Indie traveling for dummies |

Indie traveling for dummies

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11 January 2012

What was indie again?

The only thing that Wiki could teach me about this subject is that indie is short for independent. Interesting, but I had expected more from professor Wiki.
There are a lot of links though, to indie art, indie games, indie music, indie film and indie everything else.

Indie is a term that can be used for everything that is not mainstream, or - very important - everything that does not want to be mainstream.

Let’s have a look at indie music, as this is the business where the term indie became popular.
In the beginning, indie was used to describe music from bands that were independent from any major record label. Of course after some time these bands became more famous, generated more money and often moved to a famous label anyway. But they remained indie.
Take the Pixies for example, known as a very indie band, they have once been part of the Cooking Vinyl record label which had among others also Alanis Morissette, Blondie, Marilyn Manson, Suzanne Vega and Hanson under its roof. Independent? Not that much.
This is why in the early eighties the term indie music became more of a replacement of the term alternative music (Alt-Music for the experts).

Quick tip: If you get cought cheating on your beloved, call it indie sex. This might hurt less, and if not, it’ll surely create enough confusion for you to get the hell out.

But let’s move forward to traveling.
Indie traveling means independent traveling, or not to travel with a big travel company. This reminds me a lot of that good ol’ traveler vs tourist discussion. If you have not heard about this discussion before - even though about every travel blog has at least a couple of posts about it - the outcome is always something like “if you spend your holidays near a pool of a five star hotel at the Costa Del Sol you’re a tourist, otherwise you’re a traveler”.

The reason why these kind of discussions are always endless and why nobody has ever been able to build a formula to define THE indie traveler is because indie is a very personal term.
When a backpacker takes a week off to Cancun to celebrate spring break - read: get drunk, stoned and laid - is he or she more indie than the guy getting bored at the beach in Varadero, gathering all his guts together and taking a bus to Havana for the day?
I guess not, at least not this time.
So what follows is not a description of the indie traveler, but a couple of characteristics that define indie travels for me.


If you like me to recognize you as an indie traveler, a good start is to travel independent. This means no package deals.
Some find it scary to arrive at a place without knowing where to sleep that night, and honestly, it can turn out sleeping in airports, train stations and wet benches in the park, but those are very rare occasions. Most of the time you’ll find it very rewarding to have a look at the place, discuss prices and check the bar before the dollars have to come out of your wallet. And most important, you can leave whenever you want.
Does this mean not booking that 3-day safari in Namibia? Hell no! Unless you’re that independent that you think you can survive on your own between the lions.


The purpose of indie traveling is to learn something. It doesn’t matter if you want to learn how to surf, how to speak Russian or how to solve the Balkan conflict. As long as if you don’t want to learn how many days you can survive on an all-inclusive formula, you’re indie to me.


As an indie traveler, is it mandatory to sleep in hostels? Of course not! I’ve slept in guesthouses and hotels all the time when I visited Kosovo because there were no hostels.
Does that make me less indie?
Guess not!
But hostels often fit very well in their environment - what makes them sometimes very hard to find. If there’s something I dislike about a place it’s when they have a multi-story, brand new spa-resort in the middle of the historical centre. And I hate it even more if it’s in a national park.
So I figure, if nobody would be interested in staying in a place like that, they wouldn’t build it in the first place and the view from my hostel window would contain trees and birds instead of steal and glass.
Wanna go even more indie? Try Couchsurfing!


“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, Saint Ambrose once said, and that’s exactly what the indie traveler tries to accomplish. We are interested in the native population and we try to imitate them as much as possible. We take the same public transport, we eat the same food and we go to the same bars in order to get an idea of how it is to live in this or that place.
My theory: if you want to eat the same food like at home and sleep in the same conditions as at home... stay at home.

Also very important is to interact with the people.
What do they do?
Where do they work?
How long do they have to work?
What if they get sick?
Can they drink the tap water?
Can I drink the tap water?
Where do they spend their holidays?
What movies do they like?
What books do they read?
Who do they vote for?
What do they think about their government?
Any other hobbies?
Where can I get the best/cheapest food/booze?
What is their idea about themselves?
What is their idea about me?
Why do they find me annoying? Oh yeah, because of the many questions... I understand.

Shortly summarized
Everybody can be an indie traveler.
Indie can be different for everybody.
Noboby is indie all the time.
If one or more of previously stated characteristics describes your travels, you’re indie to me.

This post has been written as part of the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge. Click the icon if you like to learn more about this.

What is your idea of indie traveling?

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Posts you may also like:

BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge 2012 - New Year's Resolutions

Photo Essay: East Side Gallery (or the Berlin Wall anno 2011)

The Art of Getting Lost


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