5 reasons why my travel style has changed

June 3, 2013

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Has your travel style changed at all over the years?  Mine sure has.

Life (sort of) dictates that us human beings will grow, change, and evolve over time. My circumstances, environment, and the choices I’ve made have shaped my personality, helped me to hone my tastes, and allowed me to finger my likes and dislikes. With that said, in the last few years I have noticed a distinct shift in the way that I travel.  The change has been gradual, subtle even, but it is there.  Read on to see why my travel style has changed:

1. I don’t need to see everything.

Long gone are the days where I would run around with a long list of attractions and monuments that I absolutely had to experience: back in the day I wanted to do and see EVERYTHING.  I literally wanted to wring a city dry of all it had; it made me feel good to methodically check the items off my list as I went along.  Now?  I am comfortable with skipping out on visiting that umpteenth Egyptian temple or European cathedral — I’ve seen enough in my lifetime to last me light years into the afterlife.  Nowadays I’m good with doing an abridged itinerary, seeing the major stuff and skipping what I deem extraneous.

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2. I eschew going to new destinations so I can revisit old favourites.

My thirst for “abroad” has taken me to over 60 countries, but these days I’m less interested in getting a new passport stamp and more interested in deepening my love affair with and knowledge of the places I thoroughly enjoy.  Don’t get me wrong, I love exploring, the smells and excitement of traversing new frontiers. But more and more I am feeling the pull of going back to places that I know make me feel good, places where I’ve already cultivated memories. Case in point: I’ve been to Paris 9 times.

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3. I prefer slower travel and cultural immersion to sightseeing and city-hopping.

Less is more for me these days in terms of how much or how quickly I move from one city to the next: I like to travel slow(er), savour destinations, and take time to absorb my environment.  Last year I did a trip through Scandinavia with Busabout that took me through 5 countries in 8 days; while exhilarating, the trip was exhausting for the sheer speed with which we tore through cities. As a result, I felt like I didn’t get to know them at all. On the other hand, my  5-week trip to Guatemala a few summers ago allowed me to get intimately acquainted with the country and culture. I set up a home of sorts in the colonial city of Antigua, taking an intensive 2-week Spanish course there, and then used it as a base while I explored the other pueblos further afield.  Before, I deployed a hectic travel pace to  keep boredom at bay, but now I find myself taking in destinations more slowly and less rigidly wherever possible. Low-key activities like aimless strolls around town squares suit my slow travel mentality perfectly.  Even on a weekend trip, where I’m pressed for time,  I take extended coffee breaks, contenting myself with sitting peacefully and people watching.

 

4. Food is more important than ever.

This may be a result of my funky stomach and propensity to be struck by food poisoning, but now food holds a very important place in my travels.  Before, I contented myself with all that was cheap and cheerful — quality and taste were low on the totem pole of priorities.  Now, Liebling and I pore over restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor before/during our trip and ask for recommendations from friends on where we can eat well.

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5. I’m no longer a budget traveller, particularly when it comes to accommodation and food.

Years ago, I wondered whether I was too old for hostels.  Nowadays, the answer is loud and clear: I’ve outgrown hostels, and in many ways have outgrown budget travel.  I won’t spend money indiscriminately (and like a good deal as much as anyone), but comfort and pleasure are high priorities on my trips — a drastic change from before, where I slept in 20-person dorms and ate bread and cheese for a week just to save a few bucks. I don’t want to skimp or live on the bare mininum any more. I want to stay in nice hotels and eat quality food. (Does this sound superficial? Sue me.) Likewise, I don’t want to want to miss out on integral parts of a country’s culture or history because I don’t have enough money or am too cheap to spring for the entrance fee to the museum.  I’m no longer a student on a student budget, and the way I travel reflects that. And perhaps more tellingly, if I don’t have the means to travel somewhere in the way that I’d like, I’d prefer to hold off on travelling to that place until I can afford to see it in the fashion I intend.  In real terms, that means trips to costly destinations like New Zealand are on the back-burner, at least for now.

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Has your travel style changed over the years?  How so?

