Do you know what your travel personality is? Have you identified what you like and dislike when travelling? Everything sounds wonderful in the travel brochures, or in travel guides. And almost everyone you meet raves about the places they’ve been. So how do you sift between the hype and reality? And find a travel experience that suits you?
How much do you want to see when you travel? How busy do you want to be on your trip? Do you like scenery, wild places, stunning views? How about cities? Are you a museum and gallery person? Do you prefer history and high culture to rugged countryside? How do you choose to get around in a new place? Do you like walking? Being driven, or driving yourself? Maybe you prefer a cruise and don’t want to drive at all. How comfortable are you in crowds? Do you prefer luxurious accommodations or more modest self-catered cabins? Are you interested in research and planning your own itinerary, or would you rather someone do that for you?
Seriously, my friends, there are many, many variables that can make your dream trip a nightmare. It all comes down to knowing what your travel personality is. Or isn’t.
Hubby and I love to travel. And since we are deep into planning a trip for this fall, we’ve been talking a lot about what we want to do and see. And what we don’t. According to our travel personalities. So let’s dig into that shall we?
We don’t mind roughing it, at least some of the time, when we travel. Hubby might still be keen on a month-long canoe trip in the wilderness, but I am not. I love being out in the bush. For five days. Five days is my limit. After five days, I need a cabin or a hotel room, a soft bed, a bathtub, and maybe a pedicure. After five days, I grow tired of woodsmoke, and bathing in the lake. I know. Hard to imagine, eh?
Looking at the photo below makes me laugh. That wilderness trip was part of our honeymoon in 1989. Five days on beautiful Booth Lake in Algonquin Park. For those of you not familiar with the name, Algonquin is a wilderness park a few hours away from us. No motorized vehicles allowed. You have to paddle, portage your packs and canoe, and then paddle some more to get anywhere. There are no picnic tables, no showers, no electricity. Just trees, pristine lakes, and lots of peace and quiet. Oh, and bears. I was scared to death of bears my first couple of trips. But as Hubby says, “The bears are always there. You just need to be mindful. And follow smart camping protocol.”
Hubby looks right at home doesn’t he? All tanned, sitting on a log drinking his coffee. While my face is sunburnt, my hair looks like a brillo pad, and I am covered in bug bites. The night we went skinny dipping after dark didn’t help with the bug bites. Ha.
On that trip the weather was beautiful, and warm, and the sun shone every day. We enjoyed our wine around the campfire. We slept soundly after our swim in our down sleeping bags. And I caught the biggest fish. But still, after five days I wanted to go home. So we did.
So you see, it’s important to know what you like and dislike on a trip. And how much of either you can take.
The first big overseas trip Hubby and I took together was to New Zealand and Australia in 2003. Hubby was retired and did all the planning with the help of a travel agent, and friends who had travelled there the year before. I worked until a week before we left, and then took a semester’s leave of absence from teaching. We travelled for three months. And we learned lots about our travel personalities. How we were the same and how we differed.
That first big trip taught us how far we want to travel in a day, and how many activities we can each handle without one of us getting cranky. Hubby can go for hours and hours without eating if he’s driving. But I can’t. Eventually I must be fed, or I get spacey, and dippy, and down-right annoying. Hubby gets impatient cooling his heels while I enthuse over some esoteric literary landmark. He’s learned to leave me to my own devices at such places. When we’re on the road for a number of weeks, I long for a shopping fix. So when we were in Melbourne in 2003, I happily shopped all day by myself while Hubby visited the Melbourne Aquarium, and went back to our accommodation for a nap. We met up late in the afternoon refreshed, and happily compared our respective exploits over drinks.
Another thing we learned is that we prefer to drive whenever we can. That way we can get off the main roads. Like on the two-day road trip we took outside of Salta, Argentina in 2017. We learned about this trip from friends who also love to drive. And it was absolutely worth a little white-knuckling when the road was slightly hairy.
