6 Travel Behaviors I Don’t Understand



In general my philosophy on travel is simple. All travel is good travel. However, this doesn’t mean I think all forms of traveling are equal. I’d put traveling to the pyramids in Egypt at a much higher level than going to somewhere less exciting like Wyoming. I’d say everyone else probably would agree with me.  But even if most people would agree with me on that one point, I find that many others disagree with me on many other aspects of traveling.

Confusing Travel Behaviors

I don’t want to seem harsh to anyone who travels for any of these purposes. If this is your preferred way of traveling, than I have no place to make any negative judgments about you. However, this doesn’t mean that I find these traveling behaviors any less confusing and counter to what I think traveling means.

So with that out of the way, let me introduce six traveling behaviors I just don’t understand.

1. Going to the same place repeatedly

When I was in Costa Rica, I met a couple on their sixth visit to Costa Rica. They didn’t own a house there and they had no cultural link or invested interest in the country other than tourism. Travel there had just become habitual.

It’s not that I don’t like Costa Rica. I recommend it to anyone traveling through Central America. It’s that the world is so huge and there is so much to see. When you keep going to the same place over and over again, you’re confining yourself and missing out on going to other places. For example, they could have used one of their Costa Rica trips to see Machu Picchu or Ireland instead.

2. Lying on the beach

If there is one stereotype Americans have of vacations, it is of finding a beach paradise to lounge around in all day long. While not all American travelers actively seek this out, enough of them do to make it frustratingly common. Their ultimate goal is to find a relaxing chair on the beach facing the ocean and just sit.

I have nothing against relaxing on the beach. In fact, I’ve spent some time relaxing on the beach with a drink or two just watching waves come in. However, there is one massive difference between how I do it and how these people do it. I do it for maybe an hour at most. They want to do it every day for about a week.

It just makes me ask one big question. How do you stop from getting bored? When I relax on the beach it is because I’m tired from doing other things or have some time before doing something else. I’ve never been able to do it for long periods of time. I just don’t understand the appeal of sitting on the beach all day long.

3. Golfing

Just recently an acquaintance of mine told me about her upcoming travels. Her plan was to spend two weeks in Ireland. After a couple of days in Dublin, she was going straight into Northern Ireland to spend the rest of her time there playing golf.

I have nothing against playing golf. Nor do I have anything against playing it in another country. What I don’t understand is traveling half-way around the world just to play it everyday for two weeks.

You could travel somewhere closer to home and do that. Since you’re spending most of your time on the golf course and not actually walking around seeing the country, it would make more sense. It’s not as if golf courses are hard to come by and it would save you money in the long run.

4. Bird watching

I look at bird-watching the same way I do as golfing. It would be fine in small doses, but some people spend their entire time doing it.

Admittedly if I was on a bus that pulled over so the passengers could spot a beautiful endangered bird, I would eagerly get out my camera to take a photo. But if he pulled off to the side to show us an unremarkable bird simply because it is local, I would become bored quickly. I just think there are so many more things worth traveling for.

5. Sporting events

Besides some sporting events such as The Olympics, there aren’t any sporting events I would actually travel to see. To my surprise, many people fly to see ordinary everyday games. For example, I knew someone who flew to Chicago to see a baseball game for a team he can easily watch at home any time during the season.

His justification was to see the Chicago ballpark. Plus, it was a match-up between two teams that rarely get to play against each other. I can definitely see the attraction; however, he had no interest in doing or seeing anything else.

Since I had been to Chicago many times before, I tried to make recommendations on things to see. He simply had no interest. His plan was to fly in, see the game, have a beer with friends afterward where they would presumably talk about the game and then head home. I couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t want to see parts of the city while he was there. Yet the goal of traveling to a city just to see a game (and not do anything else) is something I consistently come across.

6. Only doing cruises/tours

Let me make something perfectly clear: I don’t have anything against cruises or tours. In fact, I’ll probably do a cruise at least once or twice in order to see a string of places I probably wouldn’t normally get to see.

What I don’t understand is how some people rely on this as their only source of traveling. I imagine the attraction of traveling by cruises or tours is due to safety and ease of use. However, the strict time frames you’re under don’t make sense to me. If you’re on a cruise through the Mediterranean, you might only have one day in Athens. And if I want to spend more time there, I’m out of luck because the ship is soon leaving.

