We might occasionally wish everyone in the world was just like us, but truthfully, if we were all the same, then the world would be a boring place. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life and this extends to the world of travel. Going abroad gives us not only the opportunity to discover new places but meet people we wouldn’t have otherwise. From guest houses to hotels, people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds intersect, resulting in lifelong friendships, long-distance relationships, and occasionally, sworn enemies. We might meet a traveler we share so much in common with that we swear we met them in a former life. Then, there’s the traveler that if we never see again, we wouldn’t complain. Everyone travels for their own reasons and in their own way. And how much of you, your character, and outlook on life that becomes part of your travel experience determine your traveler type.
It’s important to know the type of traveler that you are because it could help you find the perfect travel companion...or know who to avoid. Here are 10 great (and 10 not so great) travelers you might meet on your next trip. Which one are you?
20 The Backpacker (Great)
Starting with perhaps the most obvious traveler type, backpackers (the world travelers, not the mountain hikers) make up a large percentage of the travel market and are boon to the travel and tourism industry. Generally a younger demographic (18 to mid-twenties), they are in search of that authentic experience abroad while ironically all traveling the same routes. You may have been a backpacker yourself at one point, as it’s considered a rite of passage for many before having to ‘get serious’ about life, find a job, and settle down. For others, after their first experience, they never quite get over the travel bug and it becomes a lifestyle they never want to abandon.
Whether traveling solo or in pairs, they’re easy to spot—the bandanna, the bohemian look, and general scruffiness tend to be clues.
Of course, the dead giveaway is that huge backpack they lug from place to place. Usually, on a budget, backpackers and hostels are synonymous, and The Global Hostel Marketplace 2014-2018 found that “Millennials are driving a rise in hostel travel due to low cost, convenient locations, good value, and opportunities to meet other travelers.” Being in a hostel surrounded by those who share a similar ethos creates a community. Earthy, friendly, open-minded, and generally up for anything, their main focus is to get out and see the world. Their enthusiasm and genuine curiosity for the new can be infectious for the slightly jaded.
19 The Seeker (Great)
There are many reasons why we travel—for relaxation, to visit family, or simply to see the wonders of the world. However, some travelers embark on trips for reasons which are a little more...serious. Not satisfied with the status quo or the superficiality of modern life, The Seeker is looking for something (while not knowing exactly what that something is). They’re on a spiritual journey, a quest for the answers to the big questions of life that confound us all. They may not subscribe to any one religion, but things like prayer and meditation appeal to them as they hope to have some sort of epiphany about life. These are travelers you might cross paths with in places like India or Nepal, Tibet or Sri Lanka, countries that many still associate with the mystical and the ancient. It’s easy to dismiss The Seeker as nothing more than a flake with a hippie vibe, but take real seekers at face value and they may surprise you with what they know. Though the answers they seek might not be in the mountains of Kathmandú, The River Ganges, or palm readers’ hands, hanging out with the seeker might force you to reevaluate your own life as you observe them reevaluate theirs.
18 The Solo Female Traveler (Great)
Women who travel alone is a growing trend.
According to a 2014 booking.com survey, “72 percent of American women have embraced solo travel and are taking advantage of unique destinations for inspiration and self-discovery.” And it’s not only single women either. The survey also points out that 65% of European and American women are traveling without their partner.
It’s become so common in fact that it’s now a niche market, with blogs and web pages completely dedicated to the subject. A particular segment of that market are women of a certain age who have been through some (expletive), and it’s events which occurred in their past that are the impetus for travel. The autobiographical books-turned-movies Wild, Eat, Pray, Love, and Under The Tuscan Sun are examples of this type of experience. While The Seeker is on a spiritual journey, searching for peace or a way to be at one with nature, The Older Solo Female traveler’s journey (TOSFT?) is more personal, searching the world while searching their soul, looking for a better and more defined sense of self and finding their voice. When you meet TOSFT, she might be guarded at first, and with reason—anyone who travels alone needs to keep their wits about them. She may even seem boring. Eventually though, once you prove trustworthy, she’ll let her guard down and you’ll realize that contrary to your first impression, everyone has a story. Travel has the power to be empowering. It can help you to change yourself and your life, a great lesson to learn at any age.