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Lily June 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Nice post, Oneika! Funny how travel and distance have a way of changing our habits and preferences, as does time. I have always preferred slow travel, interestingly enough, but I think short trips (one week) can be worth it as well, depending on the location and how you travel during that time (that is to say, not just sightseeing but getting your own feel for the place). Over time I find that I prefer to live in a country for at least a month, if not more. Another change is that I prefer staying in budget places and locally owned hotels. I still can appreciate luxury! but I don’t splurge on that as much anymore–as long as the place is decent and clean, and not a dorm in a hostel, I’m OK with that.

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The Queer Nomad June 3, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I completely agree, especially on the food and accommodation front. Every now and then, I travel somewhere that is so expensive that hostels are kind of the only option (hello Finland!), and I feel completely out of place. Recently, I’ve also started preferring holiday apartments wherever I go, because I feel eating out can get really boring and repetetive if you travel a lot (and to be honest, sometimes, you’re somewhere in the middle of nowhere where food options are not all that great). Something else I noticed is that I’ve actually started buying gifts for friends and family – not compulsively, but when I see something I think somebody I know would enjoy, I buy it for them. Before, I would never buy anything, for myself or others.

The work + travel at the same time life is getting a bit tedious, too – I like to travel lots, but I do enjoy having a home base.
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Monique June 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Very cool post, Oneika! Being a mom to a soon-to-be 8 year old I noticed that my travel style changed in terms of comfort: to your point, no more a student budget since I’m no longer a student and have a kid. I also share the same feeling on not having to see the “must sees”, sometime all you want is to slow down and take it all in, relax and really feel the place.
I love your writing style, I’ve been to your blog many times but this is my first comment and I always read it with my daughter because I really want her to see that there are many adventures out there that she can embark on when she grows up!
Thanks for sharing,
Monique
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Ines June 3, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I have the same “problem” but I am only 21 years old.

Most of my friends, once they realise how I travel, take me for a snob/”fake” traveller. I don’t sleep in less than 3* hotels, I always plan at least one very high end restaurant (at least 1* at the Michelin), I went to Rome and didn’t bother with the coliseum and small things like that which made others think that I didn’t explore Rome. I love brunch, I love taking tea break in the afternoon, even on 3 days trip I always take a day to just explore and wander around. My days never start before 10am (it is a holiday/break for me..and in my mind it can’t mesh with early rise) and I don’t consider museum/monument sightseeing as compulsory. I first of all travel to get a taste of the atmosphere right now. Not 100 years ago..

All those makes me a poor candidate for trips with other 20 something and it is a shame. But I guess it will get better once I hit the 30 mark and they catch up :P

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Diana June 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Great post. I too am done with the budget/backpacker travel life. I like my own clean room with my own bathroom thanks.

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Naomi June 3, 2013 at 4:09 pm

I definitely see the merit of organising a bit before the trip. Whilst, I still love the spontaneity travel can sometimes throw at you, a bit of advance preparation goes a long way!
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Erika June 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I’ve not been to as many places as you, but I could really relate to this post a lot. I’d say this is definitely more of my travel style. I think my summer in London and Paris, staying in 5-star hotels as a guide, really let me see that… there is a different way to travel and I prefer that. Like you said, it’s just a shift and a change. Maybe that’s why hostels are typically full of younger people — it’s just a different stage. There was a point in my life where I didn’t mind spending a good chunk of time sleeping at the airport to save money and now I’m like, ‘”WHAT???” Haha.
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Oneika June 4, 2013 at 8:49 am

Hahah yes!! Once upon a time I would be the cheapest flight possible, even if it meant a ridiculous amount of layovers and extended travel time! Now I’m all about the direct flights or paying more to minimize layovers, etc.!

