Traveler, study thyself

Weekend Wanderlust

Jamie Hazlett / Sun Star Columnist
March 29, 2011

While idly surfing the internet, looking for inspiration for this week’s column, I came across a link to a short quiz* that promised to help me “find my travel style.” I was intrigued, but skeptical; what could an internet quiz tell me that I didn’t already know about myself? Despite my doubts, I clicked the link. The process was quick, painless, and told me absolutely nothing new. According to the all-knowing quiz makers, I’m a “cultural explorer,” which means I “seek constant opportunities to embrace, discover, and immerse [myself] in the entire experience of the culture, people and settings of the places [I] visit.” Really? Gee, I would never have guessed that a person who spent four years studying history and anthropology would be interested in cultural immersion. Go figure, I don’t magically morph into a stylish, club-hopping diva the moment I step foot on an airplane!

It seems painfully obvious that you are the same basic person on vacation that you are in your day-to-day life. If you’re a worrier at home, you’ll find something to worry about on vacation (Is the water safe to drink? Will you make your connecting flight? What if you run out of shampoo and can’t find the right kind?). If you’re the laid-back, anything-goes sort normally, you probably won’t spend the weeks leading up to your departure making rigorous, minute-by-minute itineraries for each day of your trip. Despite the apparent blatancy of this fact, many of us still seem to be operating under the assumption that we’ll be different people on holiday. After all, who wants to pay thousands of dollars to do the same thing they would have done if they’d stayed home?

Most of us, actually. Sure, you might participate in a few activities that you wouldn’t have if you’d lugged your Kindle to the couch instead of Hawaii, but the odds are good that that’s mostly because there aren’t many cliff-diving opportunities in Alaska in March. Most people are going to read, shop, watch television, and update their Facebook status 12 times a day whether they’re on vacation or not. You might also take a surfing lesson or swim with dolphins, but you’ll be sure to find the time on vacation to do the things that you’ve made space for in your every day routine. The difference isn’t so much in what you’re doing as where you’re doing it.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The human brain craves new experiences, and most of us have the common sense to know roughly what our boundaries are and how much change is too much. Try new things, but don’t be so caught up doing things that will impress your friends back home that you forget to do what makes you happy. Kicking back on the beach with a drink and a book might not yield any great stories, but it’s better than being the person who paid $300 to chicken out of skydiving – or worse yet, the person who paid that much to panic in mid-air and end up as an interesting new topographical feature.

The lesson to carry away from this is to make sure you know yourself before you plan your next trip, especially if your goal is to just relax and unwind. Don’t rent a villa in the middle of nowhere if you recharge your batteries by hitting the bars. Don’t go to Rio during Carnival if you hate crowds and loud noises. Find someplace that offers you a few opportunities to test your boundaries but make sure it has plenty of things that cater to your everyday personality, too. Even if looking before you leap isn’t your style, at least if you know just how long of a fall you’re equipped to handle.

*To take the same quiz, go to and click the “What’s Your Traveler Type?” link.

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