Traveling Companions

· The different types of travelers ·

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St Pancras Station, London

Traveling can either bring out the best or the worst in people. With stress running high, sometimes we find that we aren’t compatible to travel with our best friends. This can be frustrating as everyone wants to get something out of their travels and sometimes that just doesn’t align with your travel partner.

Different people prefer different ways of traveling. There’s no “right” way to travel, though; it’s just up to your individual values. It’s important to get a feel for someone’s travel expectations before committing time and money to a trip with them. Here are some of the different kind of travelers I’ve encountered.

The Planner vs. the Wanderer

Everyone starts their plans somewhere and one of the fundamental differences between travelers is exactly that: how they plan. While it’s possible to be somewhere in-between, generally travelers are either planners or wanderers.

Map of London
Via Get Your Guide

The difference between these two boils down to your approach to planning. It’s often only refined after actually doing some traveling and can change over time. On the one hand, there are the people who want to plan every detail. These are the guidebook devotees who sometimes go as far as timed itineraries. On the other hand, you have those who want to wander and explore. They don’t feel it’s necessary to plan ahead and would rather let the wind blow them as it may.

Of course, there are advantages to each approach. The planner most likely gets the most out of their time. The research ahead of time ensures that every desired sight is hit and no time is wasted. Similarly positioned sights can be planned for the same day while there’s no time spent deciding what to do next.

However, the danger of the planned trip is the wanderer’s strength. One of the best parts of traveling can be stumbling upon some lesser known sights. The wanderer has more opportunities to get lost in a city, following streets and heading places not in the guidebook. They can immerse themselves in the local culture and have authentic experiences rather than hitting the typical tourist spots. There is no timeline imposed on the wanderer and the trip can feel more relaxed.

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Stumbled upon while wandering Barcelona

In my own travels, I’ve found I like somewhere in-between. I’ve traveled with both planners and wanderers and found I prefer somewhere in the middle. I like to do a little research ahead of time and find sights I’d be sorry to miss. I head out to those places but also let myself wander a bit before and after. Some of my best experiences traveling have been going down streets that look pretty or different and stumbling upon something I never would have found anywhere else.

That being said, when I haven’t had any sort of plan, I often feel I’m not using my time as well as I could. As exhaustion inevitably sets in, it becomes harder to take advantage as you wander, so having a little structure comes in handy.

The Shopper vs. the Experiencer

If you’ve ever been to a big city like London or New York, you’ve undoubtedly seen the shops filled to the brim with kitschy souvenirs and postcards. T-shirts, umbrella, figurines, socks, shot glasses… these stores offer mementos to take home a bit of your travels with you. And if that’s not enough, every museum and attraction forces you out through the gift shop in the hopes your recent experience will inspire you to spend money on their things. When it comes to traveling, people often fall into two categories. They either want to spend their time – and money – buying things or experiencing things.

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Via Giphy

Whether you’re a shopper or experiencer tends to come from your typical local pursuits, but this is not necessarily always true. The shopper, obviously, tends to spend a lot of their time in stores and gift shops. Their shopping can range from souvenirs to local boutiques and markets all the way on to national (or even international) retailers. They strategically leave space for their loot in their suitcases when they pack. Some even buy cheap suitcases in the city they visit to carry their purchases home.

Meanwhile, the experiencer couldn’t stand the thought of spending all their time in a store. Instead, they head to parks and museums, try local cafes and restaurants, frequent the theatre in the evening and jump into the local culture through experiences rather than objects. If they’re going to spend money, it better be on admission or a meal that can’t be found anywhere else. Sure, they may find something small and unique to buy along the way, but their trip won’t be planned around shopping.

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A view of the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe

Just like there’s a middle ground between the planner and the wanderer, there’s also middle ground between the shopper and the experiencer. This is especially true when shopping sights are key parts of a city or region’s local culture. For example, the markets of London are world-renowned and definitely merit a visit from both shoppers and experiencers. Similarly, departments stores and famous shopping streets are sometimes landmarks. In London, Harrods and Liberty’s have distinct architectural merit, as well as historical associations with the city. In New York, it’s Macy’s and Bergdorf’s. I always like to window shop along different city’s luxury streets – the Champs-Elysées in Paris, Via Condotti in Rome, Bond Street in London, Madison Avenue in New York – I rarely enter or buy anything, but enjoy seeing how each city has a different feel even if it’s the same stores.

Solo vs. Group

While there are many types of travelers and everything in between, perhaps the most important distinction is between solo and group. As mentioned earlier, there can be nothing worse than landing in a new place, settling into your hotel and realizing that you and your companion are not compatible for traveling. This may cause you to evaluate whether you prefer traveling alone or with companions.

Traveling solo can sound daunting but it can also be incredibly rewarding. You don’t have to worry about missing out on something because your partners aren’t interested or vice versa having to spend precious minutes somewhere you don’t want to be. Every decision is up to you and there’s an opportunity for a more intimate experience with the place you’re visiting. There aren’t distractions or conversations, just you and a new place.

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My first solo trip to Stockholm

On the other hand, solo travel can be lonely and some people would much rather travel with friends, family or their partner. Traveling together brings people closer as they experience new and unique things together. Harvard University’s Dr. Holly Parker told Vogue, “When we travel to a place and a culture we’ve been waiting to see, it’s engaging and brightening, which brings up pleasurable emotions. These cheerful, pleasant feelings are linked with feeling more connected to another.” It can feel safer and more satisfying to share your experiences with people you care about.

However, there are dangers to traveling with loved ones, as mentioned before. People have different expectations, and it’s all about managing those expectations. It can be hard to ensure that everyone gets everything out of a trip that they want and it can be especially difficult for couples. Travel is tiring, and no matter what, stress levels will be high, so it’s important to understand that going into a trip with someone. Ultimately, you need to decide if you want to travel alone or in a group and whether or not your travel philosophy is well-matched to your partners’. Again, some people like a bit of both and sometimes it depends on the trip – some trips are better with friends and some are better alone.

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A wonderful group trip to Edinburgh

There are many more types of travelers out there, but these are some of the key differences in approaches to travel. While you’re bound to have life-changing and memorable experiences no matter what, before planning a trip, it’s important to look deep inside yourself and decide which way you lean. If you don’t, you could end up on a trip with someone who has different priorities which could ruin your trip or even your friendship.

However, the best way to avoid that is to keep the best attitude you can and try not to let anything get in your way. You are getting to see something new and amazing, after all!


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