I am an independent traveler; solo or with my friend, without join any travel agent, because I want find another story to tell than the mainstream one, and I want to have the soul of independent travelling which I will not have if I join travel agent. There are things I always done during my independent travelling:
1. Wake Up Early
No matter where you travel, wake up early.
Yes, sunrise at the top of the mountain or at the beach are breathtaking beautiful, but sunrise at the hotel rooftop or at the city park are also beautiful and you will surprise with different ‘sunrise soul’..
Last time I travel, I was catch my sunrise at hotel rooftop. The rooftop was closed actually, I asked permit to access it and the hotel approved.. a simple privilege I received that day, having my private time to catch sunrise and watching early activity of the locals from above.
2. Commute Like Locals
If you use tour bus, you will have same experience like any other tourists, you will not have different story to tell after the visit.
For example, in Bali, an angkots (Read; Ancott, a mini van which used as public transportation) are only commute in Denpasar Area, and used by seller in traditional market. Or in Flores, people commute not only with angkot but also with truck, not only to carry people but also vegetables, chicken and goat.
3. Walk More, Spend Time More
Not just walk, watch and observe everything around you.
You will find something different than any other traveler. A beautiful abandoned place, or an amazing not-so-popular museum.
4. Learn Some Phrases
No need to be expert at their local tongue, some local phrases are enough to attract their attention. Local people will be very happy when find traveler who willing to speak their phrases, they will feel valued and they will treat you more better. And yes, it will be an ice breaker.
5. Act Like Locals
After watching activities of the locals, act like them.. for example, go to traditional market, feel like locals.
If you try to find some souvenir, you can find here with cheaper price than at the souvenir shop, and with more simple packaging.
When I visited Nusa Tenggara Timur (South East Nusa), I bought local coffee at Maumere Traditional Market for only IDR 2.000 per 100 grams.. and I bought traditional sarong in Wolowaru Traditional Market for IDR 450.000 (while when in souvenir shop will be around IDR 150.000 -300.000 more expensive).
6. Go to Library
When you visit a city, spend at least half day at the library, read things about the city you visit and surroundings. The city may already have tourist information center, but don’t just stick to information center, if the city has a library, it is a chance for you to get more information.
7. Go to Some Interesting Place, TWICE (at least)
Let’s say, coffee shop or restaurant. When you found good coffee shop or restaurant, go there more than once.. The waiter or the owner often recognize when somebody’s not a first timer to their place, and it will be a plus point when you try to interact with them. So, ask about things, places to visit include a not touristy place (where, how to get there, is it safe for non local to visit, and so on), local foods, and upcoming culture festival.
8. Go to Non-Mainstream Tourists Destination
After you watching and observing around you, and interact with locals, why don’t you visit the non-mainstream destination? You didn’t join a tour with travel agent, so why you have same experience like them?
9. Take Your Time
This is not a full scheduled travelling with travel agents, if you hurried to visit all of the destinations with short of time, you will not have the soul of your travelling.
If you only have short time, choose your most wanted place to visit. And if you still have time left, you can visit another.