As an obsessive wanderer who’s been seeing the world since retiring in 2011, I’ve had the pleasure to meet a wide variety of travelers (well, usually a pleasure). What I’ve noticed is that they tend to have certain types of common personalities — for better or for worse.
Because it is a natural human trait to want to categorize people and — let’s face it — because labeling people is fun, below is a list of the 10 types of people I’ve met on the roads (cobblestone, paved and dirt). Maybe you’ll recognize them, or see yourself. And I’ve also offered suggestions on how to deal with each type. Sometimes, you’ll want to friend them; sometimes, you’ll want to flee.
The Eager Enthusiast (EE)
Eager Enthusiasts are genuinely interested in everything that is presented to them. They love learning how things work as well as the history of the places and landmarks they encounter. EEs revel in the total immersion that comes from traveling. Just turning a new corner puts a smile on their face and a gleam in their eyes. They return home with knowledge, stories and maybe even a new perspective on their world.
Try to spend time with an EE; enthusiasm can be contagious.
The Yesteryear Piner is a destination expert who saw wherever you are a long time ago and thinks things haven't been the same since.
The Miserable Braggart (MB)
While glad to be traveling, the Miserable Braggart thinks it is much cooler to temper excitement with negatives. You’ll often hear an MB say things like: “The airline upgraded me to first class today for free. It would have been great if the prime rib hadn’t been overcooked.” Or: “Everyone is so nice and friendly, here. Well, there goes the alone time I wanted on this trip.” MBs fear being unequivocally happy.
Generally they’re harmless, if a little Debbie Downer-y. Reminding MBs of their little personality quirk can sometimes be greatly entertaining for both of you.
The Irrationally Irritated (II)
While you might think the Irrationally Irritated and the Miserable Braggart are one and the same, the difference is that when complaining, the II means it. An Irrationally Irritated traveler is truly irritated by everything. It is not an act.
The food is never cooked right, nor spiced properly. The beds are either too soft or too hard. An II gets depressed by rain, burned by the sun and annoyed by cloudy weather because the sky just won’t make up its damn mind. To an II, locals are too perky or glum, too wealthy or too poor and the landscape is either too steep, too flat and too boring to bother.
IIs tend to bring everyone down to their level so, whenever possible, try to avoid spending time with them.
The Yesteryear Piner (YP)
The Yesteryear Piner is a destination expert who saw wherever you are a long time ago and thinks things haven’t been the same since. The YP likes pointing out that the spot you’re so excited about visiting was so much better back in the day. You’ll hear something like this: “This place has lost all of its charm since they ruined it by paving the roads and installing electricity.” Or (sighing): “It was so much more popular before it got discovered.”
A YP can add perspective to a trip. Just remember that all experiences are unique and don’t let your fellow traveler’s nostalgia for what was put you off from what is.
The Terrifically Turned-out (TT)
You know the Terrifically Turned Out: Even in a downpour, his or her hair looks perfect. After an otherwise grueling five-hour hike, the TT looks refreshed and ready to tackle the world. Shoes? Always clean and shiny. Clothes? Never wrinkled or showing a spot. When it comes to the Terrificallly Turned-out, everyone hates them; everyone wants to be them.
Don’t be intimidated by TTs. They can’t help it.
The New Newbie (NN)
I confess: The New Newbie is one of my favorite types of travelers. Everything one of these sees, tastes and feels is new and exciting. To an NN, every meal is memorable, no matter how mundane it may be to you. New Newbies love learning the basics about a location and always seem surprised to find that restaurants and grocery stores exist almost everywhere.
Burned-out or weary travelers should seek out NNs so they can refresh themselves and catch their excitement.
The Insulated Traveler (IT)
Not one of my faves: The Insulated Traveler likes the thought of going places as long as no sacrifice of any kind is required. An IT expects doors to be opened, luggage to be carried and atmosphere to be climate-controlled. An Insulated Traveler, of course, has a guide to keep the rabble away and favors airport lounges to steer clear of those who, sadly, “must” travel coach.
I think what bothers me most about ITs is that they can travel for weeks without having a meaningful conversation with a local or eating a meal they couldn’t buy in a restaurant at home. Yes, they go to many exotic places and come home with beautiful pictures, but Insulated Travelers really haven’t learned anything more than they could have from watching The Travel Channel.
I don’t need to offer any advice about them because even though you’ll see ITs in your travels, you probably won’t meet any.
The Perpetual Planner (PP)
That tourist who’s never without a guidebook and a highlighter? It’s the Perpetual Planner, constantly perusing bus, plane and train schedules and asking: “What if we…?” PPs are resourceful, often thrifty and know precisely what they want to see. If something interrupts their plans, that’s okay — they have contingency plans.
As long as a Perpetual Planner isn’t too focused on the next location, he or she can make for great traveling companions — and save you some planning.
The Flow Goer (FG)
Here’s the mirror image of the Perpetual Planner: The Flow Goer is a huge believer in serendipity and that things always work out. Planning? Ha! An FG’s preferred method of traveling involves showing up at the airport and hoping there’s a flight to wherever he or she is going. The FG will aimlessly wander big cities hoping to stumble on the highlights. After returning home, a Flow Goer might say things like: “Really? I didn’t know the Taj Mahal was in India.”
FGs actually can make good traveling companions: they rarely get ruffled. Just remember that they often need a bit of help focusing.
The Always Adventuring (AA)
The good thing about Always Adventuring travelers: they’re up for anything. The bad thing: traveling with them can be exhausting. When you’re with an AA, don’t even think about sticking your toes in the sand and contemplating the ocean for more than five minutes. This kind of tourist wants to get up at 4 a.m. to go zip lining, scuba diving and trekking through the mountains before breakfast.
Always Adventuring types can be fun to be around, but don’t expect to get much rest if you are traveling with one.
A Final Word
I created this list mostly in jest and there is a lot of room for interpretation. For example, I strive to be an Eager Enthusiast but sometimes tend to be too much of an Always Adventuring type.
After reading this piece, you may want to invent a new classification just for me: The Arrogant Categorizer (AC).