Planner, Free-Spirit or Learner: Which Type of Traveler Are You? 

Travel is one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences in life. But how do you make the most of your precious time and money when exploring the world? There is no one right answer to this question, as different travellers have different preferences, styles and goals. However, there are some common elements that successful travellers share: they know what they like and don’t like, they plan ahead but remain flexible, and they seek authentic connections with the places and people they visit. In this article, we will introduce you to three intrepid world travellers who have found their own ways to travel better. We will also share some of their tips, stories and insights on how they prepare for, experience and decompress after their major trips.

Sandra Jefferies is a computer analyst from Sacramento, California who loves to travel with a detailed itinerary. She is incredibly organized and plans her entire trip in advance, from flights and accommodation to activities and attractions. She makes lists of everything she will need and even packs a week before departure. For her, this is the best way to avoid stress, save money and make the most of her limited vacation time. “I don’t like surprises or wasting time when I travel,” she says. “I do a lot of research before I go and I book everything online. I also use apps like TripIt and Google Maps to keep track of my reservations and directions. This way, I can enjoy my trip without worrying about anything.”

Sandra has travelled to over 30 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. She likes to visit cultural and historical sites, museums, art galleries and landmarks. She also enjoys trying local food and wine, shopping for souvenirs and taking photos. Some of her favourite destinations include Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Cape Town and Buenos Aires. She usually travels solo or with a friend, but sometimes she joins small group tours to meet other like-minded travellers and have a local guide. “I think travelling with a small group is a great option for solo travellers or for places that are more challenging or off-the-beaten-path,” she says. “You get to share your experiences with others, learn from the guide and have some flexibility in your schedule.”

Sandra’s tips for travelling better are:

  • Start planning your trip at least six months in advance. This will give you enough time to find the best deals on flights, accommodation and tours. You will also have more options and availability for your preferred dates and destinations.
  • Do your homework before you go. Read guidebooks, blogs, reviews and articles about your destination. Learn about the culture, history, customs and etiquette of the place you are visiting. Check the weather, visa requirements, currency exchange rates and safety tips.
  • Pack light and smart. Bring only what you need and what you can carry comfortably. Use packing cubes, compression bags and ziplock bags to organize your items. Pack clothes that are versatile, wrinkle-resistant and easy to wash. Don’t forget to bring a travel adapter, a power bank, a water bottle and a first aid kit.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Make copies of your passport, ID, credit cards and travel documents. Leave one set at home and keep another set with you in a safe place. Also email them to yourself or store them online. Buy travel insurance that covers medical expenses, trip cancellation, lost luggage and theft.
  • Have fun but be respectful. Try new things, be open-minded and curious, talk to locals and other travellers, but also respect the culture, environment and laws of the place you are visiting. Don’t be rude, loud or arrogant. Don’t litter or take photos without permission.

Ivan Blackmore is a graphic designer from Melbourne, Australia who loves to travel with spontaneity. He is the opposite of Sandra: he only ever books his flights in and out and his first night accommodation. And according to Ivan, “I only bother to book the one night so that I have an address to put on my Customs form.”

From there he is a free-spirit who goes with the flow, as he believes in the transcendental power of serendipity. For him, this is the best way to have fun, discover new things and embrace the unexpected. “I don’t like planning or following a fixed itinerary when I travel,” he says. “I prefer to be flexible and adventurous. I like to wander around, talk to people, see what’s happening and join in. I think that’s how you find the best experiences.”

Ivan has travelled to over 40 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. He likes to visit natural wonders, wildlife parks, beaches and mountains. He also enjoys partying, surfing, bungee jumping and other adrenaline activities. Some of his favourite destinations include Amsterdam, Bali, Kruger National Park, Rio de Janeiro and Vancouver.

He usually travels solo or with a backpacker buddy, but sometimes he couchsurfs or stays in hostels to meet locals and other travellers. He also uses apps like Skyscanner, Airbnb and Couchsurfing to find cheap flights, accommodation and hosts. “I think travelling with a backpack is a great way to travel light, save money and have more freedom,” he says. “You can go wherever you want, whenever you want, without worrying about luggage or reservations.”

Ivan’s tips for travelling better are:

  • Be flexible and adaptable. Don’t have a fixed plan or a rigid schedule. Be open to change and improvise as you go. You never know what opportunities or challenges you might encounter on the road.
  • Be adventurous and curious. Don’t be afraid to try new things, explore new places and meet new people. You might discover something amazing, learn something new or make a lifelong friend.
  • Be friendly and sociable. Don’t be shy or aloof. Smile, say hello, ask questions and listen. You might get some useful tips, recommendations or invitations from locals and other travellers.
  • Be cautious but not paranoid. Don’t be reckless or naive. Use your common sense and intuition. Avoid scams, pickpockets and dangerous situations. Don’t trust strangers too easily or give out personal information.
  • Be grateful and humble. Don’t take anything for granted or complain too much. Appreciate what you have and what you experience. Don’t compare or judge. Be respectful and thankful.

Elizabeth Speck is a teacher from Manchester, UK who loves to travel with a purpose. She is neither like Sandra nor Ivan: she does some research and planning before her trip, but she also leaves some room for spontaneity and surprises. For her, the entire point of travel is to learn and grow as a person and as a result she researches local guides, local cooking classes (not tourist ones), joins Facebook groups in the cities she’ll be visiting, attends local lectures and even has joined a small book club in Cape Town before visiting South Africa. This way she meets friends and really lives like locals while on vacation.

For Elizabeth, this is the best way to have meaningful, authentic and memorable experiences. “I don’t like travelling just for sightseeing or entertainment,” she says. “I like travelling for education and transformation. I want to learn about the culture, history, politics and issues of the place I visit. I want to connect with the people, understand their perspectives and share mine.”

Elizabeth has travelled to over 100 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and Oceania. She likes to visit places that are rich in culture, history and diversity. She also enjoys volunteering, teaching, learning languages and reading books related to her destination. Some of her favourite destinations include Istanbul, Kyoto, Lisbon, Marrakech and New Zealand.

She usually travels solo or with a small group of friends, but sometimes she joins cultural immersion programs or educational tours to have a deeper and more immersive experience of the place she visits. “I think travelling with a cultural immersion program or an educational tour is a great way to travel with a purpose,” she says. “You get to learn from experts, interact with locals, participate in activities and contribute to the community.”

Elizabeth’s tips for travelling better are:

  • Be curious and open-minded. Don’t travel with preconceptions or stereotypes. Be willing to learn from others and challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or express your opinions.
  • Be respectful and empathetic. Don’t travel with arrogance or ignorance. Be aware of the cultural differences and sensitivities of the place you visit. Don’t impose your values or beliefs on others.
  • Be engaged and involved. Don’t travel with indifference or detachment. Be interested in the issues and problems of the place you visit. Don’t be a passive observer or a consumer.
  • Be generous and responsible. Don’t travel with selfishness or greed. Be mindful of the impact of your actions on the environment and the society of the place you visit. Don’t exploit or harm others.
  • Be reflective and transformative. Don’t travel with complacency or stagnation. Be conscious of the lessons and insights you gain from your travel experiences. Don’t forget or ignore them.

These are just three examples of intrepid world travelers who have very different styles of traveling, but share a common passion for discovering new horizons. They show us that there is no one way to travel, but all successful travelers learn to understand what they like and don’t like and travel according to that.

Whether you’re a planner or a free-spirit, a learner or a doer, a soloist or a joiner, you can find your own way of traveling that suits you best.

The important thing is to be respectful of the places you visit and the people you meet, to be open to new experiences and perspectives, and to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Happy travels!