What kind of traveller are you?

different types of travellers on plaza

So many different types of travellers… do you know which type you are? (Photo: Moyan Brenn, edited)

Do you love travel? Since you’re reading this blog, you probably do. People travel for many different reasons. And this creates different types of travellers. I’ve found that travellers broadly fall into five different categories. Do you want to know how to recognize them? And want to find out what kind of traveller you are? Read on!

The Backpacker

A Backpacker isn’t defined by wearing a backpack. Rather backpacking is an attitude towards travel, and for some even a way of life. The Backpacker usually has plenty of time on his hands, but money is tight. That makes him want to get the maximum amount of travel out of his dollar. He avoids expensive hotels and restaurants, opting to spend the money on a prolonged journey instead. Most backpackers are young and filling a gap year, or have taken extended leave from their normal lives. And some have even quit normality for an indefinite period of time, enjoying the world one hostel at a time.

backpackers in a hostel

It’s not the backpack that makes the backpacker.

You can recognize Backpackers by where you encounter them. They favor hostels as accommodation like no others. They are magically drawn to backpacker hotspots like Khao San Road and Cusco, because things are the cheapest there. And yes, they often do carry a backpack, simply because it’s the most convenient type of luggage for this way of travelling.

If you’re a Backpacker you probably know it already, if only because plenty of people will have called you that. If not, try answering these questions. Would you take a 16-hour bus ride on a bumpy road to save $75 on a plane ticket? Do you rather drink cans of beer out on the streets with other strapped-for-cash travellers than visit a famous local bar? Are you travelling without having a return flight booked? That’s right, you’re a Backpacker!

The Tourist

The tourist typically travels for a short time, when he can take a vacation from his busy day-to-day life. Since his time is limited, he wants to get the maximum out of a trip. Also, because he spends most time working a steady job at home, the tourist has enough money to spend on his vacation. A Tourist will usually join an organized tour, or travel a well-signposted route. He doesn’t mind being in a crowd, as long as he gets to see the most important sights of a famous hotspot.

The telltale sign of a tourist is that they are usually being led around by someone else. Because they didn’t have the time to research their journey, instead they opted to pay for a ready-made package. See a group of people with cameras following someone with a small flag or umbrella? A sure sign they are Tourists.

Most people don’t like to think of themselves as tourists. But think about your own situation. Are you too busy to worry about the logistics of your vacation? Do you want to make sure to get the best of a destination, without having to do all the research yourself? And do you not mind stimulating the local economy by buying a package tour or hiring a private guide? Then you may well be a Tourist. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Scholar

The scholar travels to gain a greater knowledge and understanding. Whether it’s about culture, history, architecture, or local cuisine, the scholar wants to learn as much as possible. The Scholar starts his journey long before leaving home. He reads books and websites to get background information about his journey. Once on the road your typical scholar spends a significant amount of time inside museums, and otherwise he roams around archaeological sites or areas of historic interest. A meal isn’t so much a party for the palate as it is a way to understand local tastes.

british museum traveller

The British Musum… a Scholar can spend days on end here, and forget about the rest of London.

If the person sitting next to you on the plane is reading the “history of…” section of his guidebook rather than the “what to see”, you might be dealing with a Scholar. A more sure way to recognise the scholar is that he reads every informational plaque along the way. He spends more time than anyone else with his nose in a guidebook, and he’s the one always asking questions during guided tours. Also when back home, you’ll often get a “Did you know…” if you ask him how his vacation was.

What about you? Is travelling more a way to learn for you than a way to enjoy the world? Would you pick Vicksburg over Las Vegas any time? Is your favourite way to explore a city by taking a ‘historical walking tour’ with explanations? Then there’s probably a Scholar in you.

The Explorer

For the Explorer the world is a mystery yet to be discovered. He is driven by curiosity, but maybe even more by the desire to uncover places that nobody knows about yet. The explorer shuns guide books and sites like Tripadvisor. Instead he relies on advice from locals about places that have seen few tourists yet. He is the kind of traveller who picks a destination just because it’s ‘off the beaten path’.

Off the beaten path travel

This place is sufficiently off the beaten path to lure the Explorer.

How do you spot an explorer? You will usually not encounter them in popular tourist destinations. And if you do, they are complaining about how spoiled the place is, and how there’s nothing of the real [insert your country here] left. They also tend to have a knack for dealing with the locals, and if you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, an explorer may be the best ally you can encounter.

Do you think you’re an explorer? Look at your last five trips: were none of them on the list of 100 places to visit before you die? Do you avoid the Lonely Planet guide books like the plague? And are you irresistably drawn to places about which others say “there’s nothing to see there”? Then you’re definitely an explorer.

The Escapist

Not everyone travels to see other places and have new experiences. For the escapist travel is simply a way to get away from something else. They look for places that are as little like what they call home. If they are from a busy city environment they may book a beach vacation. But in the same vein you may find an escapist from the dull countryside hitting the night clubs in a metropolis. For the escapist the most important thing is that their phone isn’t ringing and that they are not compelled to check their email every five minutes.

The way to spot an Escapist is when you’re asking yourself: “Why on earth would you spend a vacation like that?” You meet someone who has been doing nothing but lie on the beach all day for a week? You see a foreigner sitting on the porch of his wooden cabin all day reading, there’s a good chance he’s an Escapist.

Are you an Escapist? Do you leave your smartphone in airplane mode after you’ve reached your destination? Do you enjoy ‘doing nothing’ when on vacation? Do you care more about the peace and quiet than about the attractions your travels have to offer? These are sure signs that there is an Escapist in you.

What’s your type?

And, what kind of traveller are you? Did you recognize yourself in one of the traveller types? Or perhaps you have a little bit of all of them in you? Let me know in the comments section below.

Whichever type of traveller you are, travelling can be very rewarding. If you want to read more blog posts about travel, take a look at the ‘travel‘ section of this website.


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