17 The Volunteer (Great)
When we travel, it’s often all about us and what we can get out of the experience. It’s our opportunity to be a little lazy, indulge our whims, and treat ourselves to things we wouldn’t ordinarily get to experience or do. Not so for The Volunteer who, more often than not, puts the needs of others ahead of their own. Their work might result in inadvertent personal benefits (studies show that kindness to others and volunteering help cope with depression), but The Volunteer’s motivations for travel are selfless. Their main purpose is to help others and do something to affect change in the world. They work with organizations like IVHQ (International Volunteers HQ) or WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers On Organic Farms. Unless you yourself are in a similar line of work, crossing paths with The Volunteer might be difficult since their travel abroad is actually working abroad and they don’t have much time to take in the sights or socialize. But their altruistic acts, sometimes at great cost to their own well-being, are inspirational.
Volunteering abroad is a commitment. We may not want to volunteer on our next trip necessarily, but if we somehow meet The Volunteer, finding out about them and what they do may at least raise our consciousness.
16 The Know-It-All (Not So Great)
No one likes a know-it-all. Not at work, not at a party, and certainly not at home. Imagine meeting The Know-It-All while traveling or worse, having to put up with them because they’re your travel companion. People who like to hear themselves talk, full of (usually) inaccurate information that they kindly share with you whether you asked for it or not, are no fun to be around. They are the self-proclaimed expert on anything and everything. Whatever idea you have for your trip, they have a better one. Of course, they’re never wrong. How can they be? They know...it...all. Well, except how annoying they are. A casual mention about your plans for the next day results in half an hour of unsolicited advice. As they drone on ad nauseam about the best place for this or the worst place for that, you’re forced to sit there and listen. They mean well and might even be right—we should go on the day tour instead of the night one, or we can skip the waterfalls, avoid the touristy beach, or eat better at the market. But we want we want to experience these things for ourselves and draw our own conclusions. Isn’t that what travel is about?
15 The Adapter (Great)
For many of us, despite our best efforts, things rarely (if ever) go exactly as planned while traveling. You may have organized your entire trip, booked your flight and hotel, and reserved seats at that 5-star restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to, weeks or even months in advance. You have a solid travel itinerary. Then, disaster strikes. You get sick on the first night of your trip and end up in bed for days, or mother nature decides not to cooperate and it rains for 5 days straight. If you’re lucky, you’ve either met or you’re traveling with The Adapter, one of the best travel companions on this list.
The expression ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ was created for them because they make the most of the situation no matter how bad. The Adapter isn’t going to allow a little food poisoning or rain ruin their trip.
They keep calm, adjust, and find solutions. Easygoing and confident that keeping a positive outlook on things will help them through the hard times, the adapter isn’t fussy. They’re fine with changing plans and can be just as satisfied with fine dining as eating street food. They’ll have fun either way, and if you’re with them, so will you.
14 The First Timer (Great)
It might not be the first time they’ve traveled but there is a difference between visiting your aunt Becky for the weekend in the next town over and being halfway around the world in a hostel dorm surrounded by complete strangers or lost in the middle of nowhere and you don’t speak the native language. The first time being away from home is fun, no doubt, but also a little scary, especially if traveling at a younger age. It’s easy to understand the first timer’s apprehension when, after having just met, you invite them to hang out. That slight bit of fear in their eyes tells you exactly what they are thinking: ‘Should I trust this person? What do they want from me?’ Avid travelers have all been The First Timer at some point and should be able to empathize. No doubt, somewhere along the way, you’ve received kindness from others. Now, it’s your turn to pay it forward. Share your wisdom with them and give them a few tips (without becoming The Know-It-All traveler, of course). Everything that comes with foreign travel is new for The First Timer, in a sense that they’re a blank slate. They give us the chance to see traveling through a fresh pair of eyes and to reminisce and feel nostalgic for our own first time abroad.
13 The Complainer (Not So Great)
Imagine the scene: There you are on Kuta beach in Bali, watching one of the picturesque sunsets it’s known for. There’s a calmness in the air, as a light breeze cools you down and a haze covers everything with an amber glow. It’s nothing more than perfect. Then suddenly, you hear it. A voice cutting through the moment like a buzz saw coming from a buzzkill. “Why are there so many flies here?” It’s the voice of The Complainer.
