Hot! Five Ways I’m An Unusual Traveler

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Though we’re not all unique snowflakes (or so sayeth Fight Club), I find that most travelers have their own quirks and idiosyncrasies which in turn effect they way they travel. I love learning about why everyone travels in the way that they do, and so I recently felt inclined to share some of my own travel-related peculiarities. I make no claim that I am unique in these traits, but merely that these are somewhat unusual amongst the travel crowd, and that they have a large effect on who I am as a traveler. Enjoy.

1. I’m not a drinker or partier.

A rare photo of me at a bar.

I’ve been an old “fuddy duddy” since I was about 10 years old. I’m not a fan of clubs or bars, I rarely have more than one drink if I have any at all, and I generally think loud music belongs at concerts, not places where you’re supposed to have a conversation with someone. Much of the 20- and 30-something traveler set seems very focused on drinking and partying, especially in backpacker havens like Southeast Asia or Central America. My complete and utter lack of interest in this nearly universal travel experience has actually turned me off from several popular locales like Thailand and Colombia. I’m not opposed to the occasional drink, and if the bar is particularly friendly or unique, I can probably be coerced into giving it a shot, but as a whole, drinking just isn’t my thing. [Sidenote: Thanks to my Russian heritage, I can, however, drink vodka until the cows come home.]

2. I have a significant other, but we do not travel together.

Marc and me goofing off for the camera.

It seems to me that most travelers fit into one of two categories: those who are single and travel alone, or those who aren’t single and travel as a couple. Though there are exceptions (Traveling Savage, for one), folks like me who regularly desert their long-suffering partners to go gallivanting around the globe are few and far between. I feel very lucky to have found Marc, as he’s really the perfect travel match for me. He is well-traveled himself, and has lived all over the world, but is now content to have a quiet life here in the states. His experiences allow him to understand my own travel bug, however, and thus he doesn’t begrudge me my own adventures at all. Our time apart actually does a lot of good for strengthening our relationship, rather than weakening it, and since we’re both very independent people, it allows us to each have substantial “alone time” while still getting the benefits of being in a long-term relationship. I definitely recognize that our situation is somewhat unique, and that being apart from a loved one just isn’t feasible for many folks, but it works for us, and if you are madly in love with someone who doesn’t share your nomadic tendencies, it’s worth a shot.

I’ve actually written about this subject before, for Matador Life. Check it out.

3. I prefer cold environments to hot ones.

Me, all bundled up.

Maybe it’s that Russian heritage showing through again, but I find myself inexplicably drawn to the cold, dark, unforgiving parts of the world. I find that though it’s often harder to break through the shell of folks who live in colder climates, the friendship that you are rewarded with once you do so is much deeper and more profound than the shallow relationships I’ve noticed seem to be common in more tropical climes. I’m also a relatively serious and somewhat hardened person by nature, a personality which tends to fit in better among the Russians, Finns, Mongolians, and Norwegians. The final straw, though, is that I grew up in hot, sticky, East Texas, and I’ve already had enough mosquitos, roaches the size of small cars, and sweat-drenched underwear to last me a lifetime. I’ve always said that you can always pile more clothes on, but there’s a limit to how many you can take off!

4. I rarely socialize with other travelers while I’m on the road.

When locals aren't around, my own imagination is enough to keep me company.

This goes hand in hand with #1, much of the time. When I travel, I’m traveling to see the local culture and to experience it to its fullest, not to sit around in a hostel watching travelers try to one-up eachother with outrageous travel tales. I earned myself a bit of a reputation as something of a snob when I was living in the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald, Switzerland, because I mostly ate, drank, and chatted with the local Swiss residents rather than socializing with the other travelers in the hostel, but it never really bothered me. I can still remember the stories that those Swiss told me, and it was they who nursed me back to health when I got seriously ill for a week. I can’t really say the same for the other, more transient residents of the hostel.

5. I was already an experienced traveler by the time I got to college.

Somewhere in the middle of the north Atlantic.

I had visited most of the US states and much of Western Europe, and was experienced tallship sailor before I even graduated high school. My parents are big travelers themselves, and much of my childhood was spent staring out the window of our Volvo station wagon during our various roadtrips. I remember summers spent fishing in the Colorado Rockies, hiking in the Smoky Mountains, visiting the hot springs in Arkansas, swimming in a swamp in Florida, and learning wilderness survival at special camps (think NOLS, but for younger kids). When I was 14, my family took a month-long vacation to Europe, which served as my introduction to international travel. The reason this childhood of travel makes me unusual as a traveler (other than that I don’t encounter it very often), is that it took the shiny, pretty bud off the flower of travel quite early on in my life. When I started traveling again in my mid-20s, I already knew that travel can be a wonderful experience, but I also knew that it can be uncomfortable, awkward, and even disappointing. My early experiences with travel also mean that I am a confident traveler, and my experiences as a sailor mean that I am relatively unbothered by hardship.

What’s something that makes you unusual in the world of travel? Everyone’s got something. Leave a comment and let me and my readers know!

4 Comments

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  1. you should talk to my friend ann, she travels essentially the same way you do. her partner rarely if ever goes with her and she goes it alone. i’ve always been impressed because she ends up in turkey or indonesia or japan or vietnam all alone. i think i could europe alone but in general i kinda want to share the experiences with ethan (indonesia next year!) which surprises me because i never thought i’d be that sappy. but i can say at times being a non drinker with a lot of food allergies makes traveling sometimes weird since a lot of recommendations are “check out this bar/restaurant” when i tend to try to get an apartment and make my own food. sucks that i’m missing out on regional cuisine but not as much as if i went into shock

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful post. I totally relate to being an unusual traveler, particularly, loving Arctic places.