Marek Bron’s travel website – Indie Traveller – is a useful and practical one, full of guides, tips, tricks and first-hand travel experience. That said, it wasn’t exactly its contents that struck a chord with me initially. It was more about how it was done – the ethos of the site and Marek’s own approach to travel.
Head back five years and Marek was being made redundant – something many of us have experienced in the post-financial crash economy. When the world gave Marek lemons, he decided it was time to make Lemonade.
His travel website and book are a testament to his travel ethos. He is an open-minded traveller, with an independent spirit and a sense of community shines through in his approach. After half a decade of independent travel and writing, who better to sit down and ask questions of, to better understand long-term travel and it’s effects.
First up, what got you on the road initially?
I went on shorter holidays for many years until a job redundancy pushed me into a long-term trip. It was definitely opportunistic in the sense that I suddenly had a lot of time available and had savings plus a severance package in the bank, which meant I didn’t have to worry that much for a while.
At first I spent a month at home sending out CVs and such, but I felt really burnt out, so the thought occurred to spend some time in Thailand. I got a 2 month visa from the Thai embassy and so I figured I’d just do two months in Thailand and then come home. To save costs I moved out of my apartment and put my stuff into temporary storage.
Instead of 2 months I ended up travelling 2 years (with a short break to visit my family and friends). In Thailand I simply realised what an amazing opportunity I had to travel the world, so I just kept going and going. Someone asked me if I wanted to go to Laos… I’d never really thought about that country before but I said “sure why not”. During the later stages I began planning a bit more, but at first I was really just going with the flow.
Besides, I hadn’t figured out yet what I wanted to do with my career or life, so I figured I might as well take some time to see the world.
Where are you now and what have you been up to?
Over the last year I’ve been based in Portugal. It’s a fantastic place to be as it has exactly the right climate and low-cost of living while still being in the EU (I’m originally from the Netherlands).
It’s a great place to live for a citizen of the world as there are so many cultural influences (among them Brazilian and African). But in some ways it’s also a terrible place to be a travel blogger as Portugal has been so good it has kept me off the trail a bit lately! Despite this I’ve spent time travelling in South Africa, Nepal, the Azores, Spain, Ireland, and am about to set off on my third big journey through Southeast Asia.
Personally, I was 9 months into my first big trip and started to feel tired and homesick and then headed home. Have you had periods like this and how did you overcome them?
I know the feeling… 6 months into my trip I was totally exhausted. Packing up my bags every other few days just became too much after a while.
What I ended up doing was staying on one island in Indonesia for a whole month, just spending my days reading books or scuba diving. That really helped replenish my energy. I then visited a friend for a while who had just moved to Singapore. Staying in his apartment (with… gasp… a kitchen and a washing machine!) was a very nice break from the hostels and jungle huts I’d been living in for so long.
I think when your heart tells you to go home, you should simply go home. I did eventually and then tried to resettle back into normal life. But after a month or so I realised I had done this too soon and started missing my adventures again. When another friend asked me if I wanted to do a road trip through Central America, I quickly booked my flights.
Putting some breaks into your journey can definitely help relieve homesickness, but going back home for a while is always an option too.
What would you say are the most value able things you got out of travelling for such an extended period of time? And just out of travel in general too?
It’s always hard to answer this without getting all abstract and woo-woo.
Firstly, let’s not kid ourselves, long-term travel is above all something that’s just ridiculously good fun (most of the time). It left me with a ton of fun and positive memories.
But I also feel like I evolved a bit as a person. Travel reconnected me with the more spontaneous person I was before I became stuck in a corporate career. It gave me a new sense of confidence and a much broader perspective on the world. It also made me acutely aware of what incredible privilege I have just from growing up in a high-income country with a strong passport. Some people from other parts of the world would absolutely kill for this kind of opportunity — so we shouldn’t take it for granted and use it if we can. (And of course, we should hope that everyone will have such opportunities to travel.)
Do you feel like you’ve missed out on anything from being on the road for so long?
Upon reflection, I missed absolutely nothing and gained absolutely everything.
After coming back I did worry for a while that I’d completely messed up my career chances. There was a mild sense of panic and I had to spend some time trying to find my footing again. I suppose I also needed a bit of time to process and readjust mentally after 2 years of living a pretty intense life.
In the end, it was totally fine, and the problems were more between my ears than in reality. I now can’t think of any true minuses.
Why did you write the book ‘Travelling The World Without Worries’?
I wrote the book because I didn’t find anything like it before I went travelling myself. I wanted to assure other travellers who might be wondering if they can travel long-term or what they need to know to prepare themselves for such an experience.
I think the way we consume travel information these days can make it seem like it should all be super easy. You see all those incredible shots on Instagram, or travelogues on YouTube shot at amazing locations using drones, or travel blogs listing all these top places to see before you die. Seeing only all those highlight reels can make it seem like travelling is always totally effortless and no big deal.
But people don’t really talk as much about what happens in between those moments. All the planning stuff, the practical logistics and realities of traveling independently, or the psychological and personal challenges of adventuring around the world. I want people to know that it is totally normal to feel a bit overwhelmed before going off to somewhere new or on a longer journey than you’ve done before.
I wrote my book to talk people through all of the practical steps, but also to give some honest stories and advice on challenges that I or other travellers have faced and how we dealt with them. Many readers have said the book removed their biggest worries and made them feel truly prepared for their journey.
Our sincere thanks to Marek for talking the time to talk to us. Please check out his travel website at http://www.indietraveller.co