Travel Styles

My travel style has changed drastically over the years. Perhaps it’s experience or maturity or my interests or a combination of everything. Here’s my summary of the different types of travel styles you can encounter (and traps I have fallen into myself!)

The Obsessive Planner

Their adventures begin well before they have left the country or even booked their flights. I think there is a fine line between researching, planning and organising a trip and meticulously obsessing over and fine-tuning every minute detail. Before my second overseas trip (4 weeks with my Granma and 6 weeks with my friend) I kept a little notepad, which was tabled into England, France, and Italy and then subdivided into cities. Each city was organised into either areas or themes (eg museums, churches). Under each ‘theme’ I had the places eg) The Louvre and a brief summary of the place, its history, opening hours, and key things I wanted to visit. I took pride in my little book and carried it, and a Lonely Planet or DK Eyewitness, everywhere. When my friend suggested we visit the D’Orsay on a Monday I took great pleasure in exclaiming “Ah but it’s closed today!” What would she have done without me? The same friend unfortunately had to put up with me wanting to pre-book every hostel, allowing no flexibility for our trip. There is nothing wrong with planning your trip (this is all part of the fun) but I think you can definitely go overboard and in hindsight, I definitely did. (Sorry Clare!) I took great pride last year only booking a flight from Turkey to Belgium 3 days before my tour in Turkey ended and arriving in Rome with no accommodation and going from hostel to hostel practising my Italian as I tried to find a vacant room. It was liberating! (Read more here on how I think overly planned trips attract disaster and how amazing experiences can arise from spontaneity). 

The Checklist Traveller 

This is the person that has a list of places they HAVE TO SEE, no ifs or buts. You might stumble across a quaint little church or an amazing restaurant but nope, this is not allowed, you HAVE to get to the Grand Bazaar and only once you have seen it can you allow time for other things. There are some things in cities that you have to see for example I think it would be a crime if you want to Paris and refused to see the Eiffel Tower. Personally, I think the best option is to have three categories: Must, Want, Maybe. For example my MUST list for Paris would include Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur. My WANT list would include Montemarte, D’Orsay, Jardin Tullieries and my MAYBE list would have L’Orangerie, Conceiergie, Pantheon, Rodin Museum, Cluny Museum. This way you get to see the things you are dying to see, if you have time you can see the other things on your list but you also have the opportunity to go with flow and embrace opportunities that come your way.

Those Who Are Along For The Ride

I’m not really sure about these people. I had a lady on my tour in Turkey who literally just sat on the bus or a bench the whole time. She would come everywhere and on every optional tour but once we arrived she would just sit on a bench. I guess she was still seeing the country and the main things but she was missing out on so much! If you are nervous or physically unable this is a way to still get out and explore the world, but I don’t know if I count it as traveling.

The Go With The Flowers:

These are the laid back people. They have no plans and no itineraries. They see a cheap flight and jump on it. They stay here for a few days and meet some people and then get on a train with them to the next town. They are open for anything and everything. I really wish I could be this laid back. I partly blame having a major in history and theatre and Italian because there are some things I just have to see in a city and some cities I just have to go to. I’m also too anxious and a bit too shy to do this but I really, really admire these people.

The People Person:

I had a friend who said she didn’t travel because she wanted to see incredible monuments or churches but because she wanted to meet people. She happily passed up exploring the Duomo in Florence because she wanted to sit at a café and chat to anyone and everyone. I love this. I think chatting to locals and other travellers is one of the most fulfilling aspects of traveling. See my Oh The People You Meet page for some of the amazing souls I’ve encountered. 

The Tour People:

These are generally older people who just do tours. They arrive at the airport, get a taxi or transfer to their hotel and then embark on a tour. When I arrived in London with my Granma, I asked her if she knew how to buy a ticket for the tube. She didn’t. My Granma had been to London three times and had never been on the tube, which I found absolutely astonishing! The tube is so quintessentially London – you haven’t really seen London if you haven’t had a least one ride on the tube! I have been on a few tours myself, and I am always shocked at the people who never really go out and explore. They get off the bus, they have a coffee and a quick walk around and are back on the bus early. On a tour I was on in the UK, people were generally back on the bus 20 minutes before we had to leave. I told my tour guide that I would never be late; I would always be right on time because I wanted to squeeze every possible minute out of my time and I told him to pass this on to everyone else. Sure enough, despite everyone being early for that bus the entire tour, it NEVER left early. (It also never left late mum if you are reading this; I was always perfectly on time). I think tours are fantastic but I also am slightly critical of the people who go on them as I question if they really are getting to see a city or country and be immersed in the lifestyle and interact with the locals as for me this is essential to travel.

Any travel styles I’ve missed? What category do you think you fall into? 


Structure and Ante Structure: The Irony of Travel

No amount of planning can ever quite prepare you for the chaos of travelling. Ironically, the more you try to plan and organise and research and book ahead to ensure the ‘perfect” trip, the less chance you have of achieving it. Structure invites disaster. Perfectly timed connections, pre-planned day trips and carefully considered itineraries are all patiently waiting for disaster to strike.

Adhering to structure in a perfectionistic ploy to have a magical trip is in actual fact overwhelmingly limiting. I remember my second trip to Europe: I kept a notebook with meticulous plans for my 6 days in Paris: Monday 7am day trip to Loire Valley as most museums are closed, Tuesday go to the Louvre first thing to beat the crowds. I got to see everything I wanted and revealed in my organisational glory when my friend suggested we go to the D’Orsay as a special treat on our last day and I got to tell her it was going to be closed. 

But I’ve come to learn disappointment and the spontaneous can lead to some of the most memorable moments. In Pistoia, Italy, I never planned on meeting Vincenzo, a lovely, wise man who recited Dante, told me stories about Pistoia and let me practise my bad Italian. Arriving at the Dante museum in Ravenna to find it closed allowed me to get a ciocolata calda at the Alighieri café and immerse myself in the Commedia (it was almost like having hot chocolate with Dante himself). The train strike in Florence on my birthday meant I didn’t get to lay on the beach in Amalfi but it also meant I didn’t spend half the day in transit and got to eat incredible deserts at restaurant with waiters who were molti belli, get some bargains at H&M, run around in the pouring rain and jump in puddles and watch Letters to Juliet whilst putting on facemasks. (If you can’t tell it was one of my favourite days in Florence!)

And yet at the same time you’ve got to avoid falling into the trap of waiting for a miracle to occur when things go wrong. When I missed my connecting train from Faenza to Ravenna, I shamefully admit I thought “Excellent, there’s a reason behind this. I’m going to have an eye opening/unique/amazing experience or conversation.” I walked around for an hour and a half, waiting and hoping and … nothing. Similarly nothing revolutionary happened when I was lost in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Sometimes as the eloquent saying goes “shit happens.” 

So the moral of the story: if there is something you desperately want to see, please check. Don’t plan your entire trip around seeing Wicked on the West End for it to be sold out or going to Versailles on your birthday to get there and find it is closed. But do enjoy the utter dysfunction and chaos that travel brings! You never know what might happen. (And spending your time stressed trying to adhere to a tight schedule and keeping your head stuck in a guide book won’t result in much fun!)