If there is one thing I know about myself, it’s how I like to travel.
I have a very specific travel style that’s evolved over time. It doesn’t mean I’m not constantly exploring and trying new things, it just means I know the types of things I enjoy, and what I don’t. And most of this knowledge can be directly attributed through my experiences with traveling solo.
Traveling with friends, family, and spouses can be great. It’s wonderful to experience new places with the people you love. But traveling with others also brings a level of compromise without the opportunity to make the trip fully your own. For that reason, I think everyone should travel solo at least one time in their life, even if only for a few days. It’s the best way to figure out your own, personal travel style.
They say once you know yourself, you make a better companion for someone else. And I think this also applies to your travel companions. You’ll always make compromises, but after knowing yourself, you’ll have a better idea of which ones to make. True in relationships, true in travel.
Here are twelve things I know for sure when it comes to my own personal travel style:
1. A full agenda with a packed schedule stresses me out.
2. While I always go to a couple “must-see” sights, I really don’t like most tourist attractions. Many are impressive, but I don’t need to do them all.
3. My number one goal for any city is to experience it as if I lived there. What neighborhood would I live in? Where would I go? What events are people who live there going to? How is this the same or different from back home?
4. With exceptions, I try to stay at least three nights in the same place and visit at least two cities in a country. Doing anything less doesn’t give me a good enough feel for the place.
5. When budget traveling, I still have to alternate between dorm rooms and private rooms. I need some privacy. And I’m not happy in dorm rooms with more than four – six people. Not at this age!
6. My absolute favorite places to stay are simple beach huts; with a good restaurant bar area, a remote beach, and chill people all getting to know each other. You may not tell from looking at me, but I love a hippy spot.
7. I do enjoy a nice night out, but I keep heavy drinking and staying out all night to a rare exception. My travel time is too valuable to spend it feeling bad.
8. Unless I’m in a very metropolitan city, I only eat the local food.
9. I like to try at least one new adventure activity per trip. I worry one-day I’ll run out of new ones.
10. I never go to the most popular beach.
11. Shopping isn’t my thing, however, I do like quirky shops that are unusual in some way.
12. Guidebooks are helpful, but they aren’t the boss of me.
I accidentally threw my travel style out the window in Hong Kong.
When I left rural Tanzania and arrived in Hong Kong, it was a huge culture shock. Talk about going from one extreme to another! It was exciting to enter this new world of delicious food, high speed Internet, and convenient public transportation. It was also overwhelming. So much so, I completely abandoned everything I knew about my own travel style and listened to everyone else. The result? During the first three days of my trip, I actually hated Hong Kong.
My first mistake was booking a nine-person dorm room. Hong Kong is expensive and I thought it was my best option. It wasn’t. Then I got caught up doing everything the hostel staff and guidebooks told me I had to do. I was going from one attraction to the next like it was a list of action items to be checked off. Okay, done…what’s next? There was a packed schedule, massive lines, and hoards of people trying to get their new photos for Facebook. It was exhausting. But then I snapped out of it.
How I Got Back on Track:
- Most of the attractions on the “Must Do” list got scratched off. I scaled it back to just a couple sites I really wanted to see.
- I discovered a couple local neighborhoods outside of where the attractions and tourists were.
- I chilled out and spent more time in local cafes and restaurants.
- The map got put away and I simply roamed around.
Once I made a few changes, the second half of my time in Hong Kong was a completely different experience. By the end, I really grew to like the city!
My way isn’t the only way. Find your own travel style.
The thing is, many people would have been completely happy touring the city the way I was doing it. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The way I travel isn’t for everyone. You may find it too leisurely and prefer a faster pace. You may not care about how it would feel to live there; you just want to see the sights. If you’re passionate about a particular hobby, like golf or diving, your goal might be to put your focus there. And different trips may have different goals. I mean, there is a time and place in my life for an all-inclusive resort.
We all have different travel goals and styles; the key is to figure out what they are.
At the end of the day, guidebooks are just guides, not rules books. You don’t have to do everything they say. And you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Figure out what you want to get out of your travels and make them your own. And I think there’s no better way than through solo travel.
What is your travel style and what do you know for sure?