From the sunrise junkie to the one who never seems to get out of bed, there’s a world of travel types you tend to encounter along the road. Of course, every traveller is unique, but working out which general style suits you can be a useful way of pin-pointing the right locations for your next adventure, and matching you with the right travel buddies. In this guide, we take a look at some classic travel types, from spontaneous, solo shoestringer to meticulous group leader, and how you can determine your own style.
Type 1: The Tour Snob
This type of backpacker hates tours with a passion, and considers anyone who takes them an inferior type of traveller. Instead, they prefer to go “off the beaten track” and only interact with locals. You’ll never see them at major tourist sites as they like to (loudly) announce how overrated it is, and how they’ve found somewhere much more authentic.
Join a tour, or go at your own speed?
Don’t let the Tour Snob put you off doing an organised tour if it is what appeals to you. Booking a week or even month-long tour is a great way of securing a guaranteed group of friends to travel with, who, if chosen carefully, should share your interests and expectations for the trip of a lifetime. For many, the comfort and security this represents will significantly ease the anxiety of travel and offer a sure-fire opportunity to have an amazing time, with minimal stress and planning. From gap-year tours for school leavers, to tours for over-30s, a little research is all it takes to find the group that is right for you. Tours can also be a great way of combining travel with work or volunteering opportunities, allowing you to support a developing community and structure your time away.
That being said, there are numerous reasons why it can be advantageous to travel independently. Tours can sometimes be too confining with their set structure, and prevent you from having the freedom to travel spontaneously or set your own pace. If you are concerned about making friends and are on the fence about choosing a tour, perhaps see if there are Facebook travel buddy groups (such as this one) or initial 2-3-day tours you can do instead that require less commitment.
Type 2: The Passive Aggressive Friends
You both love travelling, and you are best friends forever, what could go wrong? Cut to two weeks down the line, and you’re passive aggressively quarrelling about everything, from whose turn it is to take the top bunk, to whose fault it was for missing the bus. An uncomfortable energy hangs in the dorm as you silently unpack. Only one month left…
Solo, or with friends?
Choosing who to travel with, if anyone at all, is a very important decision. On the surface, you would assume that going with your friends would be the best trip ever, but if travel styles don’t match, it can put a lot of pressure on your relationship. Before going away, set out some ground rules. Do you expect to do everything together? What happens if you both want to do different things? Do you have the same budget, and priorities about spending? How much stamina do you have for activities? Settling these questions beforehand and keeping the conversation open throughout is a vital way to maintain good relationships whilst travelling.
For many people, the ideal way to travel is to go solo. Going it alone rarely means actually being alone, since most backpacking routes have a well-established culture of making friends and exploring a region together. It is common for dorm-mates to be sharing meals or organising group expeditions after just a few exchanged words. The benefit of this, is that you are able to pick and choose when and how you do things with others, without the pressure of loyalties or obligations to friends from back home. It is also a great way of making new life-long friends from all over the world. It can sometimes be hard to prepare for your first dive into solo travel, since no amount of reassurance from other solo backpackers can quite prepare you for how you will feel once you step off that plane. However, most agree that if you can work up the courage, the payoff will be hugely rewarding, and will give you a confidence in yourself that will last a lifetime.
Type 3: The Group Leader
You’ve hardly got your bag down in your new dorm before the Group Leader ushers you into a plan they’re brewing. Rallying everyone together, they have you all waking up at 5am for a sunrise trek, before pitching in on a hired van to go visit a temple two hours away. Before you know it, you’ve been roped into a bar crawl they’ve convinced the hostel staff to throw and committed to a camping trip the week after.
Meticulous planner or spontaneous adventurer?
Some people love being swept up on the ride, leaving their options open in case the Group Leader type ropes them into a new adventure. Others like to meticulously plan every aspect of their trip beforehand, to maximise their experience and prevent things going wrong. Both make sense, and a combination of both is often the sweet spot; having a rough idea about route and days spent in each place, but allowing for variation and surprises as you go.
Doing some research beforehand is important, especially when it comes to issues of visas, legality and cultural awareness. On the other hand, booking everything ahead of time could rob you of an exciting opportunity to join an adventure and join new friends. Some regions never sell-out, and accommodation and transport will always be available for walk-ins. Others are far more popular, and booking weeks in advance is the only way to ensure you get a place to stay. Whatever your planning preferences are, don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone and experiment until you find the method that suits you best.
Type 4: The Broke Traveller
This traveller ran out of money months ago, but can’t bear to call it quits and go home. Instead, they’re living off $5 a day, eating local street food and doing odd jobs at the hostel to let them stay for free. They never saw the famous attractions since they can’t afford the entry fees, but they don’t mind since they’re just happy to be here.
Shoestring or a bit of luxury?
This travel style is partially dependent on your own financial situation, and partially on the things you prioritise. Some people would happily sleep on the beach for a week if it meant they could afford a paragliding trip at the end of it. Others would rather scrimp on high-cost activities if it means they can stay in a private room or hotel. Again, none of these things make you any more legitimate a “traveller”, we all simply have different priorities about how we wish to spend our money.
Traditional backpacking style characteristically involves staying in a dorm-style room in a hostel. For some, sharing a room with other strangers may seem unappealing, but hostels can be extremely luxurious these days, and often these dorm rooms come fitted with bed-curtains and clever designs to maximise privacy and security.
Some travellers in hostels are happy to sleep in dorms, but have a maximum room size (e.g. 4-person dorm over 12), or only choose hostels that have “female” only dorms. Others, such as light sleepers or couples, much prefer to get a private room. Guesthouses are often another inexpensive option, as well as homestays, or schemes such as Wwoofing, where accommodation is offered in exchange for work.
Type 5: The Hostel Hermit
This traveller seems to have run out of energy, and is now riding out the travel slump by staying in bed all day and watching Netflix. They’ll emerge at mealtimes to grab some dinner downstairs before mooching off to their room. Turning down invites to join in with excursions or evening activities, the Hostel Hermit instead prefers to laze in the dorm at all hours, aggressively berating newcomers for turning the lights on at 4pm. They’ll eventually get their energy back and check out, but not before consuming all the free food and drink the hostel has to offer.
Poolside dozer or activities junkie?
Everyone has their own pace of travel, and some prefer more activities in the day than others. For some, getting out early and beating the crowds/midday sun is a priority, whereas others prefer to sleep in and take their time. This is your trip, and therefore it is completely up to you how much you want to pack in in a day and how to spend your time. If you went away to laze on the beach and relax, don’t let others who keep a sightseeing checklist push you to do things you don’t want to do. Equally, if others are being slow-moving and keeping you from exploring all the things you want to see, go without them!
Some destinations/hostels attract different types of travellers, and it can be useful to develop a sense of which appeals to you the most. Some cities and hostels have a reputation for partying, meaning most visitors will likely sleep through the day and stay up drinking all night. Others, such as hostels that specialise in treks and tours, will attract a more active crowd. Work out which one suits you best, and start to orient yourself towards them. Not only will you be able to do the things you really want to do, but you will also be surrounding yourself with likeminded travellers to join in and bond with.
Ultimately, despite countless opinions on the matter, there is absolutely not one way to travel. We all have our own needs, priorities, interests, budgets, and stamina, and shouldn’t expect others to behave the same. Going solo can be a great way of prioritising your own travel style and maintaining maximum flexibility and freedom as you go. For others however, travel is far more exciting when you have friends or a group to share it with, especially when the pressure of organisation is taken out of your hands. Follow your gut, experiment with different styles and eventually, you’ll find the method that suits you best.