The way I see it, there are two main categories of travellers: the vacationers and the explorers. The vacationers travel abroad to rest from their jobs, their responsibilities, or to escape bad weather. They take a week, sometime two, and go somewhere sunny and relaxing where they can lie on the beach, or a lounge chair by the pool, drink cocktails, maybe read a book. They want to be catered to, rest, relax, and not have to worry about anything. Their best choice is a packaged vacation or a cruise, a short chartered flight from home. The country they travel to is irrelevant. They just want time out.
Explorers are a whole different breed. They want to relax and recharge as well, but they are also intensely curious about the cultures they visit. They are looking to make discoveries, to learn things, to be surprised. They like trying out new foods, new activities, and being somewhere different from home.
What is “stress” to a vacationer becomes “excitement” to an explorer.
To me, a true traveller is first and foremost an explorer. You may be an explorer at heart who hasn’t yet had a chance to travel. Or perhaps you would like to venture out further but are facing various obstacles, like a lack of time, money, or even some fear of the unknown. (If that’s the case, then this website is for you!)
Here are what I consider the ten qualities of a good traveller (in no particular order):
- Curiosity: This is probably what makes you hit the road in the first place. You want to know what it’s like “over there”. It keeps you moving, sightseeing, asking questions.
- Patience: In many countries, life doesn’t move at the same pace as it does at home; people have different priorities. You need to take it all in stride and make allowances for the cultural differences.
- Resourcefulness: This is essential when you travel independently, and in turn is developed by independent travel. I wasn’t a very resourceful young person (since my parents always over-protected me) but after 21 years of travelling, I feel like I can deal with pretty much anything that gets thrown at me.
- Open-mindedness: You are open to learning about different customs, and respecting them, even if things don’t always make sense to you. In fact you seek that “difference” as something interesting and worth learning about. You don’t just assume that the way you do things at home is necessarily “better”.
- Self-confidence: This relates to resourcefulness. You know you can handle yourself in unfamiliar situations, make the best of it, and have a great time. This comes from knowledge and experience travelling on your own.
- Young heart: By this I mean somebody who is willing to try and learn new things. Somebody who is not stuck in her old habits and refuses to consider other ways of doing things. It relates to open-mindedness.
- Eagerness to learn: Like curiosity, being eager to learn keeps you moving, visiting the sights, and trying to understand the intricacies of your destination. It’s fun!
- Good sense of humour: You have to be able to laugh at yourself, or you’ll be very unhappy exploring foreign lands. When all the rules change on you, you lose some control, and it’s quite easy to make mistakes. I’ve had my own embarrassing moments!
- Flexibility: Things don’t always work as planned. In fact they rarely do! You must be able to quickly make changes to your plans and itinerary if necessary, and not get all frazzled because the world doesn’t conform to your carefully laid out schedule.
- Adaptability: It always take some time to get used to a new place: new meal schedule, different climate and altitude, different rules of the road, etc. The faster you can integrate the differences and feel comfortable in your new environment, the more you will enjoy your trip.
You do not need to have all of these attributes to go travelling of course. Many of these traits will develop as you venture out more, especially if you travel independently. However, if you discover that you do not have any of these qualities, then you probably should buy that holiday package to Cancun!
Can you think of any attribute I forgot?