Everyone travels differently; we all visit different places in different ways and no two people or travel experiences are the same. Even with all these differences though, there are a lot of unexpected commonalities, including the hallmarks of what constitutes a good traveler. This is just my opinion of course, but here are some personality traits I’ve found to be important whenever and wherever I travel.
1. Curiosity – I consider curiosity to be the keystone upon which any quality travel experience is built. Sure you can buy a ticket and visit any country in the world without being intellectually motivated, but it’s only half an experience. In order to really learn about a new place you have to want to know everything there is to know about the people, the cities, the food – everything that makes the culture tick. This is also what makes travel an addiction for me personally. Since I was a little kid I’ve wanted to know all there is to know about every country in the world. It’s a lifelong mission without a doubt, but it also means life is exciting and unpredictable.
2. Honesty – If travel has taught me one thing it’s that no matter where you go in the world, no matter how far away from home you are, people everywhere are basically good and honest. But this happens only through the unwritten rule of always being truthful, honest and helpful when you travel. It can be the smallest of actions, like correcting a cashier who hands you the wrong change but combined, these actions of human kindness make life so much more enjoyable.
3. Patience – Travel is oftentimes fun and exciting, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy or without the occasional hiccup. Bad travel experiences are just part of travel and you need to be patient when necessary, never losing your temper or being unrealistic. You will have to wait hours sometimes in immigration lines and you will miss flights, trains and buses. It’s during the most trying of travel times when we are truly tested and patience is a vital personality trait for any great traveler.
4. Perseverance – Just as patience is key when bad things happen on the road, so is perseverance. It can be tempting to just give up when seemingly insurmountable odds begin to stack up, but just as with patience you must also keep trying. It also takes perseverance to make our travel dreams a reality in the first place. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, but for a long time that was an experience well beyond my reach. Then in college I decided to take five part time jobs and save as much money as possible so that after I graduated I could get out there and see the world. It wasn’t easy but I did it and I spent an incredible few weeks trekking out on my own.
5. Humility – Humility does not come easily to most of us, unless you’re a true Mother Teresa type. When we first begin to travel overseas especially, our egos come to the forefront and we think how much better we are than most other people in the world. Pretty quickly though those egos are correctly tamped down and we begin to realize how insignificant we as individuals truly are, no matter how important we may be in our own minds. Humility isn’t just a good personal trait to have in general, but it also makes the travel experience much richer. When we are humble we are more likely to engage with locals and learn about them and their lives. It is when we are humble that we admit we don’t know everything and are willing to accept help. It is when we are humble that the world opens its doors so we can really see it for what it is; a wonderfully exciting and beautiful place.
What are some traits you think are important for a good traveler?
29 thoughts on “Five Personality Traits Every Good Traveler Should Have”
Think that is a great list, Patience would be my #1!
Hey Matt, good thoughts. Not sure I have anything to add to that? I do think if you have the desire to travel and are willing to embrace all of those traits, it can happen, even if it doesn’t come easily or naturally. Happy travels to you.
Humility and Curiosity are definitely in my top list. I would add Adaptability: you will always have to cope with some unpredictable facts and your trip will never go exactly as you planned, but the good traveler is the one who is able to enjoy these ”surprises” even more and make the most of it!
Sense of humour. Sometimes to find humour in otherwise stressful circumstances, sometimes to laugh at yourself.
I agree with Clayton – adaptability is necessary. Sometimes plans go awry and if you are able to adapt, that’s half the battle. I was in London and had plans to go to a garden site; all of the trains were disrupted and the buses were packed and it would have taken me forever to get there. It gave me the opportunity to switch gears and do something completely different and unexpected. I ended up having a wonderful time, instead of being disappointed that my original plans did not work out.
Patience would definitely be my top pick here! (Both as something I pride myself in for most travel experiences but has been my downfall in a select few.) I’ll add adaptability. You’re often surrounded by people and confronting situations that you would never come across at home, while traveling. Whether its socializing with people on a tour group who might not be your best friends back home or giving the scary looking local food a try – adaptability opens your world up to new ones and you can learn to enjoy things you never thought you would.
You’ve nailed it. #3 and #4 are hard sometimes, but without them, it is easy to ruin your own trip.
I agree with all 5 for sure! I’m still trying to learn patience though…
You were spot on with these 5 traits. PS– You look so young in the photo! (Of course you still look fantastic ;) )
Well said! I agree that curiosity is first. Without it, why even travel in the first place? When I was little, my parents bought me a globe. I would spin it, stop it with my finger at random and look up the place my finger landed in the encyclopedia. Now before I go somewhere new, I read up on its history and culture to make my experience that much richer.
