Which Kind of Traveler Are You?
Not all travelers are created equal. Like with anything else in life, people have preferences about the way they see the world. Some prioritize comfort over expenses and others opt for ground transportation even if there are planes available. If you choose a slow method of travel, like teaching English abroad, you’ll have many opportunities for weekend getaways and longer trips during school breaks. You’ll probably meet travel buddies while you’re teaching in Thailand or Colombia, so it’s important to know your personal interests so you can find a compatible partner in wanderlust.
Check out these distinctions between types of travelers as you prepare the adventure of a lifetime.
Backpacker versus Flashpacker
Flashpacker is a relatively new term in the travel industry, although the concept has been around for ages. I heard it for the first time during the six-week Southeast Asia trip I just returned from. A flashpacker is a backpacker who has a more relaxed budget and will occasionally prioritize comfort or convenience over cost. Some people consider the flashpacker definition to only apply to travelers who are older and reliant on technology, but these distinctions aren’t always accurate. These days, most people travel with smartphones, if not a tablet or laptop as well. There are also plenty of younger travelers who work remotely, thus can afford more luxurious accommodations and amenities.
The idea of putting comfort and convenience first comes into play with accommodations. Travelers with a bigger budget may spring for a private room instead of a dorm, or a room with an air conditioner instead of a fan. Flashpackers might also pay for a taxi rather than taking public transportation, or shell out the money for an organized tour with an English-speaking guide. Another common substitute is paying more money for a short flight to skip a long overnight bus ride, whereas traditional backpackers are usually looking to cut costs any way possible.
While I was traveling last month, I definitely fell into the category of flashpacker. I didn’t have a lot of time to see all of the countries on my itinerary so I decided it was worth spending extra money to make the most of my time abroad. I flew between most countries instead of taking busses so travel would take a fraction of the time and would have room in my schedule for more adventures.
Planner versus Free Spirit
I’ve always been a bit type A. I love calendars, schedules and to-do lists. For some reason, this personality trait doesn’t always shine through when I’m traveling.
On my most recent trip, I was lucky to be roaming with a good friend who had traveled around Asia before and loves to plan trips. She scheduled our transportation, accommodations and a few activities in advance so we had an outline in place that would allow us to maximize our vacation time. It was nice to know which city we would be in each week and how much transportation and lodging would cost in advance.
Most people we met while traveling didn’t have much of a fleshed out plan. A lot of travelers have a general time frame and ideas about where they want to visit, but book few tickets or rooms in advance. When you ask where they’re headed next, many backpackers don’t have a solid answer. This allows them to spend more time in places that they fall in love with and join up with new nomadic friends for however long suits them.
The next time I take a long trip, I want to try the more free-spirited way of traveling. While having a plan is more comfortable for me, my favorite part of seeing the world is pushing myself outside the boundaries of my comfort zone.
Tourism versus Adventure
Do you prefer to play by the (guide)book or seek amazing sights on your own? Sometimes people like to organize their travel time based on how many popular tourist attractions there are in an area while others would rather skip the expected and choose exploration.
Any decent-sized city or town has museums, historical sights and other must-see spots that you’ll find in top 10 articles online or in guidebooks. A lot of these activities are informative, impactful and well worth your time. Despite that fact, some travelers would rather rent a motorbike and drive around the countryside to find more local flavor and little-known vistas.
When I’m on the road, I like to strike a balance between being a tourist and an adventurer. I’ll usually pick a few of the “top 10” places that I’m particularly interested in but reserve a day or two to explore. For example, I took breaks from history and culture in Thailand and Laos to visit national parks and waterfalls that aren’t as well known.
Do you identify with any of these different travel preferences? You might like to include a little of everything as I do, but make sure your travel partner is willing to compromise as well. Before you hoist your backpacks up and hail a cab toward your next journey, talk about how much money you’re willing to spend and which activities are most important to you.