This week on “Meet an Indie Traveller” I’m excited to chat with Agness Walewinder, a Polish travel blogger who has been travelling and living in different Asian countries since 2011. She is well known for travelling the world for less than $25 per day and shares her tricks and tips with the readers of her blog eTramping.com. Moreover, she is a food lover obsessed with Chinese cuisine, yoga passionate, life enthusiast, and photography freak.
Let’s see what Agness has to say about independent travel…
1. How would you define independent travel and how do you feel it differs from how most people view travel?
To me, independent travel is, above all, being spontaneous and open to what life brings you when you are on the road. The more adventurous you are, the more beautiful things you experience and more amazing people you meet. It’s all about feeling free and doing what your heart tells you to do. You can be more flexible with your travel destinations and learn from your mistakes. You don’t follow someone’s advice, you explore everything by yourself to find out how others were wrong about certain places and things.
For most people independent travel is about the destination. For me it’s more about what happens while you are heading to your destination, this whole process of getting familiar with everything you have not experienced before, discovering new food, meeting new people, cherishing every moment and enjoying the view.
2. Could you tell us a little about your first independent travel experience?
I have been travelling independently around Asia since 2011 having a blast and learning a lot about people, foreign culture and, above all, myself. In August 2011 I set off for my first journey to China where I spent 10 months backpacking and teaching English in Hunan province. I visited more than a half of provinces of China in one year carrying a huge backpack and holding Lonely Planet guide in my hands. During this time I have learn a lot of things that I don’t need much to enjoy my travels—a piece of the ground to sleep on, friendly people around and the beautiful scenery.
3. How has your trip planning changed since you first started travelling?
I am definitely more organised and I know exactly where I want to go and what I want to do and experience. Therefore, I am more precise when planning my trips. I focus on details such as budget and accommodation options to spend as little money as possible. Moreover, I’ve learnt how to travel light so I pack much less than I used to.
4. What do you feel is the number one travel planning pitfall for first-time travellers to avoid?
Incorrectly estimating time needed to visit a place. Let me give you an example. Some people think that 2 days in Beijing is more than enough, but it sometimes turns out that they fall in love with the city and they wish they could stay a few days more to explore the rest of it, but they can’t because they have already booked a train to Shanghai. Another example – someone believes 7 days in Bangkok is fine, but after 4 days she/he is simply bored with the place and can’t go anywhere new as all places have been already discovered by her/him. Therefore, it’s important to learn NOT to plan too far ahead.
5. What is the number one lesson you’ve learned through your travels? How has travel changed the way you view the world?
First thing, always “pack light, travel far and live long“. Second thing, life is so spontaneous and unpredictable, full of amazing people, stories and unforgettable emotions!
6. After spending time in China teaching English, are there any tips you can offer to travellers looking to teach abroad? What are some things one should consider in choosing a country or ensuring the job and employer is right for them?
Of course, there are plenty of tips I could offer to those who are willing to leave their comfort zone and live an expat life abroad. We have actually written an eBook titled Work, Live and Travel in China which sums up our two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in China. Here are my top 5 tips to follow:
- Tip 1: Go either to China or South Korea to start your first teaching adventure. These two countries offer the best working conditions (decent salary, free accommodation and food) and they can welcome you with breath-taking landscapes and delicious food.
- Tip 2: Start learning the local language as soon as possible and keep practicing. Your everyday life will be much easier.
- Tip 3: Do your TESOL/TEFL course so you can have more job opportunities, not only in China, but in any non-English speaking country.
- Tip 4: Make friends with locals. The more people you get to know, the better. They can show you around and make sure you feel like home. You will not feel lonely and you can definitely spend less money on travels.
- Tip 5: Be open and adventurous. Don’t be afraid of new things such as food. Try new things every day and respect foreign culture and local traditions.
7. The main focus on eTramping is the seemingly impossible feat of travelling around the world for under $25 a day; you’ve proven it can be done! Besides choosing cheaper accommodation, what do you feel is the number one way for budget-conscious travellers to keep their costs down?
Some people don’t realize how important it is to make friends with locals. Many ordinary travelers never speak to strangers and avoid off-the-beaten path places. That’s a big mistake. Locals know how to make everything cheap (assuming they are not trying to rip you off). Once you meet someone familiar with the area, they can show you where to eat cheap, what to see on a budget and they can even invite you home for a free dinner! We always avoid touristy places which are expensive and visit local places where everyone pays normal local price.
8. In the past, you and your blogging partner/best friend Cez have done some adventurous activities like biking across Vietnam. What advice would you give to someone wanting to get outside of their comfort zone and undertake an epic journey in an unfamiliar place?
Everyone should try to travel freely and more independently. Don’t book all inclusive holiday packages with your local travel agency. Just buy a huge backpack (if you don’t have one), put some stuff in (not too much), put your backpack on and go! Try not to plan too many things in advance, enjoy the moment and be spontaneous! Travel safely and always stay in touch with your friends and family. Beat homesickness by interacting with locals, try some “weird-looking” food, take some awesome photos which will remind you of this lifetime adventure and keep exploring! If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters so keep calm and stay cool!