I have to be honest with you. I hate the word manifesto. Sure, its meaning is fairly innocent. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.” Okay. So basically, a mission statement. I prefer the term mission statement, because manifesto just makes me think about crazy people and cults. Or terrifying politicians. I suspect I’m not the only person who feels this way.
But in the spirit of completing the Indie Travel Challenge, I read BootsnAll’s Manifesto. While some of the things on the list are not particularly important to me, some of them are. Here are the ones I agree with, and why.
- Pack light and keep things simple. – I admit I haven’t always been the best at packing light. But I try to, and I aim to get better at it. If you don’t have to worry about carrying and keeping track of that extra bag, you’ll have more time and energy to enjoy your travels.
- Practice caution, but not paranoia. – In America I meet a lot of people who think the world is a scary place. Actually, I know plenty of Koreans who think that too. It’s true that you need to be cautious and there are certainly places you should avoid. But seek the facts instead of just being paranoid about the world.
- Slow down and enjoy an experience. – I like traveling slow – the slower the better. I’ll be staying in a total of 5 places in Malaysia and Singapore over my two weeks there, and that seems a little too fast!
- Learn the economic, political, and environmental context of my host culture. – I find this very important. My degree in cultural anthropology reflects the fact that I’m very interested in cultures. The more you know about a country before you go, the better suited you are to understand the sites you’re seeing and the behavior of the people.
- Practice courtesy, patience, humility, and good humor. – Most of all, leave your sense of entitlement at home! That’s not going to help you out anywhere.
- Seek to understand – not judge or romanticize – other cultures. – Again, this is basically why I travel. I love learning about new cultures and understanding the truth behind the stereotypes. The better I understand the world, the better I can choose my role in it and understand myself.
- Share what you’ve learned with others. That’s what this blog is for!
Other thoughts upon reading this include: I do use a guidebook. Yes, a Lonely Planet even. I think they’re a great starting point to look at the history and culture as well as get a general sense for what a place offers. That doesn’t mean I stick to it very much. However many things are in there for a reason – maybe they’re touristy but they’re a great thing to see. Sometimes you find something quirky and cool in there, or good advice (like when the guidebook said “warning: Koreans ski like they drive” I should have listened). It’s a good place to jot notes too. But I also love getting word of mouth advice, and at the risk of being cliché I enjoy “going off the beaten path.”
So while my thoughts about travel don’t line up exactly with this definition of an ‘indie traveler,’ I definitely think I fit it enough.
What do you think? Are you an indie traveler? What are your travel rules or maxims?