Monday, June 9, 2014

the evolution of my travel style

I have been traveling the world for more than a decade now.

When I was younger and poorer, my trips were sporadic. It was a three week trip to the United Kingdom staying in hostels and eating discounted day-old bread for lunch.

As I navigated my early twenties and my first real job, my travel style changed a lot. Travel was still infrequent, but it was a four week trip through western Europe staying in fancy hotels and eating at real restaurants and using a rolling suitcase.

In my mid twenties, I found myself unemployed and released from all of the burdens of the daily grind, and my travel style changed immensely. It was a months long trip through Asia living out of a backpack and doing and seeing as much as possible in as many countries as possible, most of which I could not find on a map prior to my arrival.

Ever since my first trip abroad at 17, I knew I was a traveler, and I knew that whatever path I went down, travel would be a main part of my life, and here I am now in my late twenties settled into the traveler I have become-- a long term expat globe trotting near and far every summer and winter break and often in between.

Through trial and error, I have settled into my travel style.

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It includes:

The husband, always
I know a lot of people dig solo travel, but I cannot fathom actually traveling for any meaningful period of time without Sean for a few reasons. First, I absolutely adore him. You can get all judgey if you want, but we totally have one of those relationships in which we are glued at the hips, and after 10 years of being like that, you can imagine that it's a pretty great place to be. We really like each other, but beyond that, we complement each other really well.

I am the adventurer, he is the realist.
I get us there, he navigates us around.
I dream huge, he makes sure we don't run out of money.
I get irrational, he soothes me.
He gets bitten by a monkey, I drag him to the ER.
He gets hangry, I locate the nearest food source.

Direct flights, when possible
I use cheapoair to book the majority of our flights. Usually, the deals are pretty good. One thing I have learned after one decade of travel is that for me, it is worth it to spend a few extra hundred dollars if that means we can get to our destination ASAP without wasting time on more than one flight or hanging out in an airport terminal during a layover.

Slow and steady wins the race, most of the time
When I first started to travel, my goal was to see as many countries as possible in one go. Now, I am a little lazier. I would rather stay in one place for a while and not feel rushed. I want to get to know an area and get comfortable there. Instead of spending three weeks bouncing all over the place, we are more likely to spend 10 days in one town and 10 days in another.

Bye bye hostels, forever
I am so over sharing a room with strangers. Now, we use agoda to get some pretty great deals that don't break the bank while at the same time saving our sanity by getting a room for ourselves. I think as a couple, this is important.

Experiences are worth the cost, period
We were those people who blew everything we had to get somewhere, and then had very little to spend upon arrival. We know better now. It is so disappointing to miss out on once in a lifetime moments because you frankly do not have enough money. Now, we budget a lot more than we think we will need so we can do the things we want. That cruise through Ha Long Bag in Vietnam? Expensive, but so worth it. I would have felt like a dope watching the boats pull away without being on one.

Wake for free breakfast, every day

We are sleepers. We stay up late and sleep in late, but when traveling, we set the alarm, roll out of bed early, and eat that free breakfast. It's one less expense and a way to save some money, especially on those longer trips. Plus, you're ready for the day and can go explore without worrying about your stomach or locating breakfast.

Independent & self guided, a must
I have been on one bus tour, and I will never do it again. I want to travel at my own pace and leave room for my own whims and judgment. I do not like being on someone else's schedule. I would rather rent a scooter or hire a taxi and risk getting horribly lost or missing out on something rather than being told what to see and how to experience it.

A very full backpack, every time
We hate checking luggage. In fact, we only do it when coming or going from Seattle to Taipei with our huge red suitcases that we stuff with new clothes or coveted food items. Otherwise, for vacations, we always carry on. It saves time and after once having to wait one week for our luggage, we learned it's better to use a backpack. That said, I do not pack minimally. I lay out each article of clothing and make sure it can make two or three outfits and that I have my cute shoes & earrings & necklaces. I am just not into the hippie backpacker look. It's not me.

Loosely planned, most of the time
One time, I tried to plan a very detailed trip itinerary, and I learned quickly those go up in flames easily. Now, I have a general idea of where I want to go and what I want to do, but I try and take each day one at a time and not plan too far ahead. I love to wait until I talk to locals or people who've been around the block to get ideas of what to see and do. Some of our best adventures required hand drawn maps. You can't get those in the guide books.

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I know over time my travel style is likely to change more as it has over the last 10 years, but one thing I do know is that regardless of how we do it, we will be travelers.