You know, if we hadn’t persevered when the road, above, began to look particularly dodgy, we would have missed staying at the place below.
This kind of travel is not for everyone. Back roads may not be part of your travel personality. Hubby is a confident driver. And we’ve been on many dodgy, unpaved roads at home. In Ontario, in New Brunswick, in the Yukon, and once on a particularly harrowing dirt road into Telegraph Creek in British Columbia. But, for some, driving a road like the one between Cafayate and Cachi in northern Argentina would be outside their comfort zone. And that is no fun. So you need to know what you’re comfortable doing. And what you’re not.
Something else we learned on our first big trip down under in 2003 is we can’t always trust that someone else’s recommendation will suit us, even if that suggestion is from a professional. The agent who booked our flights, our cars, and a few tours for us also booked our first night’s stay when we arrived in New Zealand, in Tasmania, and in mainland Australia. Those were the hotels we liked the least of all the places we stayed.
The best places we stayed in were ones we found on our own, or through the local tourist information sites. The photo above is from our stay in the Grampian Mountains in a place called Hall’s Gap. The lady at the local information site found us a cottage for three nights, complete with full kitchen, barbeque, and washer and dryer. We still smile at the memory of the helpful lady at the i-site who mused to her colleague: “Isn’t Frank renting out his cabin this week? It would be perfect for this couple from Canada, wouldn’t it?” You can’t beat local knowledge. And, much to Hubby’s delight, the next morning, he saw a pair of boxing kangaroos facing off on the trail behind the cottage.
Through a suggestion from a German couple we met in the Cook Islands, we discovered the cabins in caravan parks which seem to be everywhere in Australia. We drank our Shiraz on our own porch, and met lots of people at the communal barbeque areas. Most of these cabins were clean and comfortable, and some were even quite swanky. One beautiful rustic cabin had a jacuzzi. That was roughing it and living in luxury at the same time. Ha.
We don’t wing it anymore with respect to accommodation like we did on that first trip. Now we find what we want on tourism or booking sites, and book before we leave home. But we still like to stay in unassuming places, cabins, cottages, apartments… with cooking facilities if possible. Not so much in the cities, but in small towns and villages, we prefer to cook for ourselves. And we like quirky. Or something with some character. And most of the time we eschew high-end establishments.
If I had to choose one accommodation which epitomizes what we love, I think it would be a little place in the hill town of Motovun, Croatia, where we stayed in 2019. A tiny house with spectacular views down into the valley, and four small rooms on three floors. The kitchen and bathroom were on the ground floor, which had traditionally been where the animals slept. Then up steep stairs was a sitting room, and up another set of stairs a tidy, charming bedroom.
We had our own little terrace. And even friendly neighbours. Each night, except one, we climbed up the steep stairs from the car park at the bottom, made our own dinner, and enjoyed it on our own terrace. One night we dined in a lovely restaurant at the top of the town. We lingered over our coffee, looking over the terrace at the lights winking on in the valley below. And by the time we toddled home the town was in complete darkness. Luckily a few lights from houses illuminated bits of the narrow streets. We couldn’t stop laughing as we clutched each other for balance, but, seriously folks, we’re lucky we didn’t break an ankle on the cobblestones.
We’ve learned over the years that people almost always highlight the virtues of a place they’ve visited. When we asked friends about this city or that in Italy when we were planning our trip there, we received only positive responses. But when we returned from our trip and mentioned the crowds, or some other not-so-positive thing, the same friends said that they’d had the same frustrations. So we learned that even friends are hesitant to say anything negative. And now we dig deeper with our questions. Because what some feel is a mere annoyance, might be a deal breaker for us. That doesn’t mean that information and recommendations from friends is not helpful. We’ve had great suggestions from friends for places to stay and things to do on trips we’ve taken. We’ve just learned that the best information comes from friends whose travel personality aligns with our own.
We’ve also come to realize in our travels that we are not really museum or gallery people. At least not traditional museums and galleries. I think Florence in 2018 taught us that important lesson. If we hadn’t listened to friends and acquaintances who said you must do this and that, if we’d trusted what we already deep down knew about ourselves, we’d have had a much better time in Florence.
