What type of tourist are you? Are you one of those obsessive travellers who has to tick everything on your holiday ‘to do list’?
Or do you prefer to relax, chill out and hang around a pool or beach all day with no clear agenda or schedule?
The ‘do everything’ traveller is certainly the category I fall into. I can’t help overloading my holiday with ‘must see’ attractions and busy daily schedules.
Many years ago I developed a reputation for holidays that were hectic affairs featuring dozens of tourist attractions. My motto was ‘leave no stone unturned’.
A work colleague, who rarely got off his sunbed on holiday, once organised a competition to guess how many places I’d visited on my Italian vacation. My fellow workers agreed to take part, slightly shame-faced.
Rather than being appalled by his mean-spirited contest, I was amused to discover the results of his competition. The winner guessed I’d visited 34 places of “cultural boredom”. The real answer was actually 72 which shocked everybody!
But then Rome has dozens of old buildings. Roman ruins, churches, art galleries and museums which I’d managed to squeeze into my two-week trip. Nobody should have been surprised by the large number of attractions I’d visited. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see all of Rome’s marvellous sights?
‘Got To Do Everything’ Tourism
But is it a bad thing to aspire to squeezing in everything when you’ve invested a lot of money of a holiday? Or am I doomed to be a victim of tourism gluttony, forever racing around every important attraction?
Over the years, my partner Tony has agreed to live with my crazy travel schedules, insatiable appetite for galleries and passion for places. Even if there are 72 on my list!
He even has a name for it – ‘GOT’ – ‘Goal-Oriented Tourism’. Basically, it is tourism driven by goals and lists of ‘must see’ attractions.
Generally, Tony has gone along with my ‘GOT’, but sometimes, he rebels, puts his foot down, and opts to sit in a charming local bar whilst I gallop around the final museum on my list.
In contrast, some holiday makers love nothing better than doing nothing on their holidays. My workmate Alan, who held the ‘guess how many attractions’ competition was one of those people. He preferred jetting off to ‘Sunny Beach’ in Bulgaria for the cheapest holiday he could find, usually a full board package deal.
He’d eat nothing but English food and drink British beer. Alan never ventured further than 600 metres from his hotel and the beach. God forbid that he should ever speak to anybody Bulgarian or try any their culinary specialities.
When he scoffed at my passion for travel, I called him “a philistine”. Trouble is that he didn’t know what the word meant.
Perhaps I was too harsh on Alan because a relaxing vacation is sometimes a very good thing indeed. Sun, sea, sand – and sitting reading a trashy novel – never harmed anyone.
But surely there’s more to life than just lying on a beach and reading a book in Barbados or Benidorm?
That said, you’re much more likely to get a golden tan on a beach holiday than spending three hours inside the Louvre in Paris.
And if you like holiday romances, you stand a better chance of scoring by the pool or in a night club that in a church or art gallery!
Going for Goals!
How do you spot the GOT traveller? There are many of us out there, usually seen in airport departure lounges reading ‘The Rough Guide to…” wherever we’re going.
We can be seen writing daily itineraries and making lists of ‘interesting stuff to do on holiday’ – and scribbling down opening times. All of us have one thing in common – we’re completists who can’t bear to miss anything off our tourist schedules.
For example, when we were on holiday in Boston, I felt compelled to complete every building, landmark and statue on the Freedom Trail. This is how frazzled Tony looked after the marathon sightseeing experience.
Completists are also keen to uncover ‘unusual hidden treasures’ to impress our loved ones. A strange subterranean chapel in Rome, the Sewers Tour under Paris or a trip to secret caves off the Neapolitan coast. The more esoteric the better.
Even the trickiest of assignments will be on the daily schedule, from whale watching in the Pacific Ocean to star gazing in Arizona. No stone, ocean or wilderness will be left unturned.
How do you think I got the name ‘Tammy Tour Guide’?
On my recent holiday to Spain, I managed to get around 60 tourist sights in two weeks with an impressive six sights in just one day in Malaga. Perhaps I’m bonkers, but I can’t bear to miss anything. I was gutted to reach the Pompidou Centre Malaga as its doors were closing for the night!
This isn’t just about quantity though, it’s about the quality of the experience. I hope that I’m not guilty of racing around without looking at things properly.