From the food to the hotel, to the weather, nothing is good enough for them. It’s too hot or too cold. They could be invited to tea with the Queen of England and they would complain about the quality of the tea.
Unable to appreciate the differences in contrast to where they’re from, everything is ‘gross,’ ‘weird,’ or ‘strange’ for them and their conversations are riddled with comments like ‘This place sucks!’ and ‘ Why is everything here so dirty?’ They voice their displeasure with the least amount of diplomacy and tact possible. The Complainer is also unimpressed by everything while they travel. They’ve seen, had, or tasted better. Their number one complaint can be summed up in one sentence: “It’s not like back home,” which makes us wonder if they should have left home in the first place. They spend so much time complaining that not only do they ruin moments on the trip, but also miss out by not appreciating all the positives that travel can bring.
12 The Guidebook Follower (Not So Great)
Sightseeing and eating local food are two of the most common activities for travelers abroad. Picking where to go and what to eat while trying to get the best value for our money isn’t always easy, and we all need a little help from time to time in deciding what’s worth visiting and what’s a waste of time. A quick Google search solves this problem for most of us, but there are many who still choose the more traditional route and opt to look in a guidebook.
The Guidebook Follower, however, takes consulting the pages of Rough Guide or Lonely Planet for example, to a whole ‘nother level. Spontaneity is not their friend. Rather than winging it and going out for a day of adventure with no real plan, they rather play it safe and stick to their plans based on places in the guidebook.
Their stubborn insistence to stick to the book can be tiresome and limiting. If they only knew that word of mouth and suggestions from locals are often the key to finding the best places to visit or eat. Some of the best experiences we have abroad are accidental. And that’s a tip that The Guidebook Follower won’t find in any guide.
11 The Monument Picture Poser (Not So Great)
We’ve all done it, stood in front of a world-famous place and smiled for the camera. In the age of selfie and YouTube, documenting where we’ve been and what we’ve seen is part of the travel experience. However, this isn’t simply part of the experience for The Monument Picture Poser. It’s the only experience. Their idea of travel is to choose a destination, find one of the main attractions or most well-known monuments, pose in front of it, and then move on to the next one. You might meet this type of traveler on one of those discount bus tours that cover 3 cities in 3 days, making quick stops along the way. It’s a type of trip which is perfect for The Monument Picture Poser since they’re more interested in uploading their travel pics to social media to be the envy of their friends than actually learning something about the history, culture, or people of the places they visit. Getting ‘that perfect selfie shot,’ especially at serious places (which sadly, is a real blog), means that the main purpose of the visit, whether historical or educational, is lost. The Monument Picture Poser would do well to learn that contrary to current popular belief, it’s not always about them.
10 The International Player/Artist (Not So Great)
It’s possible to find true love while traveling, but not with The International Hookup Artist. Included in their itinerary, and perhaps at the top of the list, is to hook up with a fellow traveler from a different country or better, a local. It’s easy to be fooled by this traveler type since they’re experts in the art of flirtation. They’re charming at first and are interested in whatever you are to make you think that you have a lot in common. One minute you’re having a drink with them, then staying for just one more and before you know it, you’re waking up together the next morning. Unless you fell for The Artist’s charms, more likely than not, it’s a part of your trip you’d sooner forget. But for them, you’re definitely part of the holiday to tell their friends about when they get home. But once they’re done with their trip, they’re done with you. They have other targets to go after, and you might even notice a few more “friends” coming and going out The Artist’s room before the end of your vacation. If you know what you’re getting into beforehand and believe you can play the player, then by all means, enjoy yourself. Otherwise, avoid this traveler like the plague.
9 The Follower (Not So Great)
When you share your itinerary with this type of traveler, they undoubtedly ask, ‘Mind if I tag along?’ That’s fine if you don’t mind the company, but if you prefer to travel alone or are already with an established group of friends, The Follower, as nice as they may be, is an intruder that becomes a pain in the neck. Of course, you don’t want to be mean so you agree to let them join you for the day. However, that one day can turn to two, then three, and so on. They show such a co-dependency that you wonder how they survived on their trip without you until this point. One reason The Follower ‘follows’ is they might be indecisive and being with you, someone who has clear ideas on what they’re doing, removes the anxiety of having to decide. It could also be that despite having thoughts of their own and places they’d like to go, they’re fearful of going alone so the solution is finding someone, anyone to do things with. Lastly,
The Follower may be less motivated (dare we say lazy?) to plan things. Instead of putting in the work, they would rather just do what you’re doing and go where you’re going,
allowing them to take a mental break since all they have to do is go along with the travel plans you’ve already arranged.
