Updated: Apr 5, 2019
The first question you need to answer is, Are you a traveler or a tourist?
There is no right or wrong in the answer, but there are distinctions in defining that for yourself. (Check out the article linked above, if you need additional guidance to clarify the difference).
Ok, so you’ve decided, or life has decided for you, that you are indeed a traveler.
Generally your point of interest, the things that interest you most, determines the type of traveler you are. Lets look at some examples:
An Explorer – Exploring isn’t just reserved to the jungles. Do you enjoy finding and trying different types of foods, or shopping for interesting items in the local bazaars and markets? I mean truly enjoy it, to where you feel excitement just thinking about it. That too is exploration.
Sport Enthusiast – If you salivate at the thought of playing 18 holes in Bali, or surfing every break from Cali to Calcutta, you, my friend, are a Sports Enthusiast.
Culturalist/Historian – Do you find yourself correcting tour guides about historic sites or getting waaay too involved in local cultural events? Yea I know.
Most sane humans need a reason to do something, be it work, school, travel, whatever. It’s what drives you. Being able to put a title to that reason, is even better.
There isn’t much worse, in my mind, than being thought of as weird, for someone wanting to venture halfway around the world, to take photos of birds or to attend some obscure event.
To each his own.
If its important, or at least a goal, for you, and gets you traveling, then more power to you.
Lets see what other categories I can think of:
Extreme Sports/Thrill Seekers - Such as rock climbing, shark diving, aerobatic flying
Adventure - Zip lining, bungee, animal trekking, safaris
Leisure - Some packaged tours, more relaxation less adrenaline
Road Trippers - RVers, Caravans, family jaunts to National Parks
Motorcyclist - Two-wheeled road warriors
Budget - Deal seekers, heavy reliance on travel points and airline miles
Backpacker/Extreme Budget - Hostels, couch surfing, work-as-you-go
Digital Nomad - Online biz allowing you to be location independent
Student - Attending foreign Colleges and Universities
Luxury - 5 star everything
Globetrotter - Continuous world traveler, continent hopper
Sex seeker - Legal and consenting? Go for it
Business - Travels often for business, company sponsored
Cruiser - Cruise ships primarily. Oceans and rivers, long and short term
Photographer - Views the world through multi-colored pixels
Religious/Pilgrimage - Missionaries, visiting worship sites
Treasure Hunter - Searches for sunken or buried treasure and artifacts
Scientific Exploration - In disciplines such as Archaeology, Ornithology, Cryptozoology
Vacationist/Tourist - Packaged deals, all-inclusives, resorts
Sightseer - Motivated to visit famous, cultural or historic sites
Beachbum - Lives for the sand, sea and surf
Weekender/Escape Artist - Frequent 2 to 3 day weekend getaways
Eventer - Travels for special events, follows tours
Bucket Lister - Looking to complete specific tasks
Ecotourist - Motivated by conservation and preservation
Volunteerism - Helps locals, non-NGO type activities
NGO's - Private Relief Organizations, non-profits
This isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ kind of thing. You may be made up of two, three or more types, or I may have missed you all together.
Any of these can be done single, as a couple, with friends, your family or a group. It can also morph into a new lifestyle choice, or even earn you money as a new job or business.
Are there any more you can think of?
Ok, so what about me you ask?
I'm an urban explorer with a splash of adventure. I prefer smaller towns over cities and I like to find the quirks of a place. Things like stumbling upon a Masonic Hall in Havana, betting on some Cock-fights in Cartagena or running into a Sumo Wrestler at a Muay Thai gym in Bangkok.
I take solo trips, as well as travel with a friend or two. Who you choose to travel with is very important. You should have chemistry or commonalities, and it helps if you’ve known them for years. You want everyone to have the best experience possible. There is nothing worse than traveling with others, and discovering you don’t like their personality, or you have nothing in common. I’ve never traveled with a group of more than 4, and never with strangers, but I may join one of those online travel groups, just for the experience.
I’m a planner, so before I head to a new country or area, I like to seek advice and research all I can about it first. The cities I’m heading to, the attractions, the hotspots, even the touristy areas. I usually create a simple notes list on my phone, of where I might want to go or what I might want to see and do. I don’t always stick to the list, life would be boring for me without some spontaneity, but it gives me a good starting point.
If I’m traveling with friends, we usually do a short term rental, through sites like Airbnb or Flipkey. It works out great. You’re all in the same location, everyone has their own room, usually bathroom as well, and you save money by splitting the costs. When traveling solo, I stay primarily in lower range hotels, in the safest areas of towns.
When companionless, I only book the first night or two ahead of time, so I’m not stressed about finding a place as soon as I land, or leaving it up to a dubious cab driver. After I get the lay of the land, I can then make a more informed decision about relocating, especially if there are multiple areas to explore.
I concentrate on multiple, short trips for now, in the three day to two week range. I can go somewhere every other month this way. I’ve found this works best with my day job and schedule. It will allow me to explore much of the world, region by region, in the quickest time possible. It doesn’t always work out, I’ve made multiple trips to the same countries for instance, but that’s the immediate plan anyway. Eventually I’ll narrow it down to a few favorite countries and spend long periods of time there. Maybe choosing one or two of them to obtain residency. Get fully immersed in the local culture, language, regional character, everything but the politics.
The ultimate, ultimate goal for me is to die very old and very rich, thousands of miles from where I was born!
Just as there are different types of traveling, there are different combinations and traits of travelers. Let your needs and desires, not others, dictate your kind of travel.
So what type of traveler are you?