Just can't wait to get on the road again
Hipsters. Their only jobs seem to be taking pictures of themselves slouching against exotic patterned walls and sipping deconstructed flat whites in the most obscure of cafes. Ah, the life!
And yet, when us mortals travel, it’s impossible to be put together when you’re rushing from one city to another, clad in week-old clothes.
Don’t worry, ‘cause here’s your long-awaited The Hipster’s Guide to Travelling. Here are some tips from my hipster-but-refuse-to-admit-it friends and lessons learned from my adventures travelling as a hipster in Japan earlier this year.
1. Travel to a lesser-known destination
Hipsters stay far far away from the mainstream. Going to Paris, London, Bali, and other common locations is a big no-no. Choose a lesser-known island off the shore of New Guinea, or travel to a small town in central Europe. A good guide to an ideal location is how difficult it is to get there: no straight flights from Singapore, many transfers, long train rides from the airport. The more ulu, the better.
Source Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
I went to Japan, which isn’t ulu in the least, but if you’re hitting up Tokyo, stop at any station on the train ride back to Narita. I visited Chiba New Town, an up-and-coming suburb near Narita that no one in Singapore knows about.
2. Make a travel playlist on your iPod
Travel isn’t complete without a travel playlist. How else are you going to entertain yourself during all those long train and bus rides? And as a hipster, you’re bound to spend afternoons tucked away in an out-of-the-way cafe, sipping coffee, looking out of the window and listening to your favourite hipster music.
Include one or two top 40s hits just because it’s ironic.
Sure, you could always download pre-curated hipster playlists, but challenge yourself to work with what you already have. Song ideas include obscure 60s rock’n’roll, songs in a foreign language, indie-alternative bands and punk/goth/subculture groups.
3. Listen to indie music from that country
The Prisoner, a punk rock group.
I thank Spotify for enlightening all non-hipsters out there. Playlists with tags like “indie” and “alternative” are a good place to start. Going abroad to a new country means adding to your already extensive music collection so be sure to check out the best local bands before you go.
The Watanabes, the Japanese/British answer to The Smiths
When travelling, the best way to get in touch with the local music scene is to talk to the locals. In Japan, I talked to someone who’s well-versed in the subculture music scene. He introduced me to a punk band, The Prisoner, and a band called the Hat Trickers, who were inspired by A Clockwork Orange. If you’re hipster, their quirky, niche music will appeal to your indie soul.
4. Couchsurf your way to greater things
Source They offered you a couch, not a roof over your head.
Couchsurfing is for the brave and adventurous. If you want to be a true hipster, you also have to be brave and adventurous. Any hesitations you might have about crashing on a stranger's spare sofa will quickly evaporate when you find out just how many Yusof Ishaks you can totally save. And hipsters need all the Yusof Ishaks they can get.
Couchsurfing is also the quickest way to learn how to live life like a local. No need to trawl through forums to find secret cafes and bars anymore - just ask your friendly hosts! Check out our writer's experience couchsurfing in Europe here.
5. Bring artsy books around
I was going to bring some Kazuo Ishiguro, but my hipster friend tells me that it's way too mainstream. Here, I present poems by a local poet, Russian short stories and a collection of plays. It also doubles up as a form of entertainment for those long train rides.
One more piece of advice: leave your Kindle at home! Being hipster means loving vintage - you’ll want to savour the smell of yellowing pages and gush over the physical act of turning pages.
6.Tromp around in hipster-approved boots
For once, a hipster can be both stylish and practical. Sure, you have to buy the boots first, but boots are great for rain or snow. Plus, they prevent you from getting cold feet.
Dr. Martens-inspired boots are must-have accessories for every hipster, but don’t be afraid to go crazy and try out all kinds of exciting footwear! The more eye-catching and outlandish, the better.
7. Accessorise with vintage jewellery
Source Bonus points for having three arms to put bracelets on
No holiday is complete without some statement pieces. Not diamonds or jewels, but vintage jewellery. Your bracelet can be a conversation starter. So long as it was your grandmother's/your mum's/DIY-ed/thrifted, it counts.
Friendship bracelets from your besties in Primary School are sentimental and wearable, while retaining that ‘rough around the edges’ look. If you aren’t crafty, try borrowing jewellery from your relatives or head to any thrift store to start your collection!
7. Take artistic #OOTDs
OOTD Level: 1
After spending so much effort on your clothes, you need to show them off in the most artistic way possible. Beginners can start by finding a white wall to pose against - remember to look off into the distance melodramatically.
OOTD Level: 5
For the more adventurous, hunt around for an unexpected place. It might take a while, but you’re bound to find some train tracks or a patterned wall or a lovely clearing in the middle of the forest to take a picture.
OOTD Level: OVER 9000
8. Watch indie movies on the plane
This is a tip for long-haul flights. Hipsters don't need sleep, they're busy feasting their eyes on avant-garde movies.
Obviously most airlines show the latest blockbusters rather than cult classics, but you can still make a hipster choice. Films such as indie flick Boyhood, black comedy Birdman and anything Wes Anderson are just about hipster enough. As long as the subject matter is niche, or the cinematography is beautiful, or the camera angles are interesting, it’s worth a watch!
9. Ride a bike instead of using public transport
Go green, save the world, and look amazing while doing so - such is the power of a hipster bike.
It depends on where you go and how far you intend to travel. For me, getting around Tokyo via bike was possible, but the downside is that your travel time increases. However, if you’re visiting a city with an established cycling culture like Amsterdam or London, a bicycle can bring you everywhere.
If cycling appeals to your hipster soul, check with your hotel first. They might offer bike rental or even rent bikes for free.