I realize that you don’t have to worry about food or accommodations because they’re all provided for. But finding somewhere to stay or eat at has given me some of my greatest memories while traveling. I’d be sacrificing amazing experiences for comfort. And that just isn’t something I’d be willing to do.

Are there any travel behaviors you don’t understand? Any of these that I mention make perfect sense to you?
photo credit: Thomas Hawk

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  1. I am really curious to know if the couple you met in Costa Rica are my friends! If they are from San Diego then they probably are! They go to Costa Rica yearly, and I have been telling my friend for years she needs to mix it up and maybe go to New Zealand.

    I have such a hard time lying on a beach too! When I went to Barbados my cousin and I were lying on a beach (albeit beautiful!), within one hour I was bored and started walking around exploring the area. I live in SoCal where we have beaches everywhere, so it is even more unappealing to me!

    One of my travel pet peeves are people who only eat food they can easily get at home (like McDonalds). I like trying local drinks and cuisine, and even when I go to a grocery store I will pick out local snacks.

    • I don’t think they were from San Diego, but that would be really funny if you did know who I met. Another thing I noticed about them was that they had never gone white water rafting while they were there. That was one of the biggest draws of Costa Rica to me since they have beautiful rivers to raft on. They said they wanted to, but just hadn’t done it yet.

      I’ve eaten at McDonalds while traveling before, but usually I try to stick as much as I can to the local cuisine and drinks. I feel that it helps me understand the country a little bit more and is a part of the travel experience.

  2. I’m so not much of a lay on the beach kind of girl. One reason is because regardless of the amount of hats, umbrellas, sunscreen I coat on, I end up with some kind of burn and I’m miserable for the rest of the trip. And I totally agree about the tours/cruises for all traveling, I get so anxious about the time table that I’m not able to enjoy myself as much as if I had free control of the time.

    • I get anxious when there is a time table too and enjoy being in control of the time. I’ve been to places that tours have recommended staying several days in. When I got there I felt I only needed one. Planning everything out on tours just seems to lose that sense of adventure that comes with independent travel.

  3. Karen Poole says:

    I agree with most of the points and would like to make another one. Why do Holiday makers, especially Irish and British, go to a sea side resort for their yearly holiday… Greece, Turkey, Spain, Portugal etc. Check into their holiday apartment that has a huge swimming pool, or small for that matter and then do not move for the next 10 days. They lie by the pool or sleep all day. The only time they venture out is at night to hit the bars and nightclubs. I know of people that did not even know in which direction the beach was let alone visit it….

    • I didn’t know this was something common among Irish or British Holiday makers. I mostly just know the habits of American tourists. It’s interesting to see though that sitting by a beach (or pool in these cases) and just sitting happens for citizens of other countries too.

      • Have you ever been to Ireland between September and June ?? (Thats 10 months by the way)

        A lot of Ireland is under grey skies, lashing rain & wind for a lot of the year.

        It’s no wonder that the Irish run to Spain on a cheapy holiday (now more than ever due the crisis) and bake in the sun shine for as long as possible.

        It is understandable to me at least. It takes all types of travellers to fill a bus and why waste your time and energy worrying about everyone else.

        Just get on with it

        (tut tut)

  4. What you’re saying–that much of what you’ve said doesn’t make sense–makes sense to me. Meaning that I don’t get it either. I think that many people are looking for a ‘vacation’ and want it to be safe and predictable. They want control over most of what’s happening perhaps and see ‘travel’ (as you and I and others do it) as something that’s a bit intimidating.

    I personally could never go to the same place over and over again (maybe at a very old age and with severe limitations). Once, I went to Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido two years in a row. I loved both places that much. But on some level, it just didn’t work for me–even though I added in some unusual destinations, etc. in between. And I love the beach, but….only for several days. One week is the max (and that’s if I can do some cool day trips).

    I guess people do what’s comfortable for them and what they can handle? But by sticking to the tried and true, they miss out on the adventures….

    • Safety and predictability could very well be a big factor in why people go to the same places over and over again. The couple I met in Costa Rica didn’t seem like the adventurous type. Being intimidated by what they can’t control could be an explanation for this travel behavior. At this point, I can’t say for certain if this is true, but it is plausible.

      In my experience I went to Bangkok two years in a row. That was only because I flew out of there the second year. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have gone. As much as I love the city, it just wasn’t as exciting or fulfilling to see it again so soon.

      For me, I like seeing somewhere new and seeing what new adventures wait for me there. There are some places I’d love to go back to, but I want to give it a few years before I do.

