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What defines an Independent Traveler?
This can be quickly summed up - a traveller inspired by the philosophy of using the travel opportunity 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 when his expectations are not met with.
The term independent traveller includes many kinds of traveller, but all share the common philosophy of being footloose and leaving their home really back at their home.
So a backpacker on budget will fit in this definition, as well as the flash packer with more money, but willing to experiment will also fit in this.
What is this common philosophy? Let me elaborate it. The independent traveller:
- Has an aversion to being pampered.
Instead of overpriced package tours and rigid itineraries - both of which are big no no, the independent traveller prefers to be footloose, seeks his own 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, this is like a hangman's noose. He delights in his own mind’s dictates and abhors the very idea of seeking advice or letting anybody else tell him to what to do.
- Believes in spending less to enjoy more Lesser the outflow of money is, the better the inflow of joy is.
Has the conviction that more money to spend equals less vibrant experience plus an invitation to the tourist traps (overpriced shops). Shopping is not part of this travel vision. His mantra is to craftily husband his resources in order to extend his travel.
- 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 of roughing it and managing crisis-all this gives him a big high that cannot be purchased at any drug shop. Experiencing life as it is in its natural habitat. What more can one ask for? Definitely the porter seeking tip from you for lifting your heavy package 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 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 gone down the drain!
A German proverb is "Alles sind auslander" all are outsiders or foreigners in which the independent traveller passionately believes in. There is nothing to worry 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 heavy 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 is 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 the force.
- Travelling is education.
It is said that once Prophet Muhammad came across a pedantic scholar. When the scholar continued to rave about his erudition and his knowledge, the prophet quietened him simply by asking, "Have you travelled much?" The Prophet went on to explain that travel brings knowledge beyond the books.
Spending on travel is one of the best educational investment 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 just travels to those airports on his own, without any assistance, either from his office or his friends circle. He is a big guy in corporate world, and to keep his skills and mental agility sharp, he has devised this method.
The fact is that when even timid people are forced in the gladiators arena of managing crisis, these very timid people have 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, can never be obtained within the four walls of the classroom.
- The liberation.
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 heavier drag. One has to keep on discarding one's various possessions in order to reach the summit.
An independent traveller, especially on meagre budget will wait for the sun to set, or can visit a remote village and stay there for a while, or get a first-hand experience of alternate 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 this will help you to become emotionally sounder.