Travelers are all individuals. Most come complete with delightful quirks and idiosyncrasies. That being said, having founded and run a travel business in the Galapagos Islands for 10 years, I’ve come to recognize some definitive traveler types. Here are my top 10 – which category do you fall into?
1. The Retro Traveler
This type of traveler enjoys his or her vacation far more after the fact. This can be true of anyone or any vacation; however, the retro traveler knows this going in, embraces that they are here for the sake of their future conversations when they will not be here. I’m not knocking it. It has innumerable advantages, is quintessentially pragmatic, and is evidence of a cultured, experienced, self-aware persona. In a retro vacation, mild, even major intestinal problems become forgotten, irritating things with time become funny, and the boredom of long plane flights completely disappears. Retro traveling can be taken to extremes, the results of which are a preoccupation with Kodak moments, an absolute need to purchase souvenirs, and a mild desperation reflected by that little nagging question sitting just off the corner of consciousness: “How will I spin this? I know I’m having fun, but am I having enough fun?” Thankfully, most retro travelers will spin that “spin” question into their Galapagos vacation slide show/narrative and receive a round of applause for their efforts.
2. The Photographer Traveler
This traveler is generally quite content here because of the myriads of unique subject matter. They are interested in everything: shades of light, rocks, leaves, sand, clouds, etc. Their focus is on catching something special. They seem to innately understand that at any one place, at any one time, so many opportunities abound, and that it is better to focus on one rather than attempting to gather as many as they can like kids below a broken piñata.
3. The Agenda / Checklist / Broken Piñata Traveler
The agenda for these guys is to see as much as possible in as short a time as possible. These people tend to be fast movers and often ask, “What’s next?” When the time comes for what’s next being they return to their hotel, they look to their guide expecting an explanation. This is tough for us. The explanation is that they were in such a hurry to move on that they missed the baby dolphin and mother, or that they were so intent on their checklist, they had no consideration or longing to have an appreciation of what they were checking off. At best, these people leave here suspicious of us or “the Galapagos hype.” At worst, they feel as if they have somehow been taken advantage of.
4. The “I’m More Interested in Talking About Myself” Traveler
These people are often very interesting and provide a relief from answering most of the typical questions – or at least in detail, seeing as they will frequently interrupt. They prefer to talk about their travels, their jobs, their kids, etc. I believe some of this has to do with self-disclosure and a longing to develop interpersonal relationships with myself or their guide, and for others I think it is nervousness or a lack of self-confidence. We may be about to swim with a pod of dolphins in the middle of the ocean, but they have been to Nepal and dined with the Dali Llama. They tend to blog a lot and almost universally write about their amazing experiences in the Galapagos.
5. The Happy Camper Traveler
We get a lot of these and they tend to be, well, happy. They are going to have fun no matter what happens. They have cast their vacation into a stranger’s hands (mine) and arrive without much of any agenda other than to enjoy themselves. These people are happy standing around the airport. Give them a lost luggage and they’ll turn it into a Galapagos shopping spree complete with ice cream cones.
6. The Critical Vacationer
Also known as “the glass is clearly half empty.” The nicest side of these people is their willingness to look for areas that can use improvement and kindly pointing them out. Of course there are always areas that can be improved! “I think I would have enjoyed that sea lion pup blowing bubbles in my face more if it happened a little closer to the boat…”
7. The Virtual Traveler
You may be astounded to read that we’ve never actually seen a single virtual traveler here. The Virtual Traveler should not be confused with the “Going Through the Motions” Traveler. Neither should they be confused with the “Kick The Tires” travel planners who actually could and are seriously considering traveling half way around the world to get here. The Going Through the Motions Traveler knows at the outset they are not going to make this trip. They require that we go through the planning motions with them, just for fun. Real estate agents and car salesmen have a lot of experience with this and most of them do the same as us: take them at their word and go through the motions. It’s part of the job and can actually be fun. A woman once wrote to us, insisting she be able to take her “fully vaccinated” pet duck with her to the Galapagos. As it so turns out, ducks are classified as “poultry” and vaccinated or not, they are not allowed to accompany visitors. I became curious…what about pet canaries? Parrots? Seeing-eye owls? Those are classified as birds. Not allowed.
8. The Inter/Safety Net Traveler
These are people who would have never in their lives dreamed of venturing forth into traveling the world before there was the internet: just too risky, too many unknowns. Now with TripAdvisor, travel blogs, etc. they have been unleashed on an unsuspecting planet. These mostly gentle souls who are taking courageous steps, leaving their literal or metaphorically cubicles with a staggeringly unjustified confidence. They can book their flights and hotels on-line, they have access to internet once they arrive, their cell phones work, etc. They can go practically ANYWHERE and blog about it to boot! While many of them end up with a wonderful story, too many are the people found in third-world hospitals because nowhere on the internet did they read that it is a bad idea to: go swimming at the mouths of polluted rivers, blindly stick their hands under rocks, pitch their tent next to flesh-eating ant hills, try to pet a Gila Monster, etc. Too many can also be found in third-world jails because they assumed they could buy their anti-psychotic meds at the local Walgreens. While one hates to discourage people from getting out of their cubicle, “start with baby steps” ought to be a required, cautionary warning throughout travel-related websites.
9. The Packaged ‘Adventure Travel’ Traveler
This type of traveler is the more prudent version of the Safety Net Traveler. They annually or bi-annually take a trip to some far-off exotic destination with a company designed just for them: economical, pre-planned, and safe. They are perfectly happy passing their “vacation” time as part of a group of twenty people: Thailand one year, Kenya the next, then the Galapagos. After a few short years they have literally traveled the world, albeit in a cocoon, sheltered from even the slightest need to look out for themselves in a foreign country that speaks a foreign language. Needless to say, their direct contact with locals is largely relocated to people performing for them.
10. The Psycho Traveler
Also known as “we take ourselves with us wherever we go.” The Psycho Traveler (PT) emerges from the most ordinary-looking traveler. It manifests itself in a myriad of forms and degrees. Foreign travel can be hard on the nerves and suppressed psychotic tendencies can sneak their way out when their host is far away from home and exhausted.
We all have a little PT in us. I could imagine myself at my wits end, stuck on some desert island with low blood sugar saying the following (which is a direct quote, by the way): “Can you do something about those animals? They are either trying to play with me or completely ignoring me. Make them run away or stand still. I’m trying to enjoy my vacation now, please!”