  5. different strokes for different folks :-)

    i’ve been to thailand repeatedly just cant get enough of thai food :-)

  6. I disagree with the sporting travel. I think it’s great to include seeing a live sporting event when you travel to a new destination. We always talk about getting a local feel when we travel, well there is truly no better way than to attend a live sporting event.
    When I went to Sydney for the first time, I happened upon tickets to the finals of a rugby championship. It was one of the highlights of my time there.
    As an avid soccer fan, I would love to combine my love of the game with trips to Barcelona, Madrid, Manchester and London to see the world renowned clubs in action. Even in the states, you can learn so much about a city just by attending a sporting event.

    • You make some good points. I can see it from that point of view now. I’ve watched a sporting event during my trips before too. For example, I watched a Muay Thai match while I was in Bangkok. However, it wasn’t my sole focus for traveling there.

      I think what I really don’t understand is how some people I’ve known travel across the country to watch a game only to watch the game. They’re not really using it to get a feel for the destination. In fact, many don’t seem to care about the destination at all. I just find it weird that they aren’t curious about the place they spent several hours on a plane to get to.

      • If you have ever supported a football club, you would know that there is no such thing as “ordinary everyday games” (although some games would be more “glamorous” than some- say, playing one of the top teams or a local derby). It occupies your waking hours, bleeds into your sleep, gives you great joy, damns you to unspeakable sorrow; it is a matter of life and death for a lot of us supporters. You go to the away games to be part of the machinery that oils your beloved club’s cogs; and there is nothing like giving voice to that passion. Sightseeing? They come to see one thing: their club. Everything else is incidental. That it isn’t other people’s style does not make it any less passionate or meaningful.

  7. I think all travel behaviours are subjective and personal, as not everybody longs for the same experience. Some would rather spend their whole day walking around, others prefer to lie on the beach and relax. It also really depends on the kind of life you lead at home too – sometimes you don’t have any energy left when you leave for your occasional vacation and all you want is to get away from everything.

    While I’m definitely not the type of traveller who lies around all day, I can understand the appeal of it for some people.

    Although that opens up a new debate – can you say you have actually travelled when you haven’t experienced the traditions and culture of a country? Is there a solid explanation of what travel is?

    • You raise some good debate questions about how to define what travel is. That’s a hard question to answer.

      I definitely understand the appeal of lying around all day. In fact, I spent a good chunk of yesterday and this morning lying around because of exhaustion. And I can tell you that it was incredibly rejuvenating.

      However, I did all of it at home. I didn’t need to travel several hours on a plane to do it. I think it would be simpler (and less expensive) to just lounge around the house and relax. I guess I can understand if the intent is to get away from things at home. That might make it seem worth it. Yet, many people I know who have expressed interest in lying around a beach for weeks don’t seem to lead that hectic of lives.

  8. I have a friend who likes to go to the same places over and over, Disney World and Las Vegas. I can see visiting those places once or twice, but not many many times. I live near the beach, so I don’t have the desire to stay out at other beaches for a full week. I get too bored. I don’t golf or birdwatch either, so I wouldn’t see the appeal of that. I can see the appeal of wildlife in general, like an African safari or rainforest visit.

    I enjoy working on a cruise ship, but I don’t think I would take many vacations on them. The one time I did, I wished I had just flown straight to the destination so I could have more time there instead of a few hours.

    • I see the appeal of wildlife in general too. I really enjoyed my time walking through a rainforest and I still want to do an African safari. But birdwatching would be too much for me and I would just get bored.

      I’m with you on Disney World. I went there several years ago and I don’t think I’m ready to go back and see it again. In fact the next time I’d probably think about doing it would be when I have kids.

  9. My husband is definitely guilty of the whole beach thing. Actually, even worse, he’d rather just be at the pool. Just laying there. Not even reading or anything. For DAYS! We could do that in NC! I’m very much interested in seeing new places but then there are places I’ve enjoyed so much, I also want to go; I think I’ll just run out of time to do and see it all! And I agree, cruises definitely have their place-I like them for “sampling.” I didn’t have a good time in Grand Cayman so I’ll probably not go back there but I enjoyed Playa del Carmen enough to go back and spend 8 days there to see more of it.

    • I travel to see new places too. I do enjoy visiting a pool and swimming in it, but I have access to a pool here that I use occasionally. I don’t understand why one half-way around the world is so much more appealing.