When we visited Croatia the next year we’d learned our lesson. There were several museums and other cultural sights we did not see. In Split, in Cavtat, and in Dubrovnik. We visited all those cities and enjoyed them in our own way. And in Zagreb we had the best museum experiences we’ve had in years. I love folk art and chose the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art, which we both loved. And after reading what my friend Frances said on her blog about the Museum of Broken Relationships, I convinced Hubby we needed to go. He was skeptical, but ended up loving it. This place definitely appealed to our quirky-loving hearts. If you’re in Zagreb, consider stopping by this place. I won’t say you NEED to see it. Because of course what YOU need to see and do depends entirely on your travel personality, doesn’t it?
If you hadn’t already guessed, Hubby and I prefer countryside and small towns to cities. Of course we recognize that there are certain cities which should be seen. We spent a few days in Buenos Aires when we first landed in Argentina. And it was indeed fascinating and beautiful. But it was Patagonia that fulfilled the dreams we’d had of Argentina.
In Patagonia we hiked and walked and took a boat ride to see a glacier. We rented a car and drove from El Calafate to El Chaltén. We stayed in hostel-style accommodations in both towns where we chatted to all and sundry, fellow guests and employees. The young people who worked in both places were lovely. Helpful, interesting, and interested in who we were and what we wanted to do while we were there. The scenery was breathtaking. And we had some of the best restaurant meals in all of Argentina. Hubby had long wanted to go to Patagonia. And I was so pleased for him that our trip there lived up to his dreams.
And, and… although we did lots of hiking and walking, we still had time in the afternoons for Hubby to nap and for me to have quality book and tea time. Part of my travel personality is to be busy, but not too busy. If you think that a quiet hour or two on a terrace or in front of a cosy fire, with a cup of tea and a book is time wasted, then you and I have very different travel personalities. And that’s okay. Just remember that, even if we’re friends, we probably wouldn’t make good travel companions.
So, Hubby and I are in the thick of making travel plans for October. We’re off to Portugal. Right now we’re reading, gathering information, deciding where we want to go, and drawing up a tentative itinerary. We had thought initially that we might go with a travel planning company that friends used last year. But we abandoned that plan. Turns out that we still prefer to chart our own course. But I’ll tell you all about that, and the plans we’re making on our own in a later post.
Tomorrow we’re packing up the truck and heading up the Ottawa Valley for our early summer camping trip. We’ve had a few glitches already. June has been a trying month glitch-wise, my friends. But I’ll tell you all about that when we get back.
Hubby has strapped the canoe on the top of the truck and hitched up the tent trailer. We’ll be away for five days.
Because even if I’m not doing the wilderness camping trips anymore. Even if don’t have to carry a pack, and we have electricity, and picnic tables, and showers. Even if I can bring as much wine as I want, and books, and marshmallows. Even if we can get the best butter tarts in the area just down the road from the campground… turns out that the five day limit still applies. Turns out I am a five-day camper. No matter what.
I guess a five day limit on camping is just an indelible part of my travel personality.
Do you know what your travel personality is, my friends? Are you a camper? Do you like the wilderness for a limited time, like me? Do you like the wide open spaces when you travel, no matter where you are? Or are you more of a gallery and city person? Or maybe you’re both.
P.S. I wrote a post back in 2019 before we planned our Balkan trip. All about establishing our travel priorities. You can read it here if you’re interested. I found it interesting that, as a result of establishing our priorities and sticking to them, the Balkan trip was one of our best trips ever. You can read some of my posts about that Balkan trip, specifically about our time in Croatia, here, here and here.
P.P.S. You may notice some cosmetic changes on the blog this week. I’ve had to update my “theme” or template. I paid someone to do it for me, and I’m not sure I like some of the elements of the new look. Hopefully I’ll be able to correct those bits soon. 🙂