How to bring indie travel back home

Independent travel is largely about exploring the world on your own terms, but few of us can be on the road forever. The time comes when we are forced to settle in to our lives back home, and it can often be a difficult adjustment. Sometimes we might even feel like two different people– the free-spirited traveler and the conformist worker drone.

But the thrill of travel doesn’t have to end when we step off the plane and are greeted by friends and family at the airport. If the goal of travel is self-improvement, that is the perfect time to put all you’ve learned into action.

To me, anyway, indie travel is about attitude, not location. Therefore, we should try to incorporate what travel has taught us into our daily lives, no matter where we are. Here are a couple suggestions for doing just that:

  • Spend plenty of time by yourself. Visit bookstores, cafes, restaurants alone. Go for a walk by yourself. Anything to free up some time for reflection and clear thinking about how you want your life to go.
  • Set goals. It often feels as if we are pushed along life’s path, to paraphrase Emerson, knowing as little and thinking as little as the baby pushed along in her stroller. Don’t let career inertia, conformity, and fear dictate the way your life is going to be. A good idea is to…
  • Write a letter to yourself. List some medium- and long-range goals for yourself, then open the letter in a year. Do you want to travel more? Take a cooking class? Learn Chinese? Put them down. I’ve done this before; it’s excellent motivation.
  • Less stuff = More freedom. The slogan for our modern day society might be: “If everyone else wants something, I must want it, too.” (Apple Tablet, anyone?) This is crazy. Avoid buying things in which you have no real interest, just because everyone else is buying them. You don’t have to become an ascetic, surviving on stale bread and water. But you also may not need that new flat-screen television or BMW. Every dollar you save on house payments, cars, or electronics can be used for getting back on the road, for pursuing other interests, for spending your time the way you want to. As a philosophy professor of mine once said, “If you don’t need a big house, you don’t have to sacrifice your life to pay for it.”

For more tips on bringing travel home, check out Leif Pettersen’s 5 Steps to Living Like a European in the U.S.