Growing Into Your Style of Travel
It’s been five years since I started travelling, two and a half since I’ve been living nomadically, and a lot has changed. Back in 2009, I thought I would always be a die-hard backpacker; slumming it in cheap or free accommodation, seeking out experiences as far from civilization as possible, and spending most nights partying until dawn.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that I now work full time on the road, am all partied out, or perhaps it’s simply getting that little bit older, but now, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s strange to look back on the conversations I had at 22 proclaiming that all I wanted to do was live in a hut in the jungle in Costa Rica.
I don’t. I really, really don’t.
Maybe for a month or two, but permanently? Heck no.
When you’ve been travelling for an extended period of time, especially during such a pivotal era of change as your 20s, it’s interesting to look back on how your travel style has developed. There are means of travel that I’m considering now with almost a sidenote of apology for my former self, like I’m betraying a way of life I used to be such an ambassador for.
That said, it’s a satisfying feeling to grow up and realise that it’s okay to do your own thing, travel however you damn well please, and not conform to that backpacker stereotype. Pack only two t-shirts, sleep only in a room with a minimum of seven other people, and heaven forbid you should let the ground do the work instead of opting to carry everything on your back.
I’ll happily wave goodbye to that mindset.
With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of how my travel style has changed. My questions to you are you read this are – can you relate? How has your travel style changed?
Gone are my hostel dorm days. I knew that I’d eventually wave goodbye to sleeping in the same room as strangers, diligently locking my valuables away, and begrudgingly wearing earplugs each night, but I didn’t think it would be quite this soon. Through a lot of hard work, I’m thankfully earning a little more money while travelling now, and can get away from all the annoyances of hostel dorm life – hopefully for good.
As the spectrum for accommodation options continues to grow, I actually feel that staying in a dorm is unnecessary in some parts of the world, in terms of saving money. You can often find your own room with AirBnB for the same price as a hostel, and in some cases for free with Couchsurfing. Over the years, I’ve learnt to dig deeper for accommodation options, and now feel that hostels are not the only way to sleep cheap.
Even the social aspect of hostels is something I’m learning to live without. While I do miss it on occasion because I travel alone and need to meet people, when I have to get work done a hostel is the worst place for me. I would happily stay in one on a trip with friends, but they’re often not the best place to be if you want to get anything done and wake up without a hangover. I’m way too easily persuaded into having a few beers, so it’s best just to cut me off from the environment entirely!
I will always look back on my hostel travels with fond memories – my party-all-night-sleep-all-day years – and not regret a single moment of it because it’s how I grew into becoming the traveller I am today. But I in no way long for those days to return; this is a welcome change in my travel style.
I’m currently going through a serious struggle with luggage.
I’ve been doing some travelling around Poland and Germany for the last 3 weeks, and every time I turn up to a hotel sweating and short of breath with 17.5kg on my back and 8kg on my front, I mutter to myself ‘Why the f*ck am I carrying all of this?!’
I’m sure the backpack/suitcase subject has caused many a debate with travellers over the years, and I’m going through the pros and cons in my head even as we speak. While my backpack has been with me throughout my entire journey (it was bought for me by my brother as I set out for my very first trip five years ago) I cannot help but dread that moment when I have to get it on my back and carry it to my next destination.
And that’s the point I get to where I think ‘WHY?! WHY AM I DOING THIS?! I just wish I had a suitcase.’
Before you say it – yes, I have considered packing less, but my backpack contains gear for all seasons as I never know where I’m going to next. Right now it’s at its most streamline, and it’s still a pain to carry around. So, for the first time ever, I’m switching to a suitcase, just as a test run over the next couple of months.
While it might seem trivial to some, that moment I repack and put my backpack up in my Mum’s attic will feel like such a significant transition. Most of that is due to my sentimentality, but for me it’s a statement showing how much things have changed, and was the driving force behind this article in the first place.
But, as they say, change is good.
(…I think. I don’t know, I’m still going through this one. If you feel as sentimental about your backpack, tell me in the comments below!)
