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.
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…
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.
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.
A 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!
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.
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!).
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!