Recently someone emailed me, asking if they should backpack around the world or take luggage. My answer? It depends. What’s your comfort level? Will you be going from airport or train station straight to a hotel? Or will you be canvassing the city before settling on a hostel you can’t find in the guidebooks? It seems the more you travel, the better you can refine your requirements. Do you really need a hotel or will a dorm room with six bunk beds suffice? Should you fly from place to place or take the train or even drive from country to country? Is it going to be a 6 month apartment lease or winging it as you go, staying in stranger’s homes? You are not in Seattle anymore.
Over time my travel sensibilities has changed. I know what I can scrimp on (hostels) and what I can’t (having my dogs with us). It started me thinking– what are the different types of traveler?
The Jet Setter: You are independently financed (or at least well-financed). You travel between any category of comfort, but really you can afford 5 star all the way. You might have a couple of apartments strategically located in key cities (Seattle, NY, Paris, Buenos Aires). You might go budget, but it’s more for the thrill of slumming it for a weekend, than out of financial necessity.
The Expat: You’re the middle class of world travel. You live abroad, but you’re not roughing it. You have a job (or several) and a long term lease on your flat. You don’t stay in hostels or hotels, those are for tourists and kids. You don’t have the flexibility of backpackers, but having your own place, building relationships and calling a new country home, is totally worth it.
The Professional Traveler: You wish you were an expat, but you can only sit still for 3 months at a time (at most!) You still rent an apartment, get settled in, but you’re traveling the world in 3-4 leaps a year. You might backpack between cities, use hostels or hotels or just stay put for a few months before moving on. You might work short term teaching gigs, but most likely you get your income from freelance work– you can be anywhere, as long as it has good internet (and coffee).
The Road Warrior: You bought a van or RV and you’re traveling in your home. These folks can range from retirees with a million dollar rig to a few college students going from Cali to Chile in their parents old VW. Closer to backpacker than expat, these folks have maximum flexibility (as long as you travel one continent) and can move much more stuff than they can carry.
The Flashpacker: Besides being the hottest new buzz word in RTW travel, you’re probably a little too old to care. You don’t mind backpacking, taking public transportation or sleeping in a dorm room. But you don’t have to, and if the mood strikes, you have no problem paying for a nice hotel, scuba lessons or a flight to your next destination. It’s what happens to backpackers when they get old enough to have a 401K and a healthy savings account. Independent travel is still key, but the budget is way more flexible.
The Backpacker: You’re carrying everything you own, and trying to live on $10 a day. You are not only staying in a hostel, but washing your socks in the bathroom sink after a dinner of ramen. You haven’t slept in the same city for more than a week in months, and you’re loving it. Bonus points if you use couch surfing, become a busker or hitchhike.
What’s your travel style? Has it changed over time? I wonder if there is a progression from backpacker to flashpacker to expat. Or from Jet Setter to Professional Traveler. Or do we stick to one way of traveling?