Indie Travel Manifesto

part of the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge Project

the cool cats over at BootsnAll recently launched the Indie Travel Manifesto project, which serves to give a collaborative home for people who love and believe in this kind of travel.

there are a lot of great statements there, and you are encouraged to vote them up or down. here are the ones that i upvoted, the ones that really struck a chord with me and the way i like to travel:

  • seeing yourself in the context of a rich and complex world
  • defining your values, exploring your beliefs, and crafting your own meaning for life
  • options over possessions
  • interactions over transactions
  • first-hand experience over expert opinions
  • mental and spiritual growth as much as physical adventure
  • private transformation over social status and bragging rights
  • pack light and keep things simple
  • adapt as you go rather than micromanage in advance
  • slow down and enjoy an experience
  • seek pleasure in simple moments and details
  • make meaningful connections and informed decisions
  • learn the economic, political and environmental context of my host culture
  • practice courtesy, patience, humility, and good humor
  • seek to understand — not judge or romanticize — other cultures
  • give back to the local economy
  • share what you’ve learned with others

ha! maybe i should have listed the statements i didn’t upvote. 😛 not that they’re any less valid, but less “me”.

i absolutely am in love with the first two, and i think they interplay very well forming the core of the whole “indie” thing. there is so much more to this world than what meets the eye when i look out of the windows of my house or car. when you realize that, and that you are just one of billions, with a ‘b’ — each one different from the next, each one with a story to tell, it directly affects the way you think. when i travel, i try to soak up collective (in the form of art, culture, food, history) and individual stories, and i like to think it expands my mind: continually shaping who i am, literally and figuratively changing my internal worldview. this exploration is what i live for and the prospect of discovery is what drives me.

Lernen

part of the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge Project

Have you ever studied or taken classes on a trip? What did you study, and perhaps more importantly, what did you learn while on that trip? What would you like to learn on your travels this year?

why yes, i have! i took two years off life between 2005 and 2007 to get a Master’s degree in Computational Linguistics at the University of Tübingen, in the southwest of Germany. my primary reason was not the degree itself (in fact, that was at the bottom of my list) but primarily to live in europe and have the opportunity to travel around on the cheap. and boy, did i. cheap airfares from Stuttgart were plentiful thanks to German low-cost carriers. that, combined with (frankly) an easy program and hostels and the wonderful rail system (and annual visits by travel-loving parents) meant i was able to travel not only around Germany to many other countries in the area (pictures from which can be found on this flickr page):

  • France (a lot)
  • Switzerland (a lot)
  • Italy (quite a bit, including the 2006 Winter Olympics)
  • Czech Republic
  • England
  • Slovenia
  • Austria
  • Hungary
  • Morocco
  • Belgium
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Estonia

this was my dorm room the night i moved in:

my bookshelf a year and a half later (moved furniture around as well)…

and for good measure, a rainbow (or two, if you look closely) taken from my dorm room window…

but this post isn’t about my time in eden, it’s about what i learned. well, my thesis was on manipulating XML treebanks (fundamentally, large databases of linguistic data), but as i said earlier, the academic side of things, while interesting, was not my main focus. yes, i learned german (sort of — took a class before i left, but it’s really not until you get there and see how it’s used by native speakers in natural speaking situations that you really learn how to speak, incorporating words you never learn in class like krass or geil or hammer lol). but more importantly, i learned so much about cultures throughout europe and the world over since i had friends and classmates from countries like syria, romania, poland, israel, and bulgaria–countries i really did not know much about at all.

what else? i also learned that german tabloids are as bad as american ones…

german mcdonald’s restaurants often have random themes…

hanukkah traditions from danielle…

baby food tastes horrible…

…and so much more, more than could ever fit into a single blog post (or even a single blog).

it was a completely unforgettable experience, but one that really paved the way for my solo travel career (since i was older and had more money than the other students, not many could travel as often as i could, although i did appreciate their company when my friends joined in!).

what do i hope to learn in 2012? bah, i’m a sponge, and i’ll soak up whatever i can get!

oh! i almost forgot! i did do a trip within a trip — the summer after my first year four of us went to Malaga, Spain, for The 18th European Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information (ESSLLI), where besides learning that Andalusian summers are incredibly hot, i also took classes in the following:

  • Treebank-Based Acquisition of LFG, HPSG and CCG Resources (Miyao, van Genabith, Hockenmaier)
  • Linear Logic, Linguistic Resource Sensitivity and Resumption (Asudeh)
  • Working with Discourse Representation Theory (Blackburn, Bos)
  • Proof Theory and Deep Inference (Gugliemi)
  • Computational Semantics: Linking Language Processing to Applications (Flickinger, Copestake)
  • Machine Learning and Dialogue (Lemon, Henderson)
  • Higher Order Grammar (Pollard)
  • Probabilistic Methods in Computational Psycholinguistics (Levy)

good times, i assure you, despite my friends’ poses:

Indie Labels

part of the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge Project

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

my first thought: asking that is like asking if someone is a hipster. (and no, i am not a hipster!) but seriously, this is a good question. ever since participating in the #indie30 challenge last year, i’ve been asking myself the same thing.

let me describe my travel style — maybe it’s indie, maybe it’s not?

  • i prefer solo travel (i suppose in the most literal of senses, this would be independent travel, but i don’t think that’s what they’re going for)
  • i can be quite spontaneous (i decided to go to cambodia last year about two weeks before i actually left)
  • i do my own research and make my own travel arrangements (though i am not averse to enlisting the help of a professional, i haven’t had to yet)
  • i am content to walk around on my own for hours on end, seeing random stuff i want to see — things that the majority of people probably aren’t interested in (why yes, i made it a point to head out of town in prague to see paneláky, walked around tallinn looking for abandoned soviet-era statues with a vague idea of where to go, finally stumbling across them, and so on)
  • i don’t change money before i go; rather i rely on ATMs at the destination (random thought)
  • i give up creature comforts if that means i can experience more
  • i travel for me (which loops back to the whole solo travel thing)

i think that last point hits it on the head.

i don’t travel to “see the world”, but rather to satisfy an inner desire in me. if that desire points me halfway around the globe, great. if it’s the unknown right in my own backyard, cool deal. being an indie traveler doesn’t mean you eschew or look down upon ultrapopular or “entry level” destinations like London or Paris (i’ve been to each multiple times and love them every time i go) or doing organized tours (i’ve done segway and bike tours, and had an amazing time on safari last year). as long as you are driven by an internal burning desire to explore the diversity of humanity and the planet we call home, and are willing to go your own way to do so, i think you’re indie. indie travelers have a fire in their guts, one that forces them to leave their world behind and experience and discover the world around them.