Why beautiful places?

I was chatting with a friend and explained how I choose my travel destinations using lists, by writing down all the places I want to visit and then ranking them. Creating lists is so useful for me, that I am sharing this list.

Why travel? There are after all a million other possible hobbies. I travel for beauty and for excitement.

Why beautiful places? There are after all adventurous places, countries to count, places to eat, cultures to meet and a million other possible reasons to travel. For me, beauty is currently my interest, but I also enjoy good food, some adventure and meeting other cultures.

Some more reasons for travelling.

1. Adventure.

2. Achievement.

3. Food

4. Culture

5. Hobbies – like photography, dance, yoga, meditation, sport.

6. Love – finding love around the world

7. Work

8. Meaning – to gain an understanding of the world and of life

9+ and a million other possible reasons to travel

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.

The hero.

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.

The expert

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.

The hedonist

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

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.

An analogy that I use when thinking of travel is sport. I was a professional cyclist for a year and it was all that I thought about and did for that year (and the 4 years prior to that as an amateur). But now that I do not do much sport, I often look at cycling and think, what a strange activity. Sitting for hours on a very skinny bicycle, riding in a bunch and in echelons in the wind!

50% agree

To the outsider, watching cycling is like watching aliens eating lunch, it just does not make sense. Sport does not fall into neat categories. We have constructed the categories. Are the categories natural, do they so to speak “fall into place?” No. Cycling, or any sport, is a social construct.

The other 50%

For the cyclist, the world of cycling is very real. Cyclists cry when they win, they have accidents and break bones, they diet, they plan for years, they go to cycling academies as kids and learn to race on the track on mountain bikes, racing bikes, and some go to the Olympics or race the tour de France. They think that their sport does have a strong category. There are rules, judges, testing, and categories.


Travel is slightly different to sport, in that there is no Travel Olympics Committee to set the travel rules. For those who want to, they themselves define the rules, judges, testing and categories.

So, if I say that I want to be a travel hero and travel to 193/193 countries in 3 years, I wonder why I get criticized for not being a real traveller? After all, I have rules, judges, testing and categories? And, well, I am actually going to countries right.

This post is about being tolerant of those who have chosen a particular travel category/ies and like it.

And I know quite a few travellers who don’t want a category. Great. We are free to choose in this “one wild and precious life!”

Quote at the end is from Mary Oliver – The Summer Day.

I have a specific reason why I did not create a separate category for people who travel for a major other interest which has to do with the difference between ultimate and instrumental aims.


When I started travelling my main interest in life was meditation and I travelled to go to meditation centres and monasteries – Thailand, South Korea, India, UK and finally two years in a Zen monastery in the USA. I was a meditator who also liked to travel. Travel was an instrumental aim in that it helped me achieve my ultimate aim of meditation.

Now that I have switched to travel as being my main interest, travel is my main/ultimate interest and I see myself as a traveller who meditates (amongst other things).

In conclusion, I created the categories around the idea of travel as an ultimate aim.

That said, it is a fine line this, and it is also a reason that neat categories are useful, but not always perfect.

An example: For a hero type traveller, achieving a goal like, getting into the Guinness book of records is the ultimate aim. But this goal so deeply tied up with travel (as an instrumental aim), that it is not clear for me where one begins and another one ends.

An alternate take:

When I was mainly focussed on meditation, I was into meditation for a philosophical reason, to understand the meaning of life (there are many reasons to meditate, I just focussed on this one). So, I could say that I travelled for a philosophical reason.

Or, one other approach, the ultimate aim and the instrumental aim might be so close in importance, that it makes no sense to divide them up.

Question EPS 10072022

My question is this. For those who have a "mission" of 193. Then what ?

Brilliant question. I have thought about this a lot because I have had this directly affect me, but in another area, where I hit my biggest life goal.

I think that there are two general response directions, and these depend broadly on the Fox vs Hedgehog classification – hedgehogs are specialists focussing on one major subject in life, foxes are generalists who know a lot about a lot of things (web search for details).

This is how I see it going down after hitting 193.

-- Hedgehogs double down and extend the goal – more territories, more adventures, whatever can be measured.

-- Foxes generally set a new goal, usually in another area. Some of them can also get depressed after attaining a major goal, and depressed at the meaninglessness of goal setting.

My story: I got depressed when I achieved my first major life goal. So, I set a new goal of curing my depression! After "achieving that goal" (yes, I got a lot of help in therapy and 12 step groups) I set the goal of getting to level 3 in Ashtanga Yoga, and once I hit that I turned to 193, where I am now.

As a side note:

I tried hard for a while not to set goals. Then I had an interesting chat with a Zen teacher in India about goal setting. He said that life can get a bit boring without goals, at least for those who like to set them.

So nowadays I still set goals, but I try to hold them lightly. In that earlier post that you refer to, someone very wisely referred to his goal as an aspiration. I like that word “aspiration” a lot.