What defines an Independent Traveler?
An independent traveller gets inspired by the philosophy of using travel to engage with the culture of his destination and make efforts to immerse himself in the local customs.
In contrast, your average tourist is more concerned with ticking off the checklist, seeking familiar comforts and conveniences of his home, and gets upset on non-fulfilment of her expectations.
The term independent traveller includes many kinds of traveller, but all share the common philosophy of being footloose and leaving their home, well back at their home.
A backpacker on budget fits in this definition. So will a moneyed flashpacker willing to experiment.
What is this common philosophy? Let me elaborate on it. The independent traveller:
– Has an aversion to being pampered
Instead of overpriced package tours and rigid itineraries – both of which are big no, the independent traveller prefers to be footloose, builds his itinerary, and generally has an open plan.
He is all for the hustle-bustle and considers himself to be a trailblazer! Not for him the guided tours, the time-bound itineraries, the protective care of an escort.
For him, a guided tour is like a hangman’s noose. He delights in his own mind’s dictates and hates the very idea of seeking advice or letting anybody else tell him what to do.
– Believes in spending less to enjoy more. The less the outflow of money is, the better the inflow of joy is.
Has the conviction that more money to spend equals less rich experience plus an invitation to the tourist traps (overpriced shops). Shopping is not part of this travel vision. His mantra is to husband his resources to extend his travel craftily.
– Is a light traveller. Having possessions beyond a tote bag are both unnecessary and costly in the eyes of the independent traveller.
The liberation from the comforts of his home, the newfound ability to rough it and managing crisis-all this gives him a big high and cannot get purchased at any drug shop.
Experiencing life as it is in its natural habitat. What is there to ask for more? The porter seeking tip from you for lifting your heavy luggage at an expensive hotel is not a part of the authentic experience.
– Engages to immerse in the culture
He is puzzled by the tourists who take shelter in fancy hotels and air-conditioned buses. Why are they here? Travel is for a simple purpose – and that is to expand one’s mind and enrich one’s life with new experiences. The packaged coach tours are not going to provide that. All that good money went down the drain!
A German proverb is “Alles sind Auslander” all are outsiders or foreigners, and the independent traveller passionately subscribes to it. There is nothing to worry about in this life. Not for him the artificial barriers created by the tour company, between the travellers and locals, for he can spot that such cocooning comes at a hefty price in terms of both money and lack of authentic cultural experience.
Even after spending so much money, the coach tour traveller goes back home without an iota of a new idea of living life differently.
– Is flexible, in harmony with surroundings.
There is no timetable to follow. The independent traveller is a vagabond at heart, and realises plans are just plans. If a flight gets cancelled, well it is cancelled. No big deal. What next?-another flight or maybe a bus or even a bullock cart!
Worrying about an awry schedule is a killjoy. Intrinsically he believes that there is a larger design at work and that eventually, the benefit of the current crisis will reveal by itself. Just be with force.
– Travelling is education
Once Prophet Muhammad came across a pedantic scholar. But when the Prophet merely asked him “Have you travelled much?”, the scholar became silent.
The Prophet went on to explain that travel brings knowledge beyond the books.
Spending on travel is one of the best educational investments that one can do for himself. The independent traveller develops his out of box thinking ability when he travels, especially on a meagre budget.
I have heard about a person who diligently every year picks up two airports blindly off the globe, and then travels to those airports on his own, without any assistance, either from his office or his friend’s circle.
He is a big guy in the corporate world, and to keep his skills and mental agility sharp, he has devised this method.
Even timid people, when forced in the gladiator’s arena of managing crisis, show an astonishing ability to come up with a unique solution, which eventually brings in an even bigger reward.
The reward is the knowledge that they can manage very well on their own, without being spoon-fed.
This knowledge or education or even both is never available within the four walls of the classroom.
One of the banes of modern civilisation has been the successful sell of the idea “More is good”.
Try testing this idea when you scale a high mountain peak. As you approach the summit, the weight of your backpack increasingly becomes a cumbersome drag. One has to keep on discarding one’s various possessions to reach the summit.
An independent traveller, especially on a meagre budget will wait for the sun to set or can visit a remote village and stay there for a while, or get the first-hand experience of alternative healing methods which probably do not have any side effects.
The whole world is an oyster for him. The lighter you travel, the better it is for yourself as well as for the world at large. The big payoff of light travelling is a sharper intellect, a heart filled with compassion.
All of this will help you to become emotionally sounder.