The Hipster Guide to European Travel

SUMMER 2013 might not be at the forefront of your mind during Fresher’s week, but for those who take originality seriously, it should be.
If you’re fresh off the ferry from your first Inter-Rail trip to freedom, with a suitcase full of witty travellers’ tales and an empty bank account, now would be a good time to start devising a more unique experience for next year.

Here are a few hints and tips to get over your tired ‘gap yah’ tales and plan adventures guaranteed to avoid mainstream clichés.

Avoid “mid-town” destinations

Choosing the right destination is crucial to maintaining originality. This can be achieved easily by avoiding the ‘European Travellers’ Choice top 10 destinations in 2012’, including; Vienna, Brussels, Prague and Berlin.
For hard-core hipsters, this also means avoiding train travel in Spain and Italy; the title holders of Inter-Rail’s most popular one country passes.
However, this doesn’t mean discriminating against small mid-towns in obscure European countries. Rather, it means ensuring that you don’t end up in the same hostel bunk as someone from your own small town in the U.K (which is almost guaranteed to happen if you backpack to Munich).

Although, this once happened to yours truly in Sarajevo, proof that even the pool of ‘off the beaten track’ destinations are starting to dry up – ironic.

 

Beat the crowds (and the tourism industry)

As highlighted above, nowhere can be considered safe from mainstream tourists anymore and for the true hipster, this can pose a dilemma.
Do you go to a mainstream city and snub the enthusiastic first-time backpackers drinking in the hostel bar by holing yourself up in a smoky, local backstreet café to re-read Down and Out in Paris and London?
Or, do you try to avoid running into friends from home who have begun to venture to more obscure destinations that you had previously presumed were too adventurous for them to try? Sound about right?
Instead, simply set your sights on a trip to a destination with no redeemable features whatsoever. For example, Knin, in Eastern Croatia, has no listings for cheap accommodation on the ‘Hostelbookers’ or ‘HostelWorld’ websites, but does have a screw factory which has been of industrial importance to the region since 1884. Whilst other travellers flock to the Adriatic coast, you will have the town to yourself.
If you manage to find any vegan, organic, dairy and wheat free local cuisine, at least you won’t have to fight other hipsters for it.
Remember, if sleeping at bus stations was good enough for Neal Cassidy, then it’s good enough for you.

Record accordingly

As Polaroid-style photos become increasingly accessible to anyone with an iPhone, getting uniquely artistic travel shots also becomes more of a challenge.
Genuine hipsters should have ditched Instagram years ago and switched to disposable cameras; which have stayed cost-ineffective enough to avoid mass popularity.
But take your counter-mainstream art seriously and turn your back on the crowds taking yet-another-identical-picture of the Eiffel Tower/Leaning Tower of Pisa/group of young travelers revelling with cheap beer and busty German barmaids at Oktoberfest.
Instead, take a pretentious shot of a bin outside the Grand Place, an abandoned grocery near the Acropolis (and have extra points for ‘BS’ – Bailout Sightseeing) or only settle for self-made, charcoal sketches of yourself with total strangers, preferably ones who refuse to smile and share deep philosophical wisdom.
Lonely Planet calls this ‘experimental tourism’; the genuine hipster is too nonplussed to give it such a generic label.

Death to the road trip playlist

Sharing music through Spotify, Ping and sites like 8track.com has created a wave of ‘on the road’ playlists, listing road trip classics such as: ‘Going Up the Country’ by Canned Heat, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘America’ or pretty much anything by Willie Nelson. Keep your settings firmly on ‘private’ and refuse to conform to the mainstream music of today.
Exchange the convenient, lightweight mp3 player with a large memory, for a portable CD player such as the Matsui CD304. It’s a reliable vintage model with a ‘hold’ button, ideal for preventing tracks jumping on bumpy roads to obscure Moldavian villages that your friends have never heard of.
To enable you to last the 24 hour bus journey from Bruges to Bucharest, this will require you to take nothing more than a backpack full of albums promoted in the latest copy of The Stool Pigeon, with just a clean pair of organic cotton pants and your Moleskin City Notebook for the entire trip.
But to paraphrase Théophile Gautier’s Wanderings in Spain, ‘the pleasure in travelling consists of the fatigue’. Don’t forget to discard any used discs at the end of the trip, as by the time you get back they may have become popular!

Counter-tourism – stay at home!

Of course to be a truly unique individual, become a champion of the ‘staycation’ (only without deigning to label your lifestyle with such a media-friendly term).
Although the arrival of the Olympics and the BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekend have ruined the East London Hipster playground forever, it can only mean that for the domestic hipster, there are unexplored and fresh destinations just waiting to be discovered and shared with a select few on Tumblr.
I hear Milton Keynes is nice.