24 comments

  1. I love this post! I'd say our travel styles have evolved pretty similarly over the years, however I'm still not completely over the hostel :) Most of the times I Airbnb but sometimes (depending on the style of the trip) you'll still find me in a hostel (or camping!). I've never tried Agoda yet... is it worldwide?
    I also draw most of the maps we use so it made me laugh to see your hand-drawn one. Literally half the time I'll forget the hand-drawn map at home but the thing is that I always remember how to get there because I drew the way-- muscle memory!

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    1. We had a truly awful experience in a hostel in Singapore and ever since then we have sworn off hostels. Honestly though, I find it hard to be a couple in a hostel especially in hard core backpacking spots. I've watched single girls hit on my husband and vice versa. It's just so not the experience we want.

      And hand drawn maps are my favorite. They lead to the best places + experiences.

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  2. Great post! My travel style has evolved in much the same way. Hostels are a definite no these days. I need my beauty sleep! We never have a detailed itinery these days. And i totally agree with the carry on lugguge only. :)

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    1. I know. I get really grumpy when I don't get enough rest.

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  3. I never really thought of my travel style but this post has made me think back and see how much has changed about the way I travel, great post! I agree, I don´t think I would be a fan of solo travel, just doesn't sound as fun.

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    1. I think for people who have been traveling since young adulthood, travel styles change much more dramatically than people who start in mid life. I know mine has!

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  4. Great post. I really enjoyed reading this! I think your travel style definitely does change. A few years ago I would more opt for a hotel (because I had a boyfriend at the time), whereas now I am single and poor so I am all about the hostels. I always take carry on as well! You really don't need checked luggage a lot of the time. When I do take checked luggage, I don't wear half the things I packed anyways!

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    1. I can totally see that. I know that if I suddenly had a lot less money, I would still find ways to travel and that would most likely include hosteling it up again.

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  5. I've evolved in so many of the same ways! My husband and I always travel together. To me, solo travel has proven to be boring and lackluster without someone to share the experience. We've also learned to spend the money on experiences. We've flown home after too many trips and said, "We should have just done it" after avoiding a really significant attraction or experience because of the cost. If we're going to spend all the money and time to get there, we've learned that we're going to pay the money to live it to the fullest. (And hostels, good heavens no. Couples travel pretty much mandates a private room!)

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    1. I know a lot of people look at solo travel as this personal growth/finding yourself experience, but I think that if you know what works for you, then you know yourself, and you should honor that. I've done day trips/short trips without my man but nothing substantial and I don't want to.

      We too missed out on so much our first few trips abroad because we didn't have the money or were worried about spending too much. We are totally over that now!

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  6. It's funny how your travel style can change over time....when I was a teenager I was totally into holidays at the beach and went to Spain whenever I could. Now I prefer the colder climate of Scandinavia and Airbnb instead of all-inclusive hotels....Great post!

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    1. Me too! We used to flock to hot + humid SE Asia for its beaches and now we want New Zealand + Iceland for their mountains!

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  7. This post is awesome! I completely agree with the evolution of travel styles. I think I haven't settled yet into my travel style, but I now am pretty sure of what I like and what I need when I travel. I completely agree with direct flights as much as possible and slow and steady wins the race haha, I think a constant stream of activities is better than a day of 10 crazy things followed by a day of recuperating lol. I've never stayed in a hostel and never want to! And I agree, always wake up for free food! :)

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    1. I think over time, through trail and error, you settle in. Then, circumstances change and you have to find out what works for you then. I think I'm pretty settled for my current situation: a married expat without kids traveling the world frequently with not a lot of money but not a small amount of money either. I know when any of those things change, my style will likely change too.

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  8. I think we all evolve in so many ways over our life, and this includes our travel styles as well. Great post on your personal evolution and I am similar in many of these aspects!

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    1. I think it's a pretty common experience for well traveled people who started young and poor.

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  9. so glad to be part of your travel style and CAN NOT WAIT to road trip and drink wine and see all of the mountains in NZ with you and Sean <3

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    1. Our road trip will be epic. And we will listen to MGMT in the car!!!

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  10. I love all of this! These are such great tips and ideas. <3 Slow and steady for sure!

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    1. I am ALL about slow and steady these days!

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  11. I love this post so much! I love the idea that as you travel more, you learn to develop your own unique travel style, whatever works best for you! And your tips sound like they could be applicable for anyone :)

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  12. Thanks! I once tried to hang onto the backpacker style and found as I got older it just wasn't me anymore. Luckily, I've settled into something I love.

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  13. I can relate to this SO much. My travel style has evolved similarly to yours. Before was the fast paced, gotta see everything before I drop, huffing it in hostel kinda deal and now I much prefer a slower pace and the comfort of a hotel, or even better a B&B or airBnB rental.

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    1. I've never tried airBnB but I hear people rave about it! Maybe I will try that for New Zealand!

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