Sunday, April 28, 2013

Species of Travelers

There are many types of travelers, like there are many kinds of people. After spending so much time in airports and hotels, I've learned to identify them by their attire, behaviors, and natural habitats.

The Consultant: This particular species of traveler is unmistakable. Young, intense, immaculately dressed in black or navy suit and starched shirt, the textbook uniform of a young billable consultant making an impression senior management. They look about 2-6 years out of college; their skin is luminous and yet unlined, save for the potential frown when they are engaged in deep thought. They are often absorbed in responding to emails via blackberry, Iphone, or labtop. If they do look up and speak, their language is apt to be reassured and measured, diction reminiscent of an Ivy league education or some coveted university in the top 10 lists. They have been around the world, or the country, in a matter of speaking, for some lexicon of a project where they have seen many things at lightning speed, but have never taken the time to savor. Time, they would tell you, is a coveted possession they currently do not have, and their homes are more of a concept than a reality; so little time do they spend there. Due to the mileage they have covered, they are usually found in airline lounges for frequent fliers, or rather exclusive hotel spaces reserved for VIPs.

The Vacationer: The vacationer is usually middle-aged (let's keep in mind that modern definitions of middle-aged is 40+) with a rabble of kids somewhere, complete with a camera and tourist book, and clothes bespeaking of leisure like the flowered Hawaiian shirt and straw hat to keep out the sun. They usually flock to tropical locations in a group, a tour, or a cruise, where they have to do as little thinking as possible. Even in easy-to-navigate European cities, they opt for an overpriced hop on/hop off bus and spend as much time buying souvenirs (possibly more) as they do exploring the destination. Traveling is somewhat of a novelty for them (perhaps it is their first or second vacation in a long time) and they are overwhelmed by all the stuff they want to take back home, and all the things they have to see. They are often loud and boisterous, not because they are obnoxious, but because their joy is contagious at this glimpse of a new world. And by the way, they spend way more money than anyone else.

The Seasoned Traveler: This type tends to travel light and alone, or in small numbers (2-4). They are less cognizant of social perceptions and more aware of cultural rules of the nation they are visiting. Very often, they understand the language or have been here or lived there before. They are focused and usually maintain a plan of things they would like to do, realizing that one could never see or do everything in one visit, and they leave room for spontaneity. If you spot them, ask for their advice. They have invaluable tips, like how to not get ripped off by a taxi, how much to tip, the best way to avoid a crowd, and delectable food recommendations. They may also share lengthy stories, and inevitable comparisons to other places, so try not to feel intimidated by the wealth of their experience. Some may even be a bit skeptical, with a penchant to be unimpressed or underwhelmed, and there is usually an emotional or professional reason why they are there. They tend to be the most varied regarding age, sometimes it is a retired gentleman or a young graduate student.

The Backpacker: These are the easiest to spot, as they are colorful and take up the most space. They carry their homes on their backs, like a turtle or snail, tightly bundled paraphenalia of camping gear and sleeping bags and all their possessions in one bulky mass they lug around. They are usually younger, some poor students, some adventurous professionals, who take pride in "roughing it" and building a camaraderie with strangers who share the same purpose. Even if they start off alone, they end up congregating, as they sleep in communal hostels and wind up building relationships that may last them a trip or a lifetime. They move at whirlwind pace, a city/site every one or two days, rain or shine, and are amazingly efficient at finding the cheapest deals for transportation. They are usually found at bus depots or internet cafes or everywhere else, since they are rather conspicuous. Very often, they seem to be in transition. Students on holiday contemplating their futures, professionals thinking of a career change, people seeking a break from the orderliness of their everyday lives, romantics hoping to find or forget someone. Or they could be simple blokes stretching a very thin budget. Inevitably, they smell like their adventures, nature, sun and sea and sand and sweat embedded on their backpacks like a badge of courage.

Perhaps there is something admirable about doing things the hard way.

No comments:

Post a Comment