We have an idea. I wanted to run it by you.
What is travel?
There is a quote, “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travellers don’t know where they’re going” by Paul Theroux.
Now you may find this slightly judgemental, and indeed there’s a great rant about it here. But I understand what Mr Theroux is getting at.
In our quest for offering a unique experience in England, I have at times been disheartened from my conversations with backpacker hostels. It seems that many of their guests, afraid by the prospect of wasting precious time, are sourcing the quick fixes – the top 10’s of what to do. Sightseeing and partying, and rarely delving beneath the surface.
This was a common theme when quizzing hostel workers at various hostels in London, and it made me feel quite down-hearted. I wondered if social media, and mobile internet was slowly wiping out the type of movement I call independent travelling. We’ve become accustomed to instant gratification in today’s world, and this can only be detrimental to our longing for discovery. I wondered if anyone else understood where I was coming from.
Fortunately we were given the boost we needed when last weekend we were joined by 2 couples from Australia and a guy from Saudi Arabia. Our new friends from Oz were living and working in South East London. Mohammad from Saudi Arabia is studying in Bristol. Whilst they may not have been backpacking in the traditional sense of the word, they came together through their desire to experience a side to England that was unique and authentic. They engaged with local people, they were excited to be part of a local pub’s barn dance (it was pretty rubbish to be honesty, but it was real!), they went off walking to areas that aren’t in travel guidebooks, but are still beautiful, if on less of a grand scale.
The curious independent traveller does indeed exist. There’s at least one studying in Bristol, and another 4 living in a house in South East London. I’m sorry for my temporary moment of doubt in your existence.
This led me on to my next thought process (as Ruth will tell you, I can’t manage thinking about two things at once). If these great people are out there, but they’re not all staying in backpacker hostels, wouldn’t they benefit from a central place where they can gather to drink, chat, learn, discover, and connect with one another? Unlike other countries more populous with independent travellers, we’re more spread out here in the UK. There are also many thousands of ex-backpacker Brits, downhearted from coming back down to earth with a thud, and finding they have no option but to find “real jobs”. Missing the interaction with other travellers. Finding it culturally unacceptable to talk to random strangers on the tube or the bus.
So I did something about this. I’ve setup a meetup group called “Indie Travel Hub”. We’re starting one in Manchester first, but the idea is to create them in various cities in the UK. It will be a monthly social gathering, and each city will have its meetups run by a pair of like-minded travellers who can spare the time to hold such an event. We can share travel experiences, offer advice on places to visit, events coming up, good places to live, study, or find work. And, of course, put the world to rights!
We’re very excited about this. Our first meetup is not too far off – Wednesday 12th June.
If you’d like to come along and join us then sign up here:
Make sure you also RSVP to the event. If you can’t make the first event, please still sign up to show your support for the concept.
Would you like to set one up in another UK city? Let me know and we’ll publicise your own meetup!