The idea of the “American Dream” is changing, and Erick Joseph, 32, and Janice Tenille, 31, are the proof. The duo left their lives in Chicago to chase a serious case of wanderlust, embarking on journeys both far-flung and close-to-home, all while documenting their travels on their blog, The Indépendants. From off-the-grid dirt roads in India and South America to the summer music festival circuit, they’ll be guest blogging for Teva (while repping our Original sandals) as some of our newest storytellers. Get to know them now:
We already know you love rock climbing—what other activities are you into?
Both: There’s always this feeling of “I’m home” when either of us step outdoors. We could say that perhaps hiking and mountain biking would be two of our favorite outdoor activities, but we could also sit still, do nothing but listen.
Do you ever experience culture shock on your travels?
Erick: I’d consider Varanasi, India, one of the most culturally shocking places in the world because of its extreme disparities and contradictions—life and death, rich and poor, beauty and cruelty. But I’ve never felt shocked, just fascinated, and really inspired.
Janice: Actually, I’ve been more affected by reverse culture shock. I traveled in South America for seven months, and when I returned to the US, I had a hard time readjusting to the pace, hustle, and demands of life. Moreover, I was heartbroken at having to leave Brazil. The culture, fire, passion, and music…I found that connecting with the culture and people of the place was easy.
So how do you engage with the culture of a new place?
Both : Photography is a great way to connect with a local culture, when practiced the right way—we use the camera as a tool to communicate in the absence of written or verbal language. We visited many villages in Laos and Cambodia that inspired us to connect with the locals through the lens.
What’s the best way for you to travel—with a plan or spontaneously?
Both: We like to know where we’re going in three months, just not necessarily tomorrow. In five months of travel we have only ever planned more than a few days in advance. Having the freedom to talk to locals and other travelers allows us to follow a path that doesn’t feel rigid or structured. Plans always change, and they should change. We try to be flexible.
What’s something funny or nerve-racking thing that’s happened to you while traveling?
Erick: Ok, how about funny, nerve racking and culture shocking all in the same day? The absolute worst traveling experience (and the funniest) we had was in Cambodia, en route from Kratie to Mondulkiri. We were the first passengers aboard a rickety mini van built for 12 people—it took two hours just to load the cargo while driving around town. The “cargo” was no less than 25 adults, two babies, two motorcycles, heaps of rice and goods, backpacks, and two live chickens. It was the one moment where my patience was tested to its limit, and I almost lost it. The absurdity was funny and I eventually saw the humor, but at the time I was not laughing. Worst five-hour journey ever!
Have any packing tips for us?
Both: The best advice we can now say is to travel as light as possible. We both have 65-liter packs and it’s way too much weight to sling around on buses, trains and tuk-tuks. Take basic clothing, and basic essentials. Always have a hat, a headlamp, and a multi-tool. And, honestly, have a pair of Teva sandals. They’ve gotten the job done for us and continue to prove their worth on hot dusty roads or rain-soaked trails. It’s all about gear that can serve multiple functions.
Where are you headed this year?
Both: We’re covering the festival circuit for our blog and some major online journals, but we’re into much more than yoga and music. As we mentioned, South America is calling—Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Chile—and we’re planning to document our journey through videos, photos and stories when we head there in early 2015.