Everyone has a different travel style. Yes, we follow similar steps: choose a destination, book a ticket, pack your clothes, repack your clothes because your friend insists you don’t actually need 10 coats, board a plane, etc..
The steps vary, but simply put, we pack and we go.
But one of my favorite aspects of traveling is the impossibly wide variety that comes with our choices.
You could be nomadic or hoard your vacation days for one spectacular trip. Be a perpetual beach bum or insist upon visiting every museum and historical site wherever you go. You could travel to escape – to learn – to relax – or to find something out about yourself.
Why do we travel? What are different travel styles? And how do we change them?
By virtue of growing up and leaving my parents’ home, my travel style has naturally changed over time. I was fortunate enough to have parents who love to travel and – shockingly – love to travel with their kids. Throughout the course of my life, my family and I have enjoyed exploring new places together. For years I barely paid attention to my surroundings; my dad had everything covered, so I would disappear behind a book, and probably wouldn’t have noticed if someone walked off with my bags.
Then I moved to Bordeaux by myself and learned to be self-sufficient. And in Paris, I traveled both solo and with friends.
Now I’m traveling with a guy. Yikes!
It’s remarkable how much your life changes in just a couple years.
But for the first time in my life, I’m at a bit of a loss as to where to explore next. It’s quite a strange feeling, actually. Like an identity loss of sorts.
I’ve always been a traveler. And over the course of the past few years, I’ve come to recognize and develop my own particular travel style. My rather nerdy, historical and literary style.
Traveling is the discomfort of being in a place you don’t recognize – the wits you develop while trying to navigate complex travel situations – the exhilaration of meeting people who don’t immediately understand you or your values.
To feel comfortable sitting still – to not have smudged, cluttered lists upon lists of precisely where I want to go, and precisely what I’ll do there, feels uncomfortably foreign. As if all my friends started speaking in different languages to me.
I’m still the same person, but my world has been flipped.
And while rumbling along on the train to Edinburgh a couple days ago, I realized that I’ve always traveled in search of something. In search of a piece of my identity I felt like I couldn’t find, in search of new mindsets, new perspectives on life, new sounds, new sights, new people, new tastes.
Hoping, wishing, waiting.
But for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel pushed and pulled by this incessant need to move.
My feet are firmly planted in London. My new home.
It reminds me of how I felt while living in Paris – and falling so in love with the city and the people within that I no longer wanted to leave – except unlike last time, I feel as if I’m moving forward on a path I chose for myself. The world feels solid and reassuringly real around me. I love my new city, my new writing job, and the prospect of writing a book for my Masters degree.
And after a year of uncertainty, there’s a refreshing satisfaction in just breathing and enjoying the space around you.
It’ll all change again. And soon, I’ll feel as if I need to search for some unidentified meaning in my life. But for now, I’m happily based in London.
This isn’t to say I don’t still want to travel at all! Of course I do. I’m off to Oslo just next weekend! And you can be certain I’ll be wandering through the city, taking pictures, looking for literary inspiration, and searching for the perfect place to curl up with a cup of coffee and people watch.
But the relentless need to keep moving has abated.
Strangely, this complacency doesn’t quite affect my love of literary places. Quidditch lessons at Alnwick Castle, a tour of the Downton Abbey castle, and trips through Jane Austen’s England are all in my future.
But I want to challenge myself; it’s important for me to not become too complacent.
With evolving needs, and a different attitude on life, comes a need for a change in my travel style. Because what I’ve always loved about travel is the openness and possibility. Anything can be found or seen, and just because I’ve started to move away from certain traveling habits, doesn’t mean I can’t – or shouldn’t – develop new ones.
It’s important to know and value your own style of traveling, but to be unafraid of adopting a new style. Even if only for one trip – just to see what you find. Because sometimes you need to change everything. Sometimes it’s healthy to leave your habits at home, and travel somewhere entirely unexpected.
If you always travel with your significant other, you could go with friends, or even by yourself. Hear your own thoughts. Learn to become comfortable with dining for one.
So at some point this year, I’m hoping to leave my habits behind in London and travel somewhere completely different – a place that will shock me and help me readjust my perceptions of people and life.
I don’t know where I’ll go yet – and I’m open to suggestions – but it’s my challenge for myself.
And I’d love to learn a little bit more about other people and their traveling styles! Please leave a comment below.
What kind of traveler are you? Would you be willing to try something new for a change?