Methods of Travel
When I first started travelling, I thought there was only one way for me – free to the wind, without anyone to hold my hand, completely independent from outside organisation. I still feel like this is very much my style, but having worked in the marketing department for a tour company within the last year, the benefits of other methods of travel have made themselves known.
I’m not saying I’m going to join a 2-week organised tour any time soon, but day tours and some walking tours have been on my radar recently. For anything that I’m paying for, I would stick with the more unique, local tours that give you access to the side of a city you otherwise wouldn’t see, but there are also benefits of joining a more conventional tour.
If there’s a free walking tour available in the city you’re visiting, it’s sometimes worth hopping on just to lay down the foundations of your local knowledge, and build on that yourself for the rest of your time there. If it’s boring, bail halfway through – no biggie. This is some advice I may never have dished out a couple of years ago.
This stage is in major mid-transition. I’ve not felt myself shift away from free travel yet, and won’t do for a long time, but ideas creep into my head about other travel opportunities. One example is cruises. These have never been something that I’d consider, and while I don’t think I’ll ever take a cruise around the Mediterranean, I think it would be interesting to go to somewhere like the Polar Regions, somewhere more isolated that suits the cruise life. I think the traditional cruise is changing, and is becoming much more interesting, with companies like Travel Associates, for example.
Want to know some fun facts about cruising? Take this quiz! (Confession: I didn’t know half of these answers…!)
Quiz break over. (How did you do?)
I think the more I’ve seen and experienced as I travel, the more I’ve become open to all the different ways there are to see the world. As open-minded as I thought I was at 20, I feel it’s nothing in comparison to the way I see about travel now.
Having the knowledge to realise that all methods of travel are as valid as each other, and that no one method is more valuable than the other is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt as my travel style has changed.
I’ll put my hands up at say that at the beginning, I was one of those people that thought there were better ways to travel than others. I think, when they start out, every backpacker believes that. They might not realise it, but in general, they do.
But that’s just not true. I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again – travel in whatever style that makes you the happiest.
As I set out on my first travel trip back in 2009, I was excited to go everywhere and see everything. I wanted to race around the world and visit as many places as possible. While I still have a certain hunger for exploration, I’ve slowly learnt to value taking my time, and staying in one place to really immerse myself in its culture.
This is yet another, in my opinion, extremely beneficial way that my travel style has changed over the years. On the odd occasion I will still only spend a few days in one place, but I remind myself that I can always go back to the places I love, and stay there for a while.
That sense of emergency that you have to see everything while you can has disappeared from my way of thinking – I know that the world is out there waiting for me, and it’s only a matter of time before I get to the next place I’ll fall in love with.
I’ve grown a little bit wiser, a little more patient, a touch more relaxed, a just a bit more easily exhausted in my relationship with travel. I don’t look back on any of these things and wish they’d never changed. Each is a welcome refresher in the way I live.
I think the overall realisation that comes with all of these changes is that it’s okay to travel how you want to. As much as extremist or seriously experienced travellers might tell you there is one way better than the other – there isn’t.
It’s personal. And it’s okay to go through these changes to find your own way of travelling.
As with everything in life, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to be you. You need to be you.
Your travel experiences are yours, and no one else’s.
I think, five years ago, I was trying to fit into what I was being told (consciously or subconsciously) was the right way to travel. I think all the above changes came about because I’m more confident in myself and what I want, and realised that I prefer a different style. I don’t wish I had started travelling like this in the first place – I’m grateful that I experienced all of that to reach this point, and I’m sure it’ll happen all over again and I’ll be writing a new story in five more years.
What I’m trying to say is don’t travel a certain way because that’s what you think you should be doing. Because that’s what travellers at your age do, or your friendship group do.
Travel in whatever way that makes you happy, and experiment with travel to settle into your own style. I think I’m still figuring out mine, but it’s been one hell of a journey so far.
What’s your travel style? Do you think you travel style has changed or will change over the years?