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Arianwen June 3, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I definitely find that the more you travel the less you feel inclined to see everything. I’m planning New Zealand at the moment, and there are a few places I’ve crossed off the list because, while they might be impressive spots to see seals or bird life, they aint gonna beat the Galapagos! :)
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PhillyGirl June 3, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I definitely think my travel tastes have evolved over the years. While I was never one for hostels, I did do budget hotels and have my share of horror story hotel rooms to share. But now, traveling is about treating yourself to the entire “vacation” experience. For me, that includes a great room, great food, and seeing what I want to see in a place and not feeling compelled to see the “must sees!” Point in case, I just came back from Paris, and although I knew I didn’t want to see the Louvre I did quite like the square leading up to the louvre. I quite enjoyed hanging out in the square, having ice cream and people watching. It was a great, stress-free vacation because it wasn’t jammed pack with “things to do!”
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Oneika June 4, 2013 at 8:48 am

THIS—> “Traveling is about treating yourself to the entire “vacation” experience. For me, that includes a great room, great food, and seeing what I want to see in a place and not feeling compelled to see the “must sees!”

I agree 100%!

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Adam June 3, 2013 at 7:44 pm

I can relate to so much of this! While I still don’t mind hostels, I definitely prefer nicer places to sleep. And I famously prefer going to old favorite destinations than new ones – to much chagrin from my friends who assume I must want to go everywhere and see everything….
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Oneika June 4, 2013 at 8:47 am

I find that Kash’s luxury hostel project has really opened my eyes in terms of hostel quality! If a hostel was nice, brand-new or new-ish, I would stay in it — that is, IF I had a private room!

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Jay @ From There To Here June 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Great post Oneika! It appears that we have very similar travel styles. I’m a huge advocate for slowing down and just enjoying the location. Less is more!
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Scott Intagliata June 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Thanks for this post, Oneika. As always, it is clear that growing up doesn’t have to mean growing old. Your comment about wringing all a destination has to offer is so much a youthful tendency (I had it as well), but it often conflicted with acculturation and depth of knowledge. Your post was a pleasure to read.

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Kimmy @ AfterGlobe June 3, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Nice read. I for sure notice that how I travel changes throughout my life and my circumstances. Where I was fine sleeping on someone’s couch when I was younger, I would never want to now. Same goes with the food I want to eat and the things I want to see and so. To me, travel is a constant that is always evolving.
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Oneika June 4, 2013 at 8:45 am

I hear ya Kimmy! Once upon a time I would jump at the chance to crash on someone’s couch and save on accommodation. Now I much prefer to have my own space, whether it’s in a hotel or elsewhere!

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Kimkay June 3, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Does the fact that you get to stay in fancy hotels when you write a review affect you wanting to stay in better accommodations?

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Oneika June 4, 2013 at 8:44 am

In a way, yes, because I get to see the full range of what’s out there in terms of accommodations. That said I mostly stay in nice hotels whether or not it’s comped –luckily Liebling and I are in a position financially to afford to stay in nice hotels. I think the departure from budget travel has happened as I’ve become more established in my career and started commanding a larger salary!

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Andi June 3, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I swear I could have written this myself! I agree with you on every single point, especially about revisiting and eating haha!
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Carmel and Shawn June 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I would agree that my desire to see everything and go to a bunch of countries and sites in a short period of time has fizzled out since my backpacking trip at 21. I also don’t want to stay in dorm-style accommodations–we’re married and in our 30s. We’re done with that. However, we still can’t afford luxury places. I just want a clean bed, maybe a private bathroom, and a door between me and the other guests! Thankfully I have family all over the world and will be taking advantage of them while we travel this next year!
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Oneika June 4, 2013 at 8:33 am

One of my strategies is to try and stay in accommodations that are very new! It doesn’t have to be luxury, but extremely clean!

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Adeola @ Frosis in China June 3, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I agree with you. Though i’m still young and haven’t been to a fraction of the places you’ve been, my top priority when travelling is always about experiencing or at least getting a feel of the local culture. This means slow travelling like you said. I like to just walk around a pubic place and people watch even if it means not seeing every “must see”. I, like “Ines” also like to treat my travels like a vacation. I don’t want to stress myself so much that i’ll need another vacation from my vacation when I go back home. Unlike I have some background knowledge about the history of the country or i’m just curious to learn more, I tend to skip out on museums. Because you’ll just end up looking at artifacts without appreciating their significance.
As I am still a student at the moment, I still look for ways I could cut back when travelling, this could be on accommodation and sometimes on food.
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Oneika June 4, 2013 at 8:32 am

Thanks for your comment! Last year I was feeling BURNT OUT after a ton of travel and really felt as though I was just going through the motions and checking items off of a list. It wasn’t fun. I realize that my enjoyment comes from the little things: ordering a coffee in the host language, sitting in the park, meeting people, etc!

