What defines a ‘real’ traveler?

I often hear people comment on other peoples travel styles with remarks such as ‘oh if they haven’t done that then they are not a real traveler’ or ‘only real travelers can say they have been there’ etc etc (heck if I’m being honest I’ve even been the person to make those remarks)

And it has got me thinking, what defines a ‘real’ traveler and what kind of traveler am I? It is such a subjective topic and everyone has their own opinion on the best way to travel. The dictionary defines a traveler as “a person who is traveling or who often travels”

I like this definition because it leaves the concept open to many different interpretations because in truth, there is no ‘best way’ to travel. Everyone is different and just like everyone does not like the same foods, everyone does not like to travel in the same manner. It doesn’t make one way better than another it just makes those people different.

Personally I have; backpacked on a shoe-string, traveled solo and in groups, done an organised tour, been on a high end vacation, done a whirlwind trip, traveled very slowly, worked on the road, flashpacked and done the one way ticket thing. I have made many mistakes while traveling and I have defiantly traveled in ways which I wouldn’t again. But if I never experienced all that I have I wouldn’t truly know how I like to travel.
Personally, I like to backpack and get off the beaten track but I am also not opposed to seeing the main tourist attractions because there is a reason all those people go to see that one thing! I am a massive organiser and nothing gives me more pleasure than sitting down and researching different destinations (for myself or others), creating routes, coming up with cheap ways to get there etc. However, while traveling in Central America I discovered that it is really nice not to have a plan sometimes and just to go with the flow. So when I set out on my next trip I resolved to ‘never plan ahead again’ because you know, that’s what a real traveler does…ha! Then I realised that this is idiotic, if I like to plan and research, I should! So now I am at a happy middle ground where I have tentative plans but am willing to change them.

I guess what I am getting at is that we should stop judging other people on how they like to travel (I am going to take my own advice here!). Sure it isn’t how you would do it but it doesn’t mean it is wrong and and it certainly doesn’t make them any less of a traveler. We should be encouraging everyone in the travel community and fostering their inquisitiveness, not making them feel self conscious about how they choose to travel. Let your friends make their own travel faux pas – I am sure when you were a kid and your parents kept telling you not to jump off the back of the couch it only made you want to do it more! Its the same with travel, it is in a persons nature to want to try everything out for themselves and make their own mistakes – because after all we are all different – what works for you may not work for me and vice versa. Plus, how boring would it be to live in a world where everyone traveled in the same way…I mean it would be pretty impossible to get off that beaten track if that’s the track everyone was choosing to take.


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