I love to immerse myself in the place where I’m staying and its culture, cafes and lifestyle. I can spend hours in a great gallery or museum.
Benefits of the ‘Museum Diet’
Being a completist has another positive side. It’s a brilliant way to lose weight and get fit on holiday. On average I walk around 8 miles a day on my holiday sightseeing jaunts.
Ten thousand steps a day? No problem. Sometimes I can clock up 20,000 when I’m in full tourist mode.
I call it the ‘Museum Diet’ – it’s simple and fun. All you have to do is walk around museums and galleries for hours on end, squeezing in as many as possible.
The health benefits of a Museum Diet occurred to me a couple of years ago when I realised that I lost weight on every vacation. Walking around endless tourist sights is a great way to keep fit, especially if you’re indulging in giant lunches and dinners.
But, there’s a fine line between ticking off attractions and enjoying yourself on holiday.
First, there’s the strong possibility of ‘museum overload’ and fatigue as you traipse around miles and miles of corridors.
Just look at this photo of my partner Tony after a full day spent at the Metropolitan Art and Guggenheim Museums in New York. He looks like a zombie!
I think that one of the reasons for my obsession with ‘Goal-Oriented Tourism’ is that I’m not very sporty. I detest swimming and find strenuous hikes hard. I’ve never been good at biking, winter sports or mountaineering. But I do like a good challenge – like a ‘touristathon’.
Then there’s the weather. Sitting on a beach doesn’t suit my pale complexion which erupts in sunburn if it’s exposed to hours of sunshine.
For me, there’s nothing better than sitting under a parasol in a charming cafe or plodding around the corridors of a cool, air-conditioned art gallery.
The other type of holiday maker who has an insatiable appetite for ‘doing stuff’, of course, is the action adventurer who loves nothing better than a ‘boot camp’ hike across the mountains of the Andes or a 200 mile cycle ride across France.
I even have friends who have attempted three impossibly difficult summits of the Tour de France on their vacation.
Some are mad on a specific sport like windsurfing or sailing which can turn into a full holiday in itself. They can be classified as ‘SOT’s or Sports Oriented Tourists.
Are they so far from me in their addiction to ‘doing things’? I admire them enormously for achieving what I could never do myself.
Holiday hell or heaven?
This brings me back to the whole question of what holidays are for? To relax? To discover new places and cultures? To learn about stuff?
Doing too much can be bad for you, of course, especially if you have a hectic job for the rest of the year. Your body needs to unwind and relax – and recuperate.
I’m not sure that I do enough unwinding on my holidays. Perhaps I should spend more time in the hotel spa having a mud bath? Or sit quietly by the pool reading a book with a large cocktail?
On my Italian holiday to the Neapolitan coast, I came back on the plane looking worse than when I’d started the trip due to ‘excessive tourism syndrome”.
Everyone else on the return flight looked chilled, I looked knackered and in need of another holiday.
To be fair, I love nothing better than sitting in a bar or cafe drinking, eating and chatting with friends. But lying by a pool, soaking up the sun and doing nothing doesn’t light my candle. I’d rather get immersed in the local culture and explore the place where I’m staying.
Many people love a good book on holiday. But I feel that reading on holiday is overrated – I can always read a good book back home or on the way to work.
Naturally, I’d make an exception for reading a Provencal book in Provence or a book about Paris when staying in that fair city.
But everyone is different and if you enjoy, doing absolutely nothing on holiday, far be it for me to get on my high horse.
So what’s your holiday style? To complete everything on your list or enjoy yourself? ‘Goal Oriented Tourism’ (GOT) or ‘Calm Oriented Tourism’ (COT)?
It’s a tough call.
Perhaps the solution is to have two or three holidays every year. One for relaxation and two for sightseeing at a frantic rate?
Having a camper van sorts out this dilemma as it means you can have more holidays and they’re cheaper. Some trips can be more ‘GOT’ whilst others are definitely ‘COT’.
Ultimately, the choice is yours…bottom line – it’s down to enjoying yourself!
Tammy’s Tourism Quiz
If you’re not sure what type of traveller you are, take Tammy’s interactive quiz.
If you answered ‘yes’ to questions A, C, E and F… congratulations! You’re a goal-oriented tourist.
If you answered ‘yes’ to questions B or D, you prefer to relax and chill out on holiday.