The launch-of-the-new-website-celebration continues with another interview and giveaway! Today, I am so excited to have another special guest. A big name in the Independent Travel genre- or in my humble opinion, the name in Independent Travel – none other than Craig Martin of the Indie Travel Podcast!
Craig and his wife Linda have been traveling around the world independently and teaching others, through both spoken and written word, how to do it for years.
They are indeed very courageous! I am not sure that I could do what they do- or at least not for as long as they have been doing it. And for that- they have my utmost respect and admiration.
Here is my interview with Craig. Details about the giveaway will follow.
MM: Have long have you and Linda been traveling ’round the globe now?
CM: My wife Linda and I started off with a trip around the South Island of New Zealand in February 2006 then headed up to Europe by way of Hong Kong. Since then, the longest we’ve stayed in one place is six months (Perth, Australia) and in 2007 the longest we stayed anywhere was just 13 nights (Bursa, Turkey).
MM: What motivated you to just pack up and become world traveling nomads?
CM: We’d been wanting to travel for some time … since our last year of Uni in 2002, if not before. It took that long to find gainful employment, pay off student loans and start saving up for tickets and an emergency fund.
We talk about it more in a recent episode of the podcast, why we love travel.
MM: You both run the Indie Travel Podcast. Tell us about that and how it came about?
CM: The Indie Travel Podcast is a multimedia site with video, audio and pictures alongside regular travel articles. We do pretty well with a wide range of guest writers submitting work and we won the Lonely Planet’s Best Podcast 2009 award which was great too. People can browse through the site or sign up for free in iTunes, which will download new audio and video as it becomes available.
After our first six months of full-time travel we had learned a lot of really practical information that we had never seen in any guidebook. We mainly learned it through huge mistakes, like trying to catch a train from Catania to Rome on the last day of the University holidays without a seat reservation. As teachers by nature we wanted to share what we’d picked up and a friend whom we were flatting with suggested a podcast. The first page went live in November 2006 and it all grew from there.
Now we publish a magazine, are expanding our selection of ebooks, and publish four to six stories and multimedia pieces a week … all while travelling around the world.
MM: You are at one extreme of the independent travel spectrum- and the other would be organized travel, like group tours. Going from one extreme to the other might be too scary a thought for most, so what do you recommend for people that really want to get their feet wet, without diving right in?
CM: I wouldn’t label us at the extreme, but we’re definitely in that direction. I guess a lot of people consider the world as a scary place; one that’s out to attack them or harm them. And although bad things can happen, I would posit the opposite is true. As a traveller, the world is overall a friendly, inviting place if you approach it with a curious, engaged and generous mind.
Practically, and in baby steps for someone who’s concerned about travelling, I’d suggest adding several days to a tour you’re already going on. Heading to Paris for a week? Book into a three day tour and ask your agent to extend your hotel stay and flights for another three days. That way you can spend some time understanding the city with a group, find your feet, then explore by yourself.
MM: And for those who are resistant to even try- can you give them a few benefits of independent travel?
CM: In a very banal sense, independent travel is a cheaper, more time intensive option, but it’s so much more.
Travel is an adventure, an act of discovery, a pilgrimage. By getting away from tour groups, you allow yourself greater freedom of thought — you are forced to ask questions and communicate with people you don’t know. You take risks and learn to trust your judgements and you also learn from your mistakes.
When travelling as a group of friends there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the community feeling of overcoming these obstacles together and discovering new things, but when everything is organised for you, it robs you of this, becoming just another commercial product that you evaluate with comments on the tour guide or quality of food.
Independent travellers tend to linger more than others: if they like somewhere, they’ll stay for a week, month or even a couple of years. This gives you more opportunities to make friends and find the oft-cliched “authentic” or “hidden” aspects of a place. They’re normally in plain sight if you take a breath and look around.
MM: Since my blog’s focus is on France and Italy, can you tell us where in those countries you have been? Which was your favorite city in each of these countries and why?
CM: I’ve spent around two months in each country, in chunks of a week or three each time. When we left Malta, we came up through Sicily to Rome, then up to San Remo in the north. I’ve spent time in many of the northern cities and outlying regions of them; places like Florence, Milan, Bologna and Venice have all been “seen”, but we stayed a couple of hours outside of them in small (wine-growing!) towns. Somewhere I’ll never forget is Baiardo: a small hilltop town out of San Remo. We were lucky to spend a few nights there in the re-constructed remains of a castle basement dug into the hill. It was beautiful.
In France too, we’ve mainly been in the north but I don’t feel I know France too well. It’s often been a transition point from London to Paris to …, or a stop in Strasbourg while driving from Lake Constance to Trier, for example. The one time we really felt connected to France was when we “borrowed” a canal boat from a distant relative then spent several days on the Niverne with our siblings. We added in a quick visit to several champagne houses early on, which made for great drinking every evening to accompany my sister-in-law’s excellent cooking.
MM: Something else we have in common is traveling light, which of course in your line of work must be challenging. I was lucky enough to be included in one of your traveling light podcast episodes. Can you give us a few tips on how you travel light?
CM: I can give you dozens.
The easiest way to start is to buy a small bag! You’ll keep adding things to a bag that seems empty, so starting with a smaller suitcase or pack really helps. I currently carry a 45+8 litre Berhaus pack, while Linda has a backpack by Aarn which is amazingly comfortable to wear and maximum carry-on size for most airlines. I think my next pack might be an Aarn too.
MM: Your latest project is a hard copy of the Indie Travel Podcast magazine, which one of our lucky readers will win a year’s subscription of- other than photos, how will this differ from the actual podcast and what can we look forward to in the upcoming issues?
CM: The travel magazine is quite different from the podcast. On the show we talk about topics from the practical to the inane and try to interview travellers who are doing interesting things or are experts in their area. The magazine is much more location focused, although we still bring up topics like travelling in Burma in the first issue; greenwashing and eco-tourism in the upcoming one.
We’ve found a great collection of real travellers who write regular columns on health, women’s travel, working from the road and consumer issues. We also highlight popular and off-the-beaten track locations, like Lagos or Tonga. There’s something for everyone who’s passionate about the world and connecting with people globally.
The best thing about it, is that it’s completely free. We’re giving away PDF copies or you can read it on site in a digital flipbook. If you prefer to hold it in your hand, we print a strictly limited number of each edition and post them around the world. For NZ$40 a year including all taxes and postage, you can get it delivered. We use a professional printer in New Zealand and it’s full, glossy colour on great quality paper. Everyone that’s got a copy has been impressed with it — and that’s readers in the USA, Canada, Chile, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and various places throughout Europe and Asia. I think Africa and Antartica are the only continents we currently don’t have a subscriber on!
MM: What’s next for you guys? Where on the globe can we expect to see you this year?
CM: Well, over December and January we’re travelling with UK blogger Andy Hayes on the Great Kiwi Trip. We’re planning on spending six months in South America after that, then a few months in Europe. We’ll explore some of northern Africa then might be able to go wine-tasting with a few podcast listeners in South Africa. If all goes to plan — and it never does — we’ll be heading into Asia in the last part of 2010.
Thank you so much Craig! And please, thank Linda as well!
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Not only have Craig and Linda been gracious with their time, but they have also agreed to give one lucky reader a free print subscription to the Indie Travel Podcast Magazine! All you need to do is leave a comment about Independent Travel on this post. Perhaps you can tell me about an experience you had when traveling independently, why you like or dislike indie travel or if you’re hesitant to try traveling alone- tell me why.
You have until December 10th at midnight to leave a comment. I will choose a winner that will be announced here on the blog the next day!
Good Luck and thanks for playing!