8 The Elitist (Not So Great)
Unlike The Complainer, The Elitist doesn’t complain at all. They have no need to since they’re able to afford the finer things in life and are lucky enough to see firsthand what money can buy. It’s nothing but the best for them. Before setting foot abroad, they ensure that everything is topnotch and won’t settle for anything less.
It’s easy to categorize the elitist as a snob if you’re not this travel type and you’re on the outside looking in, but to the like-minded, they’re just the average traveler doing what all travelers do, not realizing most people can’t afford the 35 to 80-dollar price range for a cup of Kopi Luwak coffee.
The Elitist doesn’t stay in a hostel, but a very nice hotel or an island beach resort, which they rarely venture off of, and have little to do with locals. Saying that they summer in X and winter in Y is going a little too far, but not by much. They’re that person you meet at the table across from you in that pricey restaurant you were only able to afford only because it’s the last night of your trip and you had some money left over to treat yourself. After striking up a conversation with them, you learn that A: rich people don’t only exist on TV, and B: life isn’t fair. The only thing their money can’t buy them is perspective, and theirs is quite limited. Fine dining and expensive hotels are great, but without genuine exchanges with locals or some type of adversity or adventure, travel can feel a little empty.
7 The Thrill-seeker (Not So Great)
In theory, we all want to meet The Thrill-seeker while traveling, especially if we’re on vacation. They’re type of person that’s the life of the party and fun to be around with a positive energy and a smile. But in reality, how many of us want to party 24/7? They behave as if they have no awareness of the fact that they’re in a different country which sometimes proves to be their downfall. With little to no respect for the social taboos or laws of the country they’re visiting. The Thrill-seeker is full of bad ideas all in the purpose of having a great time even if their idea of fun is no one else’s. They like to push the legal limits and are willing to test fate regardless of the country they’re in. Dressing inappropriately, going bare in public, and loud behavior are just some examples of what you might expect from them. Stories about travelers getting into trouble, being arrested, or worse abroad are not just urban legend. The small acts of rebellion that The Thrill-seeker commits could lead to serious repercussions down the line. Hanging out with The Thrill-seeker is fun at first, but sooner or later, you’ll pay the price.
6 The Local Wannabe (Not So Great)
When abroad, we’re often in search of authenticity. We want and expect the real deal from local people, places, and things instead of anything tailored to suit tourists’ tastes. To be like a local is a common aspect of travel that often gets highlighted to appeal to and attract travelers. The Local Wannabe takes this idea literally, trying just a little too hard in their efforts to show their appreciation for the culture of the country they’re visiting. It’s said that imitation is the biggest form of flattery, but that’s not always the case because although their intentions are good, the Local Wannabe’s behavior can seem silly, embarrassing, or even look ridiculous.
No one wants to dress or act like the stereotypical awkward tourist, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, and there’s a way to show appreciation for the local culture without going overboard.
It’s always best to think twice and learn more before you decide to wear that traditional item of clothing, use that new local slang you learned last night at the bar, or try out the customary greeting on the hotel staff lest you be accused of being insensitive, or worse, a cultural appropriator.
5 The Nature Lover (Great)
For decades, humans have taken nature for granted and now we’re paying the price. Clean air, fresh water, and trees are not limitless as we once thought, evidenced by the depletion of Earth’s natural resources. Large percentages of the Amazon rainforest, more than 20 percent is already gone, and 150 acres are lost every minute of every day. According to theworldcounts.com, “The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predict that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will have no water to drink.” These facts impact The Nature Lover, who shows the appreciation and respect for nature that we all should. This traveler type loves being outdoors and is always up for a hike, a walk in the woods, or a swim in fresh lake water. More than that, they lead by example, trying to reduce their carbon footprint and leave things in nature the way they found them. Their enthusiasm for the great outdoors is certainly catching, and they might actually make you rethink where you’ll head for your next trip. Instead of spending your vacation time in a shopping mall or a busy city, it might be a good idea to take a page from The Nature Lover’s book and try camping, surrounded by peace and quiet, appreciating all that nature has to offer before it’s gone.
