BlogRants/Thoughts

Is There Really a Right Way to Travel?

Do some people have better experiences than others while travelling? Do certain travel styles make our trips more meaningful and authentic? A lot of people seem to think so, so I decided to investigate. I’ll give you my opinion on some common travel styles and then tell you why I don’t follow any of them.

Slow travel

This has to be one of the hippest travel styles in town at the moment. It basically means spending a long time (often months) in the same place and really “getting to know it” better than those people who only spend a few days there. Fans of slow travel often look down on people who opt to see more places but spend less time in them. They think that “fast travellers” are just ticking things off of a list and aren’t really experiencing anything. Is that really true? Let’s examine fast travel…

Fast Travel

So, you’ve got a 2 week vacation and you’re off to see a new country. Do you try and fit in as much as you can or do you just concentrate on one area? If you choose the first option you run the risk of other travellers looking down on your travel plans and judging you for “not getting to know a place and just being a tourist”. I’ve seen this attitude first hand a few times (and many times on the internet) and it really annoys me. People who want to see a lot of sights aren’t just doing it to tick them off a list; they’re visiting these sights because they are genuinely interested in them. Do people go to the Coliseum in Rome just to take a selfie and say they’ve been there? No, they go because the Coliseum is an amazing and iconic piece of humanity’s history. The same can be said of a lot of tourist attractions. Do I think cramming as many sights in as possible is the best way to travel? Not really, but sometimes it needs to be done, and it doesn’t mean those who do it are having any less of an “experience” than anyone else.

coliseum-rome

The all inclusive resort

This is one that travel snobs love to look down on. They say that those who stay at all inclusive resorts aren’t seeing the real country, but what they don’t realise is that they don’t want to see the real country (whatever that is anyway, check out this post on the subject). There’s nothing wrong with spending what few vacation days you have a year on a nice beach drinking exotic cocktails and working on your tan. We don’t all have the same goals and desires for our travels, and even those of us who usually travel on the cheap need some luxury beach time every now and again.

resort-maldivesA resort island in the Maldives

The group tour/cruise

The group tour is another unfashionable travel style these days. It can be argued that people on large group tours don’t really mingle with the locals or get off the beaten path, but again, not everyone wants to do that. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a country through the window of a bus surrounded by people from your own country. It’s definitely not the style I’d choose (and it is kind of annoying when a huge tour bus turns up to an otherwise quiet place), but each to their own!

Budget backpacking

This travel style often involves crowded dorms, lots of drinking with fellow backpackers and cheap, local transport. Backpackers often have a bad reputation and also often get accused of staying within their foreign bubbles and not really “seeing” a country. But really, the term backpacking can apply to so many different kinds of travellers. I’d call myself a backpacker (mainly because I carry a backpack) but I hardly ever sleep in dorms, I don’t like reggae music and I occasionally splash out on the odd luxury.

budget-backpacking

Going local

Another fashionable travel style, the “going local” aficionado often has an inflated opinion of themselves and their travels, like going local is the only way to see a place and have an authentic experience. I tend to “go local” (I hate that term though) quite often, by taking local transport and eating at local restaurants (although I’ll always crave western food from time to time), but I try not to be too smug about it which is something most local travel converts find very hard to do. Does going local make our travels so much better and more meaningful than someone who eats a lot of McDonald’s and only takes tourist transport? Probably not, as we all have our own reasons and goals for travelling (and locals eat at McDonald’s too!).

local-travel

My travel style: self indulgent travel

Disclaimer: By self indulgent I don’t mean having a complete disregard for other people, wildlife, the environment or the law.

Self indulgent travel means travelling without a style. People who rigidly identify with a travel style start to become defined by it and stuck with it. Self indulgent travel means waking up each morning and asking yourself exactly what you’d like to do that day. Maybe you want to relax by the pool sipping martinis. Maybe you want to get to know the locals by joining a Couchsurfing meet up. Maybe you don’t feel up to taking yet another rough local bus and decide to hire a driver. The point is that you should enjoy your travels, don’t get stuck trying to do it better than other people. I’ve sampled most travel styles over the last few years and have enjoyed aspects of all of them. I travelled fast through Europe, seeing amazing places I’d dreamed of since I was a kid. I’ve travelled slowly through Asia, getting to know the local people, culture and food. I’ve got drunk with both backpackers and locals. I’ve been on buses where I was the only tourist and I’ve been on buses without a single local. Travel is great, however you choose to do it.

