What makes a real traveller? This is a question that has plagued me ever since my first experience travelling (for longer than just a short trip or holiday) when I went to Australia and travelled the East Coast for 4 weeks (and New Zealand for 3). Even now when I tell people I did it in 4 weeks they are shocked I managed it in such a short amount of time. I don’t think I met a single other traveller doing it in such a short time period; the majority of people had 3 months to do it in and to be honest I felt like a bit of a fraud. I didn’t feel like a “real” traveller. I felt more like I was just on an extended holiday. Or should I say other travellers inadvertently made me feel that way even though I still had an amazing time on the trip.
Something niggled at me though and I had this desire to do another trip, a longer trip where I had no solid plans and no real end date. It was the inspiration for my epic south east Asia adventure, which I’m on right now. And yet, despite travelling for almost 5 months, I fell into the same trap as before, booking everything up in advance and having a deadline for when I needed to come home. Before I came away I worried whether I had done the right thing or whether I had rushed into this but as time has gone on I’ve come to realise a lot about myself and how I like to travel.
I like having a plan. I like booking things in advance and saving time and hassle trekking about looking for a place to stay. I also like having an end date. Actually the reason I’m going home at a certain time is a pretty exciting one as two of my close friends are getting married! I also didn’t expect to be with my boyfriend and for us to have exciting plans to come back to as well. There’s nothing stopping me coming back for a bit and then setting off again either and there’s nothing stopping me from doing another trip in the future, one without an end date and maybe booking things as I go along.
The bottom line is the way I’ve done this trip suits me and where I am in my life right now. Slowly I’m starting to let go of this idea of what a “real” traveller is. On the road you will meet all sorts of people. I met a woman who pretty much only went to visit remote tribes that no other tourists go to. I’ve met people who are mostly interested in the party places and finding exotic locations to get drunk in. I’ve met people who are just away for a few weeks and people who have been travelling for a year or more. I’ve met people who don’t know where they will be a day from now and people like me who have all their travel figured out and many more who are somewhere in the middle.
I just want travellers to know, especially first time travellers, that there is no perfect way to travel, only your way to travel. You might meet people who question the way you are doing things but also you will probably meet people who are jealous of the way you’re doing things. The style of travel depends on your personality, how it fits in with the rest of your life, your budget, your comfort zones and time scale. How can there possibly be one “real” way to travel with all those factors?
Don’t be afraid to do things your way and never let anyone else make you feel inadequate. Travel is about diversity, experiencing new things and learning about yourself. If you can achieve those things even to a small degree then in my eyes you are most definitely a real traveller.