  10. Haha – yes, I think the pyramids in Egypt are more exciting than Wyoming 😉 I’m with you totally on numbers 2 through 6, but not on number 1. I actually quite often go back to the same place repeatedly. Martha’s Vineyard is an every summer thing for me in the US, and I’m now in Israel for the third time in three years. I travel a lot of other places too, so at least I get to experience a lot more. If you only go the same place over and over and don’t go anywhere else ever, that’s really limiting. I couldn’t stand it.

    And actually, as far as number 5, the sporting events travel, I think this is pretty cool – every summer my brother takes his three little daughters on a two-week camping/baseball trip. They drive all over the country to see major league baseball games (my brother played baseball for like 20 years) and camp out every night to save money. They just love it, and I think it’s pretty ingenious.

    • I can see why your brother looks forward to it each year. Turning it into a road/camping trip is a fun idea. And I can see why he would want to go to all those games since he played baseball all those years.

      Traveling to the same place repeatedly wouldn’t be so bad if you go to travel a lot of other different places too. I know that I cherish my vacation time so I use all of it to see as many different places as I can. But for those who choose the same place repeatedly instead of anywhere else, I think they are just limiting their options.

  11. I love your point about cruises and tours. I tend to avoid them myself. I would much rather talk to the locals, take DIY trips and take the off beaten path. Travelers are missing out by taking the ‘easy’ route.

  12. Steve,

    This was a fun read because I can see we have a lot in common. When I go on a trip it is not to do any of the things listed above. I am all about experiences. I want to do things I have never done before, meet people I won’t ever see again and experience the culture of people different than myself. I guess each person is different but I would rather watch paint dry than bird watch or play golf on my vacation. Now if that is what you enjoy please don’t be offended I am just sharing my personal traveling preferences. lol!

    • I like experiencing things I’ve never seen or done before when it comes to traveling too. I think it is the people and cultures you come in contact with that really make traveling enjoyable. But I guess other people view it differently and it’s ok if they do.

  13. I guess I’m one that will disagree with most.

    about the beach. Some people live where there are no beaches and dream about the beach all year long. When they get to one it’s all they want to do.

    It’s like when I go to Taipei. There’s this one restaurant I love to eat. I don’t eat there everyday but I’ll eat there often. Why? Cause I can’t get that food here in Florida. Though there are so many other choices available, I still want to eat that one restaurant.

    It’s the same with golf. Sure they could golf at home. But the exciting part is golfing in another country.

    I don’t have a problem with any of those, except I would never go bird watching. :)

    • There is a certain satisfaction that comes with the familiar. But too much of the same can be limiting. Having a favorite restaurant to go to isn’t all that bad. I have one in my home town too.

      I love going to the beach too. There aren’t any beaches around here. I just don’t want to sit around and do nothing for several days. When I go to the beach, I want to go swimming, snorkeling, surfing or diving. If I’m just going to sit around and do nothing, I could do that here.

      The same goes for golfing. Although I understand that golfing in another country is fun and exciting for some people, I don’t understand golfing every single day for weeks. I heard that Ireland has some amazing golf courses, but that still doesn’t excuse missing out on seeing any of Ireland’s amazing sites while you’re there.

  14. I did a tour because I was afraid to travel to a ESL country independently. I am still here, and going to travel independently tomorrow.

    With experience, the fear will fade.

  15. I have to agree with most of them Steve. Number one is the biggest No No for me. I always like to visit somewhere new, and if I am going back to a place I’ve already been, I will always try and scope out a new area to explore. Don’t get me wrong, its always great to return to a place your comfortable with, but I will always try to travel to some place differnt each time I leave home.

    Lying on the beach is something I only do if I have a great deal of time. As I get older, I tend not to be bothered with it really. As for golfing, you can keep that. I’d rather pull my own teeth out with pliers than play golf. I played one game about 20 years ago, and thats enough to last a life time as far as Im concerned.

    • I’m with you on what to do if I go to a place I’ve already visited. I try to find new places to explore. Eventually I go re-visit the familiar just because it can bring back some good memories, but I don’t tend to stay long.

      20 years ago is about the last time I played a game of golf too. I completely understand why people like it, but it’s just not for me. I have a lot of other things I’d rather be doing.