4 The Exchange Student (Great)
Many people study abroad as part of their school program. The Exchange Student isn’t like most of the travelers on this list because they’re staying in their destination for an extended period of time. This is good news because if you meet them while on a trip and get along, there’s plenty of chances to see them again, resulting in a potential lifelong friendship. If you happen to cross paths with The Exchange Student when they’ve only just arrived, they can be reminiscent of The First Timer, perhaps slightly wide-eyed and innocent, open to exploration and trying new things. They’ll most likely have a lot of free time on their hands between exams and be willing to skip doing homework to join you in some sightseeing. Conversely, if they’ve been living in the destination for a while by the time you show up, they could be similar to The Seasoned Pro and be able to give good advice and show you the best places to go for a meal or a night out at reasonable prices.
The Exchange Student is usually on a budget and hanging out with them could save you a bit of money if you don’t mind adopting the life of a college or university student for a week or two.
Revisiting your partying school days might be fun.
3 The (Overly) Friendly Traveler (Not So Great)
Is it possible for someone to be too nice? A question for the philosophers perhaps. But meanwhile, many of us have met The Overly Friendly Traveler, someone who fits the definition. Most of us have ups and downs and don’t always feel like being social even while on holiday. Sometimes, we just want a quiet moment to ourselves. We put on our sunglasses to avoid eye contact, have our earbuds in, or bury our head in a book. But The Overly Friendly Traveler, who’s chatty, smiley, and cheerful doesn’t pick up on the hint. They assume you want some company because why wouldn’t you? The Overly Friendly traveler is always up for a chat and enthusiastic about everything you have to say. The worst part is, they’re not asking questions to be nosy, they’re sincerely interested. They’re so friendly, in fact, that you begin to wonder if they’re some kind of scam artist or if there’s a hidden television camera nearby. They also seem to be everywhere all the time. They happen to be on the same tour, you run into them at the bar, and there they are at breakfast, asking you to join them. You feel bad trying to avoid them, but we can’t all have the same happy positive energy The Overly Friendly Traveler exudes nonstop.
2 The Business Traveler (Great)
Even for those of us who prefer to travel alone, there are moments within our trip where we want to change it up a bit, be more social, and find someone to do a few activities with. The Business Traveler is the perfect person for this type of scenario.
They’re the ones at the hostel or hotel who are constantly on their phone, typing away furiously at their laptop or writing notes. Their time is limited and work is a priority, so when they do make time to go sightseeing, it’s a quick and simple visit. Like you, they just want someone to hang out with temporarily without any entanglements or commitments.
Intentions are clear going in—you won’t be lifelong friends, and you won’t be adding each other on your social media accounts. There not many intrusive questions and everything remains surface. The Business Traveler might not be an actual business person, but a traveler whose behavior is business-like—efficient, calculated, and goal-oriented. They may even be a little detached or serious, but this traveler type is there to remind us that not every person we meet and spend time with while traveling is meant to stay in our lives forever. Some relationships are meant to be a brief affair after which you each happily go about your own separate ways.
1 The Seasoned Pro (Great)
At the opposite end of the traveler-type spectrum from The First Timer is The Seasoned Pro, who has more stamps in their passport than they can count.
You definitely want to be with this traveler because unlike The Know-it-all, they really do know what they’re talking about and you can trust their judgement. If you’re bad at planning a travel itinerary, The Seasoned Pro is there with good advice, and they love to share whatever information they have.
Organized and travel savvy, with years of experience under their belt, they’ve been to many destinations multiple times, picked up a few useful phrases in several languages along the way, and learned from their travel mistakes. Whereas travel for most of us simply means two weeks off from the daily grind, for The Seasoned Pro, it’s more like a way of life. They’re a citizen of the world, good with people, able to hold court with anyone (from the well-heeled to the masses) without seeming out of place. You couldn’t ask for a better travel companion.