It’s very important to figure out your travel style before you jet off to help you have the most personally-satisfying experience. You may tick off every box in the travel guidebook but feel unfulfilled if your trip was full of museums and cathedral tours when all you really wanted to do was get out of the center for hike. At the same time, going the camping route because it was so highly recommended when you don’t feel comfortable staying anywhere but a well-reputed hotel is also a recipe for disaster.
I consider myself to be pretty flexible so I’ve tried quite a few different approaches to traveling over the years, but I’d like to share my personal answers to the five main questions you should keep in mind when trying to figure out your own travel style. Perhaps it will help you consider something you never thought to factor into the equation.
1.) How do you prepare for a trip? I fall somewhere in the middle of planner and improviser. I like to ask friends or do a surface-level search on Tripadvisor to get an idea of what’s in store for me. However, I won’t spend more than 15-20 minutes researching a particular city because I feel like that takes away a bit of the magic of letting it unfold as I go. I don’t want to go into a trip so blindly that I visit Barcelona and don’t know to see the Sagrada Familia, however I don’t want to look at a 1,000 pictures and read a 100 reviews before I go because, when I do so, I get the been-there-done-that feeling even as I’m discovering something for the first time. If I’m taking a trip with multiple stops, what I DO like to do is tell my Couchsurfing or AirBnB hosts and/or other people I meet where I’m planning to go and then see what advice they have to offer. This has helped me change plans or make reservations in advance to avoid missing something awesome.
2.) What kind of tourism do you like to do? I’ll make an effort to see the top three sites in a city and take all the expected tourist photos. I like to tick off the “most important” things to see wherever I’m traveling and then do it my way from there. Simply wandering the streets usually works best and, when I do check a map later on, I find that I often happened upon half the things I was meant to see. I tend to avoid museums unless there is one I am particularly interested in. Instead, spending a few hours reading or having a picnic lunch in a green space or enjoying a coffee and people-watching in a busy plaza can satisfy my tourist needs.
3.) Where do you like to stay? Where I choose to stay depends a lot upon with whom I am traveling and what’s been going on in my life lately. Sometimes I need my own space and other times I need to meet new people. (I also feel less of a need to meet new people if I have a travel buddy.) I have no problem paying for an AirBnB or hostel but will also go the Couchsurfing route if I’m in the mood to be social and open to the unknown. (As an introvert, CS can sometimes be draining for me as hosts are often so eager to show you the best of their city. Therefore, while I love this option, I think it best for me not to use it for more than 3-4 days in a row.) I tend not to splurge on hotels; beyond having security and the basics, lodging is not a main priority for me.
4.) What do you like to eat and drink? Coming from Granada, I am used to really economical prices for eating out so spending more than 10€/meal seems like a lot to me. While traveling, I like to keep breakfast and lunch as simple/cheap as possible so that I don’t think about the prices at dinnertime. If breakfast is offered at my accommodations, I always take advantage of that. If not, it is usually pretty easy to find an offer for a cheap, typical Spanish breakfast so that works as well. For lunch, I’m happy to make a sack-lunch or get a take-away sandwich or salad from a deli rather than a full meal. Although it sometimes makes sense to have a bigger meal midday while I’m on-the-go, I tend to have my slow meal for dinner and to savor it with a few friends, drinks, and maybe live music if we’re lucky. I also carry snacks and water with me at all times.
5.) What is your splurge? Despite what I just said, my splurge is usually food! I try my best to stick to the budget, but if I go over it’s typically because I said yes to the expensive traditional dish of the area, another round of wine, or a second ice cream cone of the day. I like to indulge a bit when I’m traveling and this usually revolves around satisfying my senses. I will therefore also splurge to see a performance, such as a flamenco show or play. Depending on my time restraints and the available transportation, I’ll sometimes pay for a more expensive option to give me more time. A persuasive host or travel buddy can also talk me into an unexpected “unique experience” kind of splurge, so don’t be afraid to try me if you’re thinking of something else you would wanna go for. So what do you think―would we be a good travel match?