What Kind of Traveller are you? There are many different types of travel lovers out there and not one way is right or wrong. We love taking off to visit or work in other lands, and recently I was lucky to spend five weeks travelling around Europe.
What Kind of Traveller are You?
During long coach journeys between countries I found quite a few stolen moments to think about the reasons why we travel and thought about all the different kinds of travellers there are out there. On our ‘taster' European trip around 12 countries, sometimes the sights were so impressive or unusual that it was easy to give meaning to why we travel, and yet at other times in a crush of tourists all doing the same thing, all taking a photo of themselves in front of a tourist hotspot made me wonder, about a lot of things. Particularly, if you were to ask the question what kind of traveller are you, what would you be?
Why do we Travel?
- Do we travel to expand our minds, our photo albums or our brag files?
- Do we travel to understand different people and cultures, or to piece together the history of a region?
- Do we travel to visit great museums and stand before famous pieces of art?
- Do we travel to remote places, get the adrenalin flowing, have exciting adventures and get out of our comfort zone?
- Do we travel for a rest somewhere beautiful?
- Or do we travel to tick things off?
While many of us might answer differently, I can say that at some time or another all of these reasons have rung true for me. But more than that, I've experienced three distinct forms of travel during my life, and three different ways to travel. What kind of traveller are you and how do you fit into the below?
In my formative years after leaving school I was a traveller setting off with a rucksack, a Lonely Planet guide and no fixed agenda.
A traveller I think, enjoys a certain amount of freedom, and spends time moving around place to place slowly, seeking out the hidden, less well-known treasures, avoiding the tourist traps and possibly doing things harder, as they're on the road for longer. As a traveller you spend more time in slow motion, resting up and absorbing the heart and vibe of a place. You spend time speaking to other travelers and locals always asking questions; finding out the best way of getting to your next destination and asking about the best budget places to stay, and in every way you are keen to find out how places resonate.
You'll chat to people over a sunset beer in a quiet courtyard and sleep in a place where perhaps the plumbing is dodgy but the view is sweet.
Some friendships will last, others will be fleeting and you'll remember those people as being put in your life at that time for a particular reason.
You'll return home but it will be difficult to settle down because the itchy-feet travel bug will have bitten and you'll start saving for your next trip.
While I was travelling I met, traveled with and later married a geologist and his career took us to live in 11 different countries.
The Expat generally lives and works in a country for a few years, and spare time is given over to exploring the country and understanding the culture. It may not always be easy, in fact I can vouch for even privileged daily life in developing countries being confronting, challenging and often confusing, but living in a country means that you do get to the heart of things, often by osmosis rather than by conscious endeavour.
Days aren't always pretty, sights aren't always sanitized and meals that come from your home kitchen, may well be, let's say ‘interesting'.
You spend more time speaking to the locals than you do to travellers, although your friends will more likely be pooled in the Expat community. When you leave you'll probably lose touch with your household staff who you will have become close to, but perhaps not counted as your friends, but your Expat friendships will last and stand the course of time and countries. You will relate to them as a “When-we”.
In this environment your children grow up to be Third Culture Kids and wonder where their roots are.
When you return to your home country you'll be hit with the biggest dose of reverse culture shock that you can imagine and it will take time learning how to get back to doing things that you always took for granted previously.
As our home and work responsibilities accumulated we became time poor but had a little more disposable income, so as a consequence the way we travelled changed and we became more touristy.
As a tourist you might stay in lovely hotels or perhaps camp sites removed from the daily life of a place, and you tick things off but don't really experience the essence of a place – it's a ‘Touch and Go' experience of the most basic kind. A flavour. A whisper of reality and then you retreat to your luxury hotel or your ‘glamping' tent.
You get to the tourist attraction, walk around, take the photo and tick it off. You might talk about the destination at a dinner party afterwards in the way of … “Oh yes, we've been to Venice. It was amazing. I loved it! You have to go on a Gondola, and yes, there's a great view from Rialto Bridge.”
The food you eat will be good, because well, you're only there for a short while so you can afford to splurge for a couple of days before you nick the rolls and a couple of pieces of fruit from the hotel breakfast buffet for your lunch!
You're unlikely to make any lasting friendships, although a lighthearted friendship or two might develop during the couple of weeks you're away … in truth it will probably fizzle out through lack of continuity after the trip.
When you get home you'll breathe a sigh of relief, glad to be in your own bed with beers in the fridge and a supermarket down the road. You'll throw all your dirty clothes in the washing machine and ring your family and friends for a get together to bore them with your stories and photos.
So why travel?
Having had some time to reflect on this during my whirlwind trip of Europe when I was busily ticking thing off, feeling hugely privileged to be able to do so, I also came to wonder if ticking the boxes equates to anything useful, and is it enough?
People travel for many different reasons, but whatever the reason travel can be one of the most enriching experiences. In a world which is still full of sectarianism, racism and misunderstanding, travel of any sort is still a great way to break down barriers.
In my life I've been lucky to have been all three types of traveller that I've listed, but on the day I wrote this journal entry I was definitely a tourist.
“Sitting at a lookout near Dubrovnik overlooking the saphire blue Adriatic at a wonderful hotel for a few days is fabulous and perhaps the rest and relaxation is one of the best things about being a tourist. The absence of daily routine and no daily worries, plus that view. Oh Bliss. I'm making the most of it!”
How has travel changed or enriched your life, and what kind of Traveller are you?
Bio: Jo Castro is a veteran traveler who's lived in 11 different countries with her husband and children and travelled to many more. She currently lives in Perth, Western Australia. She writes The ZigaZag Mag, a travel blog and Lifestyle Fifty for fun, funky, feisty women.
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