Travel Story What kind of traveller are you?

Photo of Gemma Nisbet

Are you an over-organiser, an eager snapper or (heaven forbid) a travel snob? 

Australians are travelling more than ever, with a third of us having been on trips within Australia in the past six months or overseas in the past year. That's according to data from consumer research company Nielsen, which has also come up with six categories that it says sums up Aussie travellers.

According to Nielsen, there are the conventional travellers (who travel domestically to their favourite Australian destination or to visit family and friends), the globetrotting grey nomads (older, affluent people who go overseas to experience other cultures) and the domestic grey nomads (older travellers getting away for short breaks; they like camping, bushwalking and the beach).

Then there are the travellers seeking to escape from reality (who are family orientated and favour local weekend breaks), the travellers hungry for culture (who are passionate about food and prefer long overseas holidays, historical sites and museums) and those who travel in style (the extroverted and image conscious, who are likely to go on spontaneous domestic trips).

With all of this in mind – and tongue firmly in cheek – we've come up with some categories of our own...

1. The thrifty type

This is the person who attempts to pack a suitcase that looks suspiciously larger and heavier than cabin baggage regulations allow into the overhead locker on the plane – along with a heavy coat, laptop case, a couple of bags of duty free and maybe a kitchen sink or two – all to get around paying checked luggage fees. You can bet they'll have come prepared with food from home as well, to (rather sensibly) avoid the beguiling but overpriced and inevitably disappointing snacks from the cart. These travellers are to be commended for their commitment to seeing the world on a budget – but if you're sitting next to one of them, just hope they didn't bring tuna sandwiches for their packed lunch.

2. The snob

I once went on a wonderful trip to Namibia, marred only by the presence of an ostentatiously well-travelled older couple in our small group. They were always dropping self-satisfied references to the time they went to outer Mongolia or somewhere equally obscure, and once beseeched our saintly local guide to quit tracking that lion pride and find us some birds or endemic insects – a request that reminded me of those pompous music fans who are ever-eager to deride your favourite band as "too mainstream". Of course, there's nothing wrong with wanting to get off the beaten track (as the well-trodden cliche goes) and with seeking out things beyond the norm. But travel shouldn't be a competition – and there's no excuse for being smug. 

3. The over-organiser

Most of us will have someone in our lives who fits this description: the traveller who crams in everything they possibly can, racing through an impeccably planned itinerary of walking tours, sightseeing and museum visits from morning to night. This is the person who visits Paris for the day and somehow goes to the Musee d'Orsay AND the Louvre AND the Eiffel Tower, along with a handful of other attractions you've ever even heard of. You have to admire these travellers' energy – but sometimes they need to be reminded that going on holiday's a pleasure, not a chore. After all, there's more to travelling than ticking sights off a list, and it's a mistake not to leave room for spontaneity. Nothing gives you a better feel for a place than a bit of aimless wandering, and without it I'd have missed some of my favourite travel moments.

4. The lounge lizard

The natural habitat of these travellers is the pool deck on a cruise ship or at a tropical resort, where they'll invariably be found monopolising the choicest spots and infuriating their fellow guests by leaving a towel or sarong to save their spot and hog the best loungers when they saunter off to the bar or buffet (don't they know it's against the rules!). When they're not stretched out in the sun enjoying that prime position, you might spot these single-minded travellers jumping queues at popular restaurants or attractions (the cheek!) or interrupting others to gain the attention of a harried member of a staff at a hotel front desk or shop counter (the nerve!). Profoundly irritating to those of us too polite or shy to do the same, they're best given a wide berth to keep your holiday vibe – and sanity – intact.  

5. The snapper

I'm not one to get worked up about the youth of today with their selfie sticks and social media – I'm too young, for starters – but I never miss an opportunity for an eye roll when I turn up to some magnificent spot to find it packed with people experiencing it exclusively through the lens of a camera. I'm an equal-opportunity grump, so I don't discriminate between teenage girls glued to their smartphones and older travellers laden with lenses so big they could photograph the surface of the Moon in high-def detail. In fact, the latter are possibly worse, both for the potential smarty-pants factor and because, given photography is a big part of my job, I'm one of them. That said, no matter who you are, don't forget to put the camera down for at least a few minutes and enjoy what's in front of you, unmediated by technology.

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