I’ve found that kindness goes a long way. If you greet every person you encounter with kindness and a smile, you will usually be treated with kindness in return.
Patience is the toughest trait to master. But as soon as you learn to let the little things go, travel becomes a lot less stressful.
OK so I do 4 out of 5. I struggle the most with patience. It’s something I will probably work on until the day I die.
And I agree with Leslie – you look really young! You’re what – 15 in that photo? :)
With the implication being I’m old now? :) I was 22 in that photo. *sigh*
Spot on!! I’ve found that the more I traveled, the more i attained some level of the 5 traits you’ve mentioned. I know that one thing I’ve developed a LOT of while traveling is patience, which is unusual for my fast paced attention deficit self.
I think another thing that I really needed while traveling was acceptance [which i think is an aspect of all 5 of the traits you’ve mentioned] – new experiences, cultural norms that weren’t so normal to me, and help from strangers. These were all varieties of things that I really wasn’t good at accepting [you know, being a confident, independent, opinionated woman of the 21st century and all].
Great post Matt.
A recent notion — that goes along with #1 Curiosity — is that our planet is so incredibly unique. I fear because of global warming that all of the wonders we see, or long to see out there are one day going to be gone. It gives me and Conrad an urgency to travel more and see as much as we can. We’re so fortunate to have this marvelous place, you know?
I was excitedly checking off all the traits that I have above, until I got to number 3. I really need to work on that one! I do agree with the honesty trait, people are generally good in all countries we visit.
Great list, Matt – and I’ve also enjoyed reading all the other respondents comments as well. I have to agree with every one of those traits, but I’d also like to add Humour. If you can find humour in your day to day travels, even when your patience is being tested, it really helps the experience. We’re sitting in the airport two hours later than our flight was supposed to leave, there is a child having a hysterical tantrum beside me (not mine I might add) and we are going to miss our dinner reservations in Palm Springs. Also, a gentleman just came to stand beside me so that he could sneeze on me (without covering his mouth, of course). I am still smiling – well, sort of….
Great story and YES, humor is so very, very important when you travel.
curiosity,patience, honesty and sence of humor can make a trip memorable.even the people you interact with also remember you.
So very true, Matt. Thank you for that. A corollary to curiosity, humility and honesty, respect for cultural differences and an unbridled, almost child-like enthusiam for learning and exploring a country will provide travellers with a more enjoyable experience by rekindling in locals a renewed appreciation for their own heritage through the eyes of a stranger seeing the wonder of everything for the first time. I have made many new friends around the world this way, and I continue to communicate with them, even after 20 years.
To me it seems that some level of stamina is essential for travel
Yes, physical as well as mental.
I would add Compassion to the list. Nothing dampens my travels like assuming the worste about someone whom I’ve had a brush up against.
It’s important for me not just to let things go when they bother me, but to often do my best to remind myself to see things from other’s perspectives and to give them the benefit of the doubt – which is I guess how I define compassion. :)
Friendliness – a willingness to be open and interact with people you don’t know.
You can go far just being willing to talk to people.
So true, I’ve had some amazing experiences just because I started chatting with people.
This is PRECIOUS! Thanks!
These 5 personality traits are essential to traveling, I definitely agree. I would probably add flexibility to the list, because I’ve been on trips where things just don’t go as planned, and it was important to be flexible and work around the differences of the people I was traveling with, and their plans. I like that you have humility on the list- it’s so important… I don’t want the only thing people see when they look at me is a white American girl… I want to be a human, down on their level with the same needs as them. (Sorry if this comment was a little rambling!)
Curiosity & Humility, i would say. Getting inspired and planning my next destination for this year, stuck in here for over 7 months and this is killing me. the outside world is calling me.
Sense of humour first and last
Most things are funny in retrospect, but look for the upside and even immigration and home affairs staff will brighten up and help you.
Loved reading this post. I agree with Gill and Doreen about curiosity. :) The addition of kindness by CosmoHalliton is very important. I’ve had some amazing experiences based on kindness.
I would add flexibility as an element of what you said in Patience. Here’s why I see it as a complement.You deal with the delays, lost luggage, etc. using patience then there’s a moment where you see these elements with a silver lining. Sandstorm in Doha and you miss your connecting flight to Kyiv? There’s the possibility of a free evening in Doha that you never would have taken. Or, at the very least your long trip is broken and you can lay down on a bed or walk off the heavy legs you get after 9 hours of flying. Silver lining. You may not feel super happy about what happened, but when you adapt, joy comes flooding back faster.
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