there in terms of planning.

So, you have a country list. Now what? Well, I suppose it’s also important to not over plan the minute details of your itinerary and instead to go with the flow and let your trip take you wherever it’s going to take you. So I have a few places I’d like to see written down, I have my budget for each place written down, but outside of that, let whatever comes, come. I think that’s a pretty good philosophy and I think that’s the polar opposite of the kind of travel I want to avoid. Essentially, I want to avoid the package holiday. I just don’t’ see how that is exciting, or even relaxing. It feels contrived and out of sync with my idealistic view of travel. I opt for chance over choice, I suppose.

One final note before I stop babbling about my idiosyncrasies. I was around another teacher’s apartment the other night and very briefly the subject of marketable travel came up. Somebody said, “no matter how small or how independent the traveller, they are essentially a market, to be sold too.” I took instant disliking to this and I’ve been trying to figure out why. It instantly reminded me of that Bill Hicks “marketing is evil” routine. “Now Bill is trying to appeal to a market outside of the market, that’s smart, that’s real clever Bill. NO, I’M NOT TRYING TO DO THAT!” It goes something like that. Look it up, you don’t need me to find the link for you. The reason I don’t think the indie traveller is susceptible to tourism markets was put rather eloquently recently in the Indie traveller manifesto and it reads something like this: Indie Travel is about defining your own values, exploring your beliefs, and crafting your own meaning for life.

The core of indie travel is unmarketable because it essentially has nothing to do with travelling anywhere. It is a state of mind. It is about being open, it is about replacing expectations with realities, seeing yourself in a new light, ridding yourself of possession, discovering yourself rather than escaping yourself, an indie traveller doesn’t really have to travel anywhere. How can a tourism market, market to that? How was Henry David Thoreau marketed to when he gave up material possessions and moved into a cabin on Walden Pond? How was Christopher Johnson McCandless marketed to when he moved out into the Alaskan wilderness? How was Marco Polo marketed to when he sailed to Asia? I’m being idealistic, sure, but I like to think that when I set off on my adventures in August, that I will make my own choices, discover my own path and craft my own destiny.

Yes, I like that, I like that very much.

1 comment:

  1. And the stories of the travels of Thoreau and Supertramp have both become immortal. I know of no immortal travel stories written by people who listened to marketing.