The typical Traveller

Is there even such thing as the typical traveller? There certainly are stereotypes connected to travelling and I’m sure we have all heard them before. The typical traveller has a massive backpack, dreadlocks, doesn’t wear makeup and is generally a fearless person who would spend the rest of his or her life travelling if possible. Sounds familiar? As you might or might not know I took a break after finishing High School and went off to explore the world. And the more I travelled the more I realised that I didn’t match the profile of the ‘typical’ traveller. In South Africa I still thought I did but then I didn’t go there to travel but to volunteer and I basically stayed in the same city for half a year. So you could rather call it living abroad then travelling in its truest sense and most of the girls working at the children centre were in the same boat as me, staying at a South African family for a long period of time. The same goes for my trip to the US where I was staying with another family for a while (that I’ve known since I was two) and only spent the last three weeks actually travelling. I know it might have come across differently on my blog but I was staying in Napa Valley for the most part and even went back there after driving down the west coast. Both stays abroad were amazing experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world – I got to explore two cultures that hugely differ and I met some truly amazing people.

SONY DSC

It was in California that I first came across some real travellers – real travellers as in actually travelling from one place to another instead of staying at one place for half a year or at least a few months at a time. And I have to say, it was a fascinating experience – I loved hearing about their stories and comparing their experiences to mine. Before meeting other travellers I had always thought of myself as very adventurous and far travelled. And suddenly there were people who had spent every minute of the last year travelling the world, hopping from one city to another and exploring all the different continents. My travel experiences seemed small next to theirs and meeting these backpackers made me question my own identity as a traveller – was I even a real traveller? Whilst I was travelling down the west coast I met all kinds of travellers and I also started to notice some differences between me and them, or at least most of them. I suddenly started to feel a bit weird travelling with a massive suitcase instead of a backpack and that was just the beginning. The most noticeable difference between me and other travellers seemed to be my need for privacy. Whilst the others were constantly hanging out with other travellers I spent a great deal of my time taking walks on my own or going to cafés to get some me-time. And to be honest, sleeping at hostels absolutely stressed me out. As much as I think that hostels are fun sleeping there stressed me out to a point where I would pay double to get a private room. That was after only 10 days of travelling and frankly I can’t understand how people don’t mind sharing a room with 10 others. If you are one of these travellers who can easily do it, let me congratulate you and let me just hide my jealousy.  It wasn’t only the privacy issue though, I also noticed that other travellers were more spontaneous and often a lot more relaxed. Looking back I can assure you that the more you travel the less you get stressed about plane rides and long bus journeys but I’m going to be honest, they still make me feel anxious sometimes. I know it might seem like I’m used to travelling but well, you didn’t see me panicking at Madrid airport because I didn’t get a seat at the aisle. To me, travelling somewhere is rather stressful but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Despite feeling overwhelmed at times travelling down the west coast was one of the best things, if not the best thing, I have ever done and I’m really glad that I didn’t let my fears get in the way. I also met some like-minded people who were solo-travelling for the first time and here is a funny story for you: in San Diego I met a girl who fit my description of the typical traveller – she seemed super nice, friendly and out-going. We instantly became friends but the moment we really bonded was when we skipped an evening at the hostel both needing to get away for a while. So even if you’re feeling like you’re the only traveller who gets stressed, it isn’t the truth. There are always people sitting in the same boat and in the end every person experiences travelling in a different way. And that’s completely alright, there really is no right or wrong. I feel like I could end this post at this point but let me continue with my story. After travelling California I had officially caught the travel bug and I was incredibly proud of myself for managing to travel solo and for challenging my fears and letting go of my worries. Coming home I thought of myself as a pretty relaxed traveller who could literally take on the world and I started to make more travelling plans.

As you might know, I then stayed at home for a while and worked, only to leave for France a few months later. And the whole thing turned out to be a blow to my traveller identity. After travelling California I thought that it was time for a proper work & travel experience and that’s when I started to do workaway. My first experience was in a French family and it turned out to be very rewarding – I loved the city, the people and I fell in love with the French language. I left after a few weeks and from this point onwards things started to go downhill. Two families cancelled on me and each time I had to find an alternative and one of the alternatives was working at a hostel in the lovely city of Nice. I wish I could tell you how amazing that whole work & travel experience was but truth to be told, I mostly didn’t enjoy it. The prospect of changing location every few weeks – and finding a new place to stay!) was stressing me out and living at a hostel brought all the previous mentioned issues back. The lack of privacy really started to get to me and so did the constant change of workers and the lack of a proper working schedule. The longer I was staying at the hostel, the more anxious I felt and the more I realised that I was quite different from the other travellers who didn’t seem to mind these things. Feeling isolated and in need of privacy I skipped a lot of evenings at the hostel which in turn made me feel more isolated and less like the other travellers. Although I tried to convince myself of the opposite I wasn’t very happy and I spent the last few weeks counting down the days and feeling homesick like never before. No, it wasn’t the location. Or the people. Or the hostel. Nice was amazing, possibly the cutest town I have ever seen, and the people at the hostel really loving and supportive, it was the concept of travelling I couldn’t adapt to. The whole travelling from one place to another and the constant change of situation wasn’t working out for me and at first I was reluctant and ashamed to admit that. Travelling abroad is always a privilege and I somehow couldn’t fully enjoy it. I felt like I was acting really unthankful and as I usually love travelling I couldn’t quite accept that I wasn’t enjoying myself, which led to me putting more pressure on myself to enjoy it and in return feeling even more down about the situation. I  really tried to cherish this opportunity and live it to the fullest but for some reason it wasn’t working out. Which doesn’t mean that it was all bad of course. There certainly were some amazing moments and I spent a lot of time at the beach and exploring the French Rivera. It certainly looked like the perfect time from the outside but sadly you can’t force feelings and when I left for Italy to then continue onwards to Germany, the predominant feeling was massive relief.

I still feel a bit stupid about not enjoying the ‘second half’ of my time in France more than I did but I’m trying not to put myself down for it. It was a really interesting experience after all and I certainly learned about my identity and limits as a traveller. Yes, I do love travelling and exploring. No, travelling as a style of living isn’t for me. A girl at the hostel once mentioned that she never thought I could be into travelling as I was feeling stressed with so little privacy but I don’t think that one thing excludes the other. Because in the end, the typical traveller doesn’t exist and we all perceive travelling in a different way and face different challenges. I have to admit that travelling the world for a year doesn’t sound very appealing to me and that if I had to choose between never travelling again and travelling everyday for the rest of your life, I’d have to pick never travelling again. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t love travelling, it just means that I prefer a balance and a different kind of travelling – the kind where I’m really living at a place instead of just visiting it. Now that I’m writing about it I’m starting to realise my problem with work & travel – the prospect of leaving soon prevented me from building a new life and I’m a person who needs that structure in order to be happy. Therefore I was constantly caught between just travelling and really living at a place but I could never commit to one of the sides, I felt like living in two different worlds that didn’t fit together. So if I didn’t enjoy that, am I even a proper traveler? I still think so. Because like I said, there really is no right an wrong concept to travelling and there is still nothing I find more interesting than diving into a foreign culture – I just need to do it my own way. The typical traveller doesn’t exist and I think that it’s time to idealise travelling and think about what really makes us happy. For some people that might be living abroad, for others that might be work & travel and some people don’t like to go away at all and that’s okay, too.

I would love to hear your thoughts – what kind of traveller are you? xx