What Kind of Traveler Are You?

Written By: Jo Castro

What Kind of Traveler 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 traveling around Europe.

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 travelers 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 of what kind of traveler are you, what would you be?

What Kind of Traveler are You?

what kind of traveler are you france

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?

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?

The Traveller

phillipines river

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.

The Expat

what kind of traveler are you prague

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, even for privileged daily life in developing countries can be 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 a conscious endeavor.

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.

The Tourist

kinds of travel - The Tourist in paris france

As our home and work responsibilities accumulated we became time poor.

While time was precious, we had a little more disposable income, so as a consequence the way we traveled changed and we became more touristy.

As a tourist, you might stay in lovely hotels or perhaps campsites removed from the daily life of a place.

A tourist ticks things off but doesn’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 afterward 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?

love for travel costa brava

Having had some time to reflect on this during my whirlwind trip of Europe when I was busily ticking things off the list and feeling hugely privileged to be able to do so, I 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 that 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 below 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?

Read More

Living in France – How to Make Friends With the Locals (Even the French)

24 Hours in Nice – Sometimes You Only have a Day to See it All

Cuba Photos – Through the Lens

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Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About Jo Castro

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 at her travel blog and Lifestyle Fifty for fun, funky, feisty women. Follow her at: ZigZag.com / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter

Leave a Comment

22 thoughts on “What Kind of Traveler Are You?”

  1. I am not sure which category I would fall…. I am not quite sure yet..
    I love travel and that’s why I travel. Maybe I need to travel more and more to discover which category I am in..

  2. Totally agree, Linda. Travelling is always ‘invigorating and enriching’ no matter what bracket we fit into. I do think the other suggestions you offer are interesting too, and as I mentioned to Michela after her thoughtful comment, I think someone should write a book about all the different permutations of travellers. I hadn’t thought about House Sitters for instance …

  3. Hi Michela, I love that you are thinking of more types of traveller – some great additions there and yes, the permutations of how we travel are so many. Actually, now there’s a book for someone … surely?!

  4. Hi Jessica, I so get that … when you’re an expat you can definitely fit into the tourist bracket to begin with. We used to rush around trying to tick things off the ‘must see’ list before we fully started to relax into day to day life.

  5. Making it up as I go along is all part of the excitement. I reckon accidental discoverer might describe a great deal of my often aimless wanderings. I love a wander into the unknown, off the map, getting well and truly lost knowing that nowhere is boring or pointless, and even in the very occasional slide into the less than salubrious end of town, I have found that a genuine smile and an obvious interest in the people are the very best accessories you can carry anywhere you go.

  6. Interesting combination there. Thanks for sharing,Yea nothing better than travel over the world. I prefer the night life and adventure tours. This post is awesome i love your every post and read mostly.

  7. I’d say I am part traveler, part tourist, leaning towards the former. When going to a big city there is usually a place or two, more on the touristy side, that I will want to see. The rest of the time though I kind of make it up as I go along, finding random coffee shops and places to capture and hang out at. Will usually strike up a conversation or two and meet some new people along the way.

  8. Thanks for all the intelligent and thoughtful replies. I love that you feel there are even more ‘shades’ of traveler. I’d also add in to the mix ‘eco-traveller’ … any more?

  9. Even if someone travels to tick off places, it’s fine. 🙂 I believe every traveler secretly wishes to tick off places – we all have secret goals and bucket-lists. For me, I just love to travel – to be honest, I don’t really know why – all I know is that I love the feeling of being in a new, unfamiliar city or village, I love the sight of stunning landscapes, I love the smiles of locals, the freedom of roaming around wherever I want…I call myself a spontaneous traveler.

    • I think you are right. Even if they don’t keep specific lists, it’s human nature to sort of keep a running tally. I love the way you describe the reason you travel. Pure simply joy!

  10. I agree with @Linda when she says that there are more types of traveller, and sometimes even more types of travel merge into one person, like digital nomad & housesitter or expat and slow traveller. Maybe more combinations will pop up in the future; it’s an evolving travel life full of surprises! 😉

  11. I think there are more types of traveller emerging – such as the Slow Traveller, who spends longer in a region than a traveller, but isn’t actually an expat working for someone in that country –
    House sitters – who spend an extended period in a region but don’t work there, and
    Digital nomads – who will often ‘settle’ for say 3 months at a time to experience a region more fully,but are not integrated into the area through work as they’re self employed –
    But I agree its interesting how different types of travel suit different times in our lives and circumstances – but no matter what type – it’s always invigorating and enriching 🙂

  12. I love this! We are expats right now and it is challenging to deal with paperwork and figuring out a culture, but we’ve also never been happier! Running around town as a tourist is hard not to do, especially when you are trying to figure out where to spend more time. We did a week-long trip to Amsterdam about a year before we decided to move. The city just “clicked” with us, and I think you’ll feel that when you want to spend more time anywhere.

  13. Hi Zascha, glad you enjoyed the post. Hope you are loving your time as an expat and good luck with your next ‘traveller’ stage.

  14. I really enjoyed reading this article.
    I’m currently this expat as I have been living and working in England for four years (I’m originally from Denmark),
    but I’m going to be the Traveller soon as I am setting off on a trip around the world very soon 🙂