Do you think there is a right way to travel? What is your travel style? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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15 Comments

  1. June 30, 2015 at 12:17 pm — Reply

    We love to travel any way we can. We travel around from place to place in many different ways. sometimes fast sometimes slow, We’ve even enjoyed some all inclusive and tours in the past.
    We don’t like when people put other styles of travel down either, we like taking the good out of every place we go and every experience we have… no matter what happens.
    so SELF INDULGENT TRAVEL is probably the way to explain us too!
    thanks for the share!

    • Jon Algie
      July 1, 2015 at 5:32 am — Reply

      Yip, there’s definitely no right answer when it comes to travel, and variety is always a good thing!

  2. June 30, 2015 at 12:39 pm — Reply

    Any travel is good travel! Even all-inclusive resorts and group tours hire locals on staff which boosts the local economy.

    We call ourselves ‘slow travelers’ but we don’t always have the time or money to fully practice it. When we’ve done ‘fast’ travel it’s usually just to suss out a place to see if we want to return. Usually we know in advance that we don’t really want to hang out there too long, and usually we’re right.

    I do think that talking to (or living with!) locals teaches you more about a place than a tour guide could – and this applies to heading over to your neighboring state as well as somewhere across the globe! I also think that there are so many opportunities to give back to local communities as you travel. Even stopping to help students practice their English affords a great mutual learning opportunity…

    • Jon Algie
      July 1, 2015 at 5:36 am — Reply

      Yeah people always say stay at small local hotels etc but those resorts must hire a lot of local people! Very few people have the opportunity or desire to truly travel slow, which I guess means that some of those people that do become pretty smug about it.

  3. June 30, 2015 at 3:59 pm — Reply

    This is a very interesting article. Although I do not agree with the main thesis nor with the typology it caught my attention. Well, I do believe that some ways of traveling are better than others in terms of authenticity. I totally agree on the right to travel as you want, including all inclusive offers (if you’re working hard all year round this is exactly what you need!). I don’t mind when people stick to the luxury hotels, beaches, drinks and pools.

    But what I do mind is calling it “traveling the world”.

    It is fair to spend your holiday this way but please when you’re telling a story afterward tell the true: I spent 2 weeks at the pool in Barbados. Please, don’t try to convince anyone that you experienced anything else! The way I see it is that people who spent a holiday at the pool tend to describe it as a real adventure.

    P.S. I think that the style of traveling mirrors who we are. And doing something else does not fit.

    • Jon Algie
      July 1, 2015 at 5:39 am — Reply

      I’m all for travelling the way you want to, be that slow travel or whatever. It’s just the arrogance that comes along with it that annoys me. The word “authentic” annoys me too when it comes to travel! Also, spending 2 weeks by a pool in Barbados probably is an adventure for a lot of people (they will likely do the occasional tour or day trip) and I don’t really think anyone has the right to tell them it isn’t.

  4. June 30, 2015 at 5:03 pm — Reply

    Hi Jon,

    I like the concept of self indulgent travel! It somehow fits to my way of traveling (I define myself as a Flashpacker, as I travel with a backpack, like to stay in hostels but no party hostels and no dorms, splurge once in a while, and want a mix of slower travel but still seeing enough).

    This discussions from fellow travel bloggers telling you YOU HAVE TO do this and that and this but not that is quite mind-boggling and sick in my opinion, and I like the way you dress it.

    Yes, people should be free to go to an All-In Club for one week. Some of my best friends do it, and explain that if you are a bunch of 10 with children, it’s a great option to relax. And with children, you will want to relax… Yes, people should be free to go on cruises (I personally hate it when one of those sea giants bring 3.000 tourists at one spot at one time)…

    And yes, I have another way of traveling. But not everyone wants to spend his 2 or 3 weeks of holidays in a cramped chicken bus on some African dust-road…

    Thanks for your very balanced approach of this subject. Very refreshing from what we can read currently.