10. Visit places of interest in the middle of nowhere
Source Neue Heimat organises music markets every Saturday in Berlin
Forget about the Seven Wonders of the World or any of the major tourist attractions. So long as there’s a crowd, avoid the place like the plague. Instead, look out for winding side streets, cafes tucked in narrow alleys and picturesque neighbourhood parks.
Tulip Garden in Inzai
You can see so much that you never expected to see - my time in Inzai City was not the most interesting, but I walked aimlessly along the fields and sakura trees only to chance upon this enormous tulip garden! Complete with a windmill, it’s the very picture of a place in the Netherlands! Unexpected experiences like this makes your trip that much more memorable.
11. Hang out with fellow hipsters
Source Brooklyn AKA Hipster Central
There’s no better way to learn about other countries’ culture than by talking to other hipsters. It doesn’t matter if they speak a different language. If they’re willing to talk to you and share travel tips while sipping loose-leaf tea, go ahead and find out more about the latest music, style and food trends.
Source: @hanyaseah Share your OOTDs with your hipster friends
Fellow hipsters can be found in cafes, bars, flea markets and art galleries. Don’t forget to commemorate your new friendship by following each other on Tumblr and Instagram.
12. Grow a beard
Move over, Movember. Beards are an essential hipster accessory all year round, and what better place to grow it than overseas? We all know Singapore is too hot to maintain anything more than a little goatee, but temperate countries are perfect for that full, bushy beard you’ve always wanted.
Don’t be too negligent when growing a beard though. Some people leave clean-shaven and return looking like a gorilla. Maintenance is key, boys and girls.
Source: @umeandhara Keiji dresses up his moustache with a touch of hair wax for those perfectly pointy ends. Optional: kendama toy.
13. Wear a scarf you knitted yourself
Your neck will barbecue itself if you wear a thick woolly scarf in Singapore, but embrace the opportunity to wear them overseas. Just don’t go on a beach holiday. You don’t have to go far - nearby places like Bandung or Genting are cool enough for a scarf. Scarfs can really give your outfit that extra edge - dress up an otherwise boring ensemble with an outrageous scarf!
The important thing is bringing a scarf that you made with your own two hands. Knitting is easy! Which brings us to our next point...
14. Learn to knit and just keep knitting
If you haven’t already knitted a scarf for yourself, you can always knit one on your trip. Knit while waiting for the bus, knit while standing in queue, knit before bed - it’s one activity that you can do almost anywhere.
This tip is even more useful if you’re going to a country like Australia or New Zealand, where wool is cheaper and better than in Singapore. You can knit yourself a fancy merino wool muffler instead of buying one!
15. Post travel Instagram pictures with obscure taglines
(I’m not actually a hipster, sorry for deceiving you)
The key to making your Instagram photos stand out from the rest is to make them unique. Your photos might be uninspired, but that’s why photo-editing software exists. Editing your photos is sure to make them 100% more interesting - hipsters love unnaturally vivid colours and contrasting tones.
Superimposing words or a quote shows off your taste in fonts and adds that extra ‘oomph’ to any dull photo. Choose a word from any foreign language (like ‘wanderlust’ above!) or a meaningful quote for maximum pretentiousness.
16. Take pictures with a film camera
Fancy DSLRs may help you take sharper, clearer photos, but film cameras allow for more artistic mistakes. An awkward lens flare or a strange discolouration makes your pictures uniquely yours.
Consider film cameras like Leica, Lomography and Pentax. Even better, tote around a vintage film camera for instant cool points. Cameras spark conversations between hipsters and may also be the perfect accessory for your 1960s-inspired outfits.
17. Have a picnic
Save money and be hipster. In most other countries, eating out can be terribly expensive, so save yourself some money by grabbing ready-to-eat food from the supermarket and finding a spot of greenery for a picnic!
Crackers and cheese are some classic picnic snacks. Top it off with a very classy bottle of wine (or grape juice for the less alcoholically-inclined).
18. Visit record stores
The ultimate vintage souvenir is a new LP for your vinyl record player. What, you don’t have one? You should be ashamed of yourself. Go and get one now. Forget the quality of digital music, vinyl records’ crackles and muffled sounds are much more special and nostalgic.
Record stores are usually out of the way unless you’re in a hipster neighbourhood like Brooklyn, so definitely do your homework before you travel. Alternatively, vintage flea markets and night markets are good places to hunt down records for a bargain.
19. Eat vegan
Hipsters never take the easy way out. It’s much simpler to eat as the locals do, but in order to save the animals, the environment, and your precious body, vegan is the way to go.
Look for specialty shops selling organic produce and don’t buy anything that looks like it’s from an animal. You might want to ask about the origins of products, just to be sure it suits your vegan lifestyle. Bring along mason jars so that you can lunch on the go!
And above all,
20. Fervently deny that you’re hipster
The only answer to “omg you’re so hipster!” is “I’m SO not hipster!”. Admitting that you’re a hipster spells the end of hipsterdom. You might feel hipster, but always reject that label. You’re simply enjoying the world the way you like it, and so long as you have fun, you don’t have to follow the typical tourist itinerary.
Travel the world differently
The hipster way is not for everyone, and that’s alright because holidays are all about having fun! Follow your heart and your stomach whenever you’re overseas and you’re bound to have a good time.
Even then, I encourage you to see the world through different eyes. Instead of restricting yourself to the major tourist attractions, try something different once in a while. Live as the locals (or hipsters) do and check out those little nooks and crannies we usually overlook.
Spice up your next holiday with some hipster travel tips and tell us if they really do work. Have fun!