Last week a reader suggested that I wasn’t a real traveler but without qualifying why that was the case. While everyone is entitled to their opinion without justification or explanation, it got me thinking – what constitutes a “real traveler?”
The biggest question is what qualifies a “real traveler,” and not whether one achieves it. Deciding what qualifies though could be tough because the subject matter is remarkably subjective. It might be easier to think about what components would disqualify you as a “real traveler.” First, let’s explore a few types of travelers.
The Road Warrior
My husband kind of fits into this category now, though some have it worse (or better?) This is the weekly business traveler that flies 100,000+ miles year, (and for the truly unfortunate) qualifies for top-tier status by segments. They stay in hotels 100-200 nights/year and their travel is mostly domestic. They speak in airport codes and evaluate others by whether or not they can breeze through TSA in under 90 seconds. These travelers spend more time in airports and hotels than almost any other kind of traveler, but don’t have much time for vacations and who would want to get on a plane and stay in a hotel when you’re rarely home anyway? Are they the real travelers?
The Budget Traveler
It’s a whole lot easier to fly first class than hopscotch across the planet on Spirit, Ryan Air, and Scoot. These travelers are seeing the world on a shoestring budget. It is all about the most affordable ways to make a trip happen and seeing as much as you can on as little as possible. Just like Spirit Airlines says, “Less Money. More Go” this group will spend a night in a hotel, in a hostel, a tent – even a friend’s couch – how could this group not be “real travelers?”
First class airplane tickets and beautiful five-star hotel stays are a must for some jet-setters. It would be hard to suggest that activities reserved for the gilded class like flying private, yachting in the Mediterranean, and dining at three-star Michelin restaurants don’t provide at least some credit to being a “real traveler.” You prefer your peanuts served warm from 30,000 ft and your slippers by the bed at turn down service, is this what a “real traveler” looks like?
You’ve experienced all the joy of traveling with children, dealt with a jet-lagged toddler, found a way to pack your whole family in a carry-on suitcase, juggled the car seat and stroller or two, all so that you can share the world with your family. Aren’t you a “real traveler?”
I count countries, so does Matthew, my husband, even our daughter. But we don’t choose our destinations solely on whether or not it will expand our passport stamp collection. Does age factor in? Our four-year old daughter Lucy has been to 24 countries in her first four-years, but compared to someone who has hit 50, 75, she’s a novice. It’s hard to argue that someone who has seen 100+ countries is not a “real traveler,” but what’s the minimum if this is the criteria?
London, Paris, New York City – those are standard issue destinations and not for “real travelers” according to some. The real travelers have climbed Kilimanjaro, photographed penguins in Antarctica, been lucky enough to visit Bhutan – twice. Seeing the wonders of the world and swimming in all of the oceans over a lifetime might qualify, but is there a frequency component? This group has a decent claim, but do extreme destinations alone don you the title of a “real traveler?”
Certainly you have to be a “real traveler” if you’re not even paying for your trips, right? You know all the ways to maximize the mile per dollar and accumulate points. Flights and hotel stays are cashed in so that you can travel the world for free in style. But if travel doesn’t cost anything how important is it to you? And is this group (we are included to a certain extent) cheating the system? I thought cheaters never win.
My Two Cents
Many travelers will fall into more than one of the categories listed above and I’m certain there are loads of other categories altogether. The point is, what may tick the required “real traveler” status boxes for some, might not even touch the surface for others.
Traveling is all about the experience.
The experience you have on your journey from start to finish will define who you are as a traveler and perhaps, as a person. If you can adapt to new places, sometimes tense or scary situations and make the most of an unexpected snafu, it’s impossible not to be shaped into “real traveler.” Can you immerse yourself in a location, attempt a little bit of the language, and try local cuisines? No matter how you got there or where you stay, the ability to step out of your comfort zone and carry yourself as a guest in a new place, is what makes you a “real traveler.”
There are a lot of other words you can use too: nomad, wanderer, wayfarer; but it’s not about what title you give yourself that even matters, it’s about what you take away from your journeys that will make a world of difference.
That’s what makes you a “real traveler.”
Do you think there are qualifications that make you a real traveler? If so, what are they?