    Cheers, Gilles

    • Jon Algie
      July 1, 2015 at 5:42 am — Reply

      Thanks Gilles, glad you agree! There are so many reasons for people to travel the way they do and it annoys me when people don’t take any of that into account and just say “I’m doing it better than you, why don’t you start being more adventurous” etc. I guess travel bloggers feel the need to come across as experts and this explains it to some degree, but it’s definitely not just travel bloggers who do it!

  5. July 1, 2015 at 10:34 am — Reply

    Yes! Self-indulgent travel. Perfect word. Do what you feel like doing, do what makes sense to you. If you can experience luxury within budget, go ahead. If you are a backpacker but don’t fancy the party hostels, awesome. We definitely don’t see why anyone need define their style, or stick to a certain way of doing it, travel isn’t supposed to be labelled after all, its all about the experience!

    • Jon Algie
      July 4, 2015 at 7:00 am — Reply

      Cheers Hannah, glad you enjoyed the post. I hope your travels in Australia are going well!

  6. July 6, 2015 at 3:28 pm — Reply

    Jon, I’m right there with you on Self-indulgent travel. I also agree that people seem to pigeonhole themselves into one “brand” of travel, and then judge others on the ways they’re “doing it wrong.” I try to enjoy the food of a place, first and foremost. My belly will agree on that one, haha. But that’s not all of it, yeah? It’s not just about your plans but the place that might dictate how you travel.

    My wife and I have done a few of these that you listed except the group tours. They are quite the nuisance here in Korea and make me never want to join, though the premise is nice when thinking about it. Why not join up with a group and save yourself the hassle of driving to a place and dealing with all the logistics? Still, I just can’t do it. Have you done one before? I didn’t see you mention it in the post.

    I do think that above all, one should try and get a feel for a place. That involves at least talking with some locals or just something simple, like getting a much needed shave and a haircut in Palawan. I had to do that when we were there, thanks to me not packing a shaver and seeing that they’d do it for a couple of dollars. I have to say that it was the best $2 haircut a man could buy! Plus, I chatted it up with a few people while hoping they didn’t botch it in the process. Haha!

    Thanks for sharing this thoughtful post with us, Jon! It really made me think about how I travel, and how people are certainly wrong for judging others. Take care and I’ll be looking forward to more from you!

    • Jon Algie
      July 8, 2015 at 11:00 am — Reply

      Haha yeah I bet, I’ve seen places overrun with Korean tour buses elsewhere in Asia, pretty annoying! I remember getting a lot of haircuts in Asia, definitely a good way to get to know some locals, especially if they don’t get many foreigners in – they get pretty excited!

  7. July 9, 2015 at 12:15 am — Reply

    Great post! I hate the snobbery around ‘how’ people travel and the labels of ‘traveller’ and ‘tourist’ – people travel for all sorts of reasons and if they gain get what they want from it then that’s great. How boring would it be if we all wanted exactly the same thing!

    I find it funny when tourists (although they probably wouldn’t call themselves that) complain about other tourists!

    For me, the most important thing is to treat whoever you happen to come across with respect.

    • Jon Algie
      July 17, 2015 at 8:27 am — Reply

      Well said Ruth, tourists complaining about other tourists is one that annoys me too!

  8. December 22, 2015 at 10:09 am — Reply

    I love this post! I’m right there with you with being annoyed when some travelers think that their way of seeing the world is somehow better. It’s kind of like the parenting wars (which I think are equally ridiculous)! At the end of the day, if you’re happy and healthy, and you’re spending your own money doing what YOU want, that’s all that matters. Everything else is just noise. 😀 I, too, am a self indulgent traveler–I love to mix it up depending on my current attitude, savings, and circumstances. Bring on everything from the Caribbean cruise to the local B&B stay in Europe!

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