What Does Indie Traveling Mean?

This week on The Bootsnall Indie Travel Challenge, the question is:

Are you an indie traveler? What do you think makes someone an indie traveler?

What Isn’t Indie Traveling?

I supposed we’d never really used the term “Indie travel” to describe our trip, but it didn’t take us long to come up with a list of things we think define “Indie travel”. First, there are a few things that we don’t think matter. For one, being an “indie traveler” isn’t about how long you spend traveling at any one time, though we prefer long-term, obviously.

It also isn’t about where you go. It seems that most travelers spend their time outside of the US, while we’re currently making the US circuit. That doesn’t matter though. Outside of the US is cheaper, but the US definitely offers a lot to see and learn. “Indie travel” is a mindset, not a timeline or a destination.

What Is Indie Traveling?

Alright, so what do we think “Indie travel” means? It basically comes down to being a “traveler” rather than a “tourist.” It’s about immersion in a local place or culture, rather than just visiting. You can go to Montego Bay and stay in a Sandals resort, spending your days soaking up the sunshine at one of the 4 pools, eating at one of the 8 restaurants, and getting your drink on at one of the 4 bars. You could probably spend 2 weeks on the resort kayaking, playing volleyball, and scuba diving (just to name a few options). And you could have quite a ball without ever stepping foot out into the city of Montego Bay. You could say you’ve been to Montego Bay…but you certainly didn’t experience Montego Bay.

Whether you’re there for 2 days or 6 months, a traveler experiences as much of the culture as possible as the time allows, not just the weather and the water. That means eating at local restaurants, having a go at local specialties (like boiled peanuts), and supporting the local economy as much as possible by shopping at the farmer’s markets and produce stands. Of course, sometimes Kroger is the best (or only) option for something, but not always. But really, why go to Chili’s or Applebee’s (or even worse, McDonald’s) when it’s the same in San Francisco as in Memphis?

Another key for us is meeting people. We’ve been using two websites, WWOOF and Work Away, to find ways to meet local people, help those people, learn more about the culture of the area we’re in, as well as lower our travel costs. Doing so has helped us get great recommendations on local restaurants. We even got to go to a turkey shoot because we knew locals who knew about it.

One final thing is traveling at a slower pace. Instead of creating a crammed itinerary that the family has to follow, traveling often means just walking/biking/driving around until you find something that strikes your fancy. It’s like a Sunday drive where you just go until you end up somewhere and if you decide you want to go into the museum you just passed, grab a drink at an outdoor bar, or just walk down the riverfront, you can do it.

Are We Indie Travelers?

Well, yeah. As much as possible, our food comes from local souces: farmer’s markets, roadside produce stands, fishermen selling the day’s catch, and farm-to-consumer stores. While we might do some touristy sightseeing, we look for ways to make a place fit our interests rather than just rushing around to all of the various sights because that’s what we’re supposed to see when we’re there.

We aren’t eating at chain restaurants because each area of the country has far too much to offer, whether that’s the regional brand of barbeque, unknown types of seafood, or soul food. If we were afraid of trying new things, we’d have never tried conch or boiled peanuts, both of which we actually like.

We definitely try to go at a slower pace. Most of the time, when we go to a city, we’ll end up spending hours just walking around with Knox, reading historical signs, and learning about the city. We’ll talk to most anyone we come across and always look to reconnect with people we’ve met before.

Basically, our philosophy of travel is to try to learn something new about each place we go and find some hidden “where the locals go” gem.

Tools For Finding Food

For those interested, we use Local Harvest, Eat Wild, and Road Food to find restaurants, farmers markets, and farms where we can pick up our food (along with trying to support sustainable methods of agriculture from the first two links).

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