Who is the REAL traveller?
An essay about tolerance of other people’s travel styles.
I often see posts in travel forums asking why people travel in a certain way. The questions often contain an implied criticism: “The way you are travelling does not count as real travel. Real travel looks like xxx.”
I put the reasons for travelling into general categories to make them relatable. If you find yourself, great. If not, even better.
This traveller has a goal to achieve.
Examples of goals:
Visit 193/193 UN countries
Get in the Guinness book of records as the youngest person to visit all countries.
Be the first person from country X to visit every country.
Climb the highest mountain in every continent.
Cycle from London to Tehran.
And so on. Goals are endless.
Requirements. These vary depending on the person or social group.
Get a passport stamp in each country or spend 24 hours in each country.
Only travel by land and sea, i.e., do not fly.
When cycling, never use public transport.
Question: Does travel change the hero? The answer: Only sometimes. Achieving the goal, i.e. overcoming difficulty, conquering fear, dealing with difficulties etc. is what changes the hero. It is the accomplishment that is the main thing. In other words, travel is an instrumental aim, but achieving the goal is the ultimate aim.
Example: Imagine a very rich person offered a hero only two choices: Travel to 5 countries in two weeks, or travel to one country in two weeks - all costs paid. Most heroes would choose to travel to 5 countries.
Note: Along the way the hero might learn things that open their minds, they might enjoy pleasures that blow their dopamine reserves, they might develop in-depth knowledge of places, and they might feel great emotional highs. However, none of these are the primary aim. Simply put, hitting the bullseye (the goal), is the aim of the hero.
The productivity guru
This traveller aims to do every possible activity or experience in each place visited.
Example of one travel day:
Morning guided city walk, then detailed tour of two museums. Lunch at the best restaurant in town. A cooking lesson in the afternoon, followed by a paragliding jump from the highest peak nearby. Dinner at a famous local restaurant. Evening, a local theatre or performance or go out dancing with locals. Spend the night in a famous local hotel.
This traveller wants to get to know everything about the country or place visited.
The travel method is inductive in the sense that knowledge of places is gained from collecting all details.
They differ from the productivity guru in that this is about knowledge.
Example of knowledge areas:
Political, geographical, social, cultural, linguistic, transport, food, etc.
How is this done:
Often this knowledge is obtained by doing in depth tours with local tour guides.
I don't buy into the negative definitions of hedonism. In my book, seeking pleasure is valid. Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain has after all kept us as humans alive since we existed as a species.
Physical pleasure is the primary aim.
Examples of enjoyable activities
Food, drink, sex, drugs, relaxing at the beach, massage, sport, yoga etc.
The aesthete travels in order to experience these pleasures.
Note that suffering can also be a source of pleasure. Even to the point of masochism. Like doing very long and tough journeys under physical stress.
Discomfort can give you a reward/pleasure. A book that influenced my thinking around this category is: The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning.
The emotional person
The meaning of life is feeling. Attaining and experiencing good feelings is the way to achieve this.
This person is not always specifically goal orientated but will head where they think their good feelings will be maximised.
A trip with a tour group to the base camp of K2.
A solo 5 day run along the Balkan hiking route.
A trip to Antarctica to climb the highest mountain there.
The philosopher focuses on meaning, and meaning is for many, a form of pleasure.
Travel is a way to develop new theories or to test existing theories about how the world works. From the travel, the multiple experiences and sights seen, a theory is developed, a big picture theory. Or an existing theory is tested out.
Travelling in Cyprus and meeting refugees enables and thereby understanding of the European refugee crises.
Learning how Human Rights work by travelling in so-called Failed states (to see the opposite).
The Sheltering Sky traveller
One of the most interesting distinctions of who the REAL traveller is in the movie “The Sheltering Sky:” The tourist wants to leave the moment they have arrived, whereas the traveller can stay forever.
Visiting South Sudan and staying there for 15 years working.
Travelling and living for extended periods in several countries (Colombia, USA, South Korea, UAE, Thailand, Germany, Malawi). Minimum time is one year in a country.