Tag Archives: type of travellers

The competitive traveller – Part 1

3 Nov

I’ve now spent six months travelling though, to be honest, it has flown past.

So now at the six month mark (or just over it) I thought I’d reflect on topics of conversation between travellers.

You arrive at a new hostel.  It goes a bit like this….

“Where have you come from?”

“Where are you going?”

“How long have you been travelling for?”

“What countries have you done?”

“What countries will you do next?”

..and very quickly you can identify the type of traveller you are dealing with.  Now I didn’t think travelling would be like work, that is, beset with targets and objectives..but it is..it’s the same only without the office to record your statistics for you. Competitive travellers come in many forms..here are a few..

1. The numerical competitive travellers

These guys are the worst…they travel fast, see less and see this as a victory for mankind. What? So how do they travel? Well they have a numerical list of the countries they want to visit which they work through at great speed.  Of course, these guys arrive at the hostel and first priority is the internet.  After all who would want to live in the moment when you could immediately plan your next destination, book your next bus and next hostel.  This is living for tomorrow as you’ve never seen it before. These guys like to do tours and organised stuff as that’s much easier, quicker and, of course, more efficient.  Why bother sorting out local buses and shit like that when someone can do it for you and save you having to interact with any of those local people.  That’s madness after all.  They also like to do adrenalin like stuff like bungee jumping as that realises the stress of constant movement and helps the numerical competitive traveller feel at one with “nature”.  The competitive traveller has lots of disposable income which he spends on, well not local cafes and stuff (you can faff around for ages trying to find a local place) but instead on gringo bars (called Gringo Bill’s and other names that the competitive traveller can easily find and relate to) and buses (the greater the luxury the better, after all who would want to slum it with those locals).

Rarely will the numerical travellers speak the language.

They move so fast that that would be, even for a focussed person like the numerical traveller, impossible.

2. The volunteer competitive traveller

This person has it on the list of “things to do” while travelling “some volunteer work”.  The conversation will, normally, include reference to how much he has paid to volunteer usually to an overseas operation and the competitive volunteer while being “moved” by the work will often say that unfortunately “there wasn’t that much to do”.  Well what can you expect when you are not using your skills within the job.  I mean how many people do you know that “work with pumas” in the UK or that built a small village like, say, Airdrie and is then using those “building” skills to build a house in the rainforest.

Some of these folk have multi volunteer projects under their belt all paid for and all involving well just “not that much work”.

Quotes from the volunteer competitive traveller “we only worked about 4 hours a day then we just spent the rest of the time cooking and stuff”.  “There wasn’t really anything for me to do”.

The competitive volunteer can speak a bit of the language but not too much as the project was, of course, run by an “English speaking” organisation.  If the competitive volunteer can speak Spanish this will have been learned at an expensive home stay project organised back in his home country.

3. The gear competitive traveller

This person will have spent a fortune and an age researching and buying gear for the trip, usually at great expense.  The gear competitive traveller can, at a moment’s notice, recite to you the exact weight, to the gram, of each item in his super light, super expensive, ergonomically constructed rucksack.  He can also tell you where to purchase this gear as he looks at you with that sympathetic look, all the time weighing in his head the weight of your unergonomic rucksack bursting with heavy, cheap and frankly ill-thought items.

To a gear competitive traveller this rucksack is a disaster

To a gear competitive traveller this rucksack is a disaster

Quotes from the gear competitive traveller “if only you had taken time to research you too could be carrying the world’s lightest tent”…this will be said while the gear competitive traveller produces, from an inside pocket, his tent.

Also “did you not think of looking at the ultralight.com website, what a shame..oh well next time” he says as he trots off at huge speed with his tiny rucksack with his lovely wardrobe all “compressed” into super tiny shapes.  It’s hard to be nice to the competitive gear traveller who turns up in the jungle wearing his uncrushed super light mosquito resistant pants and top which came out of a bag the size of a matchbox.

The gear competitive traveller can speak those bits of the language which are necessary for him to negotiate super light and super efficient gear purchases should any of his gear break down on the road, though given the time and effort which has gone into his super light packing that is unlikely.

4.  The local experience competitive traveller

This person has had more local experiences than I’ve had hot dinners.  He has hitched lifts on snakes in the jungle, stayed with indigenous communities who performed baptism rituals on him (and have given him a local name which he has now forgotten unfortunately) and in any city he has been to clubs which only “locals” know exist where he has danced “local” dances taught to him by “locals”. He will ask “did you not know about the underground club which takes places the third Thursday of every month in a sewer under the city..what a shame..it was awesome man”.

He doesn’t usually waste time with other “travellers” and when he is unlucky enough to have to he calls other them”tourists”.  After all he is in it for the whole “local experience, man”.   He meets people on the bus who invite him into their lives for a week or two, who wouldn’t when all his sentences start with “this one time when I was staying with these locals…..”

He refuses to carry a guide book. That’s for “tourists” man and will recite to you places whose names you don’t know they are so far off the “beaten track” and who don’t feature in any guide book.

He does speak the language, and also speaks bits and pieces of various tribal languages which he has learned from “locals”.  The local experience traveller can actually be pretty amusing and interesting in small doses but you’ll rarely meet him in a hostel, he only goes there when he really has to “help” other travellers out with getting off the beaten track…you’ll know him as he is the guy wearing a poncho with a local “stitched” bag around his neck saying “this one time in a village where they have never seen a gringo before we killed a pig with our bare hands and then ate it, man”.

The local experience competitive traveller is the guy on the left

The local experience competitive traveller is the guy on the left

Now I hadn’t really thought of travel as a competition and that was naive, very naive.

I better go now though…

I’m just nipping off to a club in a cable car in Medellin with some locals carrying my tiny day sack which doubles as a smart evening bag (it only weighs two grams man)…”did I tell you about the one time I stayed with locals in Medellin, man, it was awesome…”

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