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Sojourner June 3, 2013 at 10:10 pm

What a thoughtful post. It really resonates because my travel style is constantly changing depending upon where I am in my life. At this point in my life, I’m definitely more interested in cultural than quick tourism. I make a point to learn a few key phrases in the local language and try to interact with locals regularly. Now that I’m in my 30′s and have my Starwood card, I no longer sleep in hostels and get excited whenever I can redeem those points. I’m also really into discovering the healing traditions associated with the places I visit.

I hear you about the slow travel and I too have started to re-visit some of my favorite spaces and locations.

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Oneika the Traveller June 4, 2013 at 8:28 am

For me, learning a language is one of the biggest motivations for my travel! I would love to continue to improve my Spanish and German through full immersion.

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Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans June 4, 2013 at 1:40 am

I’m not sure that my travel style has changed much. I’ve always considered myself a budget traveler, but by that I mean that I’m all about affordable luxuries. I’ve never stayed in a hostel and don’t plan on it although I may do so to cut costs whenever I make it to Scandinavia. Also, I’ve always been one to indulge in good eats. I will say that in my 20s, travel was all about collecting passport stamps. Now, my goal is usually to find a way to volunteer and contribute to the communities that I visit to forge a deeper connection both with the place and the locals. One thing I need to challenge myself to do is to slow down and savor places more as I’m always on a tight timeline due to work.
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Adelina June 4, 2013 at 4:03 am

Great post! Definitely, the more you travel, the more you figure out for yourself what is important and what you like as you go along. Its all a part of the traveling experience. I like to think that I’m more spontaneous as a traveler. Going on a whim for adventures and not necessarily needing a strict itinerary. And sometimes, slower travel is much better than running around trying to do everything off a list. Been there, done that and the stress is just not worth it!
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Dr. Reginia June 4, 2013 at 10:26 am

Great points. I once wanted to see and every attraction that a city had to offer. Now, I’m OK with whatever it is that I am able to see. My accommodations have always been four star or better with great reviews except once. I would be extremely uncomfortable in an hostel.
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Tatiana June 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I LOVED this! I definitely feel like I’ve reached a stage where I want things in my life to be simpler and higher quality and to have more than a fleeting connection. This totally includes travel, and the idea of forging a deeper connections with places that I’ve loved instead of always going somewhere unknown really appeals to me.

On another note, your photos have been awesome lately! The ones of Egypt were just stunning. Keep it up!
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TammyOnTheMove June 6, 2013 at 8:51 am

Oh I am so with you on food and budget travel. Now that I am in my 30ies I just can’t bear the thought of staying in a hostel dorm. That would actually really spoil my travels I think.
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Jo June 10, 2013 at 7:47 am

Agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. I think as you get older, you also become more confident. When I first started traveling I was very timid and only did guided tours and would never talk to strangers. Now I only travel independently and chat away to anyone who’ll listen. I’m also much, much better at finding good value for money.
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Tash July 26, 2013 at 6:36 am

I love this. And I mostly agree. Unfortunately, as a med student, I can’t afford Michelin star restaurants or Ritzy hotels yet, but I understand the sentiment. For me, in line with the slowing down concept, I’d like to add that my travel style has changed mostly in how many pictures I take. I also used to want to pack as many activities as time allowed, but most importantly, I wanted the evidence in photos. As much as I love journaling, I never kept a travel blog and only have my photos to tell a story. But now, I seek to just enjoy the moment. Although its great that I have thousands of pis and vids from the the 34 countries I visited and lived in, being behind the camera takes away the pure satisfaction of the moment. So, when a moment presents itself, I fight the urge to whip out the cam and just enjoy what is before me.
Btw, I enjoy your recently discovered blog, as a fellow mostly solo black female traveler. I lived in London last year ( 3rd year of med school in London) and appreciate your recent posts. Now that I’m back stateside, I truly miss the days when I could go to Easyjet or Ryanair to pick out my next long weekend trip. Hence, why I love Europe. Sigh.

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