This week on “Meet an Indie Traveller,” I’m chatting with Samuel Jeffery, an intrepid world wanderer whose adventures have taken the web by storm. Samuel Jeffery is the wizard behind the curtain pulling the strings of Nomadic Samuel cultural travel blog. He’s also the lesser half of Backpacking Travel Blog, which he runs with his girlfriend Audrey Bergner of That Backpacker. You can connect with Samuel on his YouTube travel channel and on Google+.
1) How would you define independent travel and how do you feel it differs from how most people view travel?
Independent travel is doing your own thing on your own terms. Whether you’re on a package tour as part of a larger group or exploring remote areas of exotic jungles on your own, it’s ideal to travel ‘independent’ of the opinion of others and just do what makes you happy.
The way I travel now is completely different from the carefree backpacking days of my youth. In the past, I saved hard while teaching overseas and tried to pack in as much as I possibly could before my bank accounted dwindled down to nothing. These days, I’m working online and the demands of trying to run a business online and explore are at odds with one another. I tend to travel much slower these days but the reward is that I don’t have an end point in sight.
2) Could you tell us a little about your first independent travel experience?
My first trip overseas was during my third year of college. I had made up my mind that I was either going to teach abroad in Japan or Korea and I went to visit both countries for a two month trip in July and August. I had the time of my life as I felt stimulated by new cultures, met heaps of other backpackers and realized that I was destined to live a life of travel.
3) How has your trip planning changed since you first started travelling?
It’s changed completely. In the past I would often move from place to place every 3-4 days frequently skipping from one country to another in the span of mere weeks. These days, I rarely pack my bags more than once a week and sometimes I even stay somewhere for months on end.
4) What do you feel is the number one travel planning pitfall for first-time travellers to avoid?
Trying to see and do it all. I find novice travellers often trying to cram in as many activities, destinations and/or countries in at once. Being flexible with your schedule and planning allows you to spend more time in places you enjoy, eliminates the need to feel you have to visit everywhere and allows you to connect more with the people and cultures you decide to linger.
5) What is the number one lesson you’ve learned through your travels? How has travel changed the way you view the world?
I’ve learned to be more self-reliant and patient. Removing yourself from your comfort zone, circle of friends and daily routines forces you to adapt and grow as a person.
I’ve learned there are things I can control and there are things I have no control over. I spend less time worrying about things I have no control over. When a bus breaks down or my train is late/delayed I try to now take it in stride. I’ve learned that the world doesn’t operate like clockwork and that delays, obstacles and cancellations are as much a part of the journey as anything else.
6) In addition to your travel articles on Nomadic Samuel, you showcase a ton of amazing travel photography. What advice would you impart on beginners looking to improve their travel photos?
Thank you! I’m a self-taught photographer, so I would like to think that most others with a keen interest towards improving their travel photography can certainly do so with a little bit of effort. I think a good starting point is to stop taking so many photos of yourself. In order to improve your travel photography you need to be aware of your surroundings. Thinking about where you’re going to take your next selfie or which inanimate object appears mount worthy is a distraction from noticing what is going on in front of your eyes.
7) You’ve recently begun to focus more on exotic foods on Nomadic Samuel. Is there anything in particular that inspired the change? Has travel changed your taste buds or have you always been an adventurous foodie at heart?
As much as a travel to see new destinations, I’m also just as adventurous with my taste buds. I’m willing to try anything once and—more often than not—I tend to enjoy eating locally. I’m definitely not a foodie at heart though. I grew up as a teenager only enjoying foods like pizza and pasta. It’s only been in my adult years that I’ve become more of a foodie.
8) After spending a few years in South Korea teaching English, is there any advice you would give to someone looking to live the expat life abroad? What are some common things to consider?
Living as an expat is totally different from just visiting a place. The charm factor wears off after a while and the realities and obstacles of being an expat start to sink in.
Language and cultural barriers are a significant issue. Isolation is another factor. Sometimes it’s just simple things like going to bank and not being able to finish a task that would take mere seconds at home to complete.
One of the best ways to overcome this is to really embrace the local culture and language. Moreover, it’s important to have a support network of friends (both locals and expats) that you can lean on when facing difficult times.