  16. I’ll disagree with you on the pyramids. I think they’d be really incredible to see…but what more can you do besides look at them? After an hour or so, you’d probably have about enough. I’ve been to other ruins, and after the first impression, they lose their luster. Yes, they’re cool, but I just don’t think it’s reasonable to be in awe for hours or days on end…

    But in Wyoming, there’s Devil’s Tower…a spectacular monument, that you can climb on! Which is exactly what I’ll be doing in a few months! For me, climbing vertical rock faces with hundreds of feet of air below is way more incredible than looking at some pyramids in the desert!

  17. Totally disagree with you on 3 and 5. Playing golf in Ireland and Scotland is a religious experience. It is totally unlike playing golf in the States. Playing at St. Andrews is like going to the Vatican, if you are religious — or any other example of one of the greatest places on earth. And I’d love to go see a real Premier League Soccer game in England. And took a trip to Boston to see a baseball game in Fenway. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

  18. I think the definition of a travel experience various according to the person, and a large extent their age and interests.

    I’m mixed on #2 (lying on beaches). While I prefer to explore and see things, some vacations are only beach related. Ever been to Turks and Caicos?… there’s not much else to do there, but they have the most pristine white powdery sand beaches. These locations are for people who just want to chill and read a book and maybe do a bit of swimming/snorkeling. A handful of years ago, I had just got off of a very heavy project, and having just put in a 22 hour day in order to satisfy a contractual obligation, I did just that – book a beach vacation so I could just shut out the world and disconnect from everything.

    I’d have to agree with Michael on #5. I’m not so much into sports, but I would definitely go to a sporting event in a foreign country – that’s part of their culture, and I would find that interesting, just as much as going to a bar in Philly to see the rabid hockey fans swear at their team.

    I’d have to agree with you on #6 (only doing cruises/tours). I’m not a cruise person, but I just got off a sponsored cruise of the Mediterranean. I think you would be hard pressed to cover the interesting ports in the amount of time I did, so the cruise was a valuable mode of transportation. It also gave me a good glimpse of where I would like to return without fully committing to one locale – I think you commented on this aspect. I do wish they had overnights in the ports, but that costs the cruise operator more – however, some cruises are starting to do that. If time is not a factor, then do it the slow way and see as much as possible. One other thing to consider is that many people on the ship are retirees – they can’t get around like you can, so a cruise is a comfortable way to see things a bit differently.

    As Michael also stated, to each his own. I personally find backpacking and staying in hostels to be confusing. I would probably understand it if I were in my 20’s again, but I’m not, so I would rather put out the dollars for nicer accommodations.

  19. I have to say that I do understand all of them. Maybe they aren’t for me or you, but they are for someone, and that’s fine.

    If I was an avid golfer, then golfing around the world would be what interests me. If I was a fisherman, then heck, I would go fishing around the world… bird watcher, etc. You can’t see the same birds around the world.

    Having an understanding of what different people like is one of those things you learn when traveling. C’mon, I know you know that.

  20. I think that what you’re talking about is the difference between travel and vacation. “Travel” is an active term- it’s about seeking out new adventures and learning new things. “Vacations” are indulgences. They are about doing the things you personally enjoy- be it golfing, sports or laying on the beach (personally I’m a big fan of the lay-on-the-beach-and-do-nothing school of thought- on occasion).

    Some people, and most travel bloggers probably fall into this category, like to travel on their vacations, but some people just want to relax and I won’t begrudge them that. At least their getting out of their house!

  21. I totally share your bafflement on ALL counts. What travel choices a traveller makes says a lot about him/her.

  22. I also find the concept of a sporting/birdwatching/cruise holiday confining and I would hate it as, like you, I like to travel around and see new places.

    However, many of these people (the Costa Rica couple and the British lie-on-the-beach-for-a-week-people) are on a vacation, they are not travellers. They work hard all year and deal with all sorts of stress and they may only have a few weeks holiday. Why shouldn’t they go somewhere they feel confortable and relax? Some people do not like going out of their comfort zones and find the thought of your style holiday as unbearable as you find theirs.

    After a year of teacher training I went to Crete. Normally I would run around seeing everything and going everywhere but I was so exhausted after a year of what had been a full-time university course + a part-time, unpaid teaching job (that’s how it felt at the time anyway!) that I lay on the beach all day every day and the furthest I moved was to the bar and back. I still remember it as one of the best holidays ever because that’s what I needed at that point.

    Having said that, I hate package/charter holidays with a passion! Never again :-)

    This year I’m going travelling because that is the way I prefer to see the world!

  23. One that I personally don’t understand is going to a city and only seeing it’s landmark sites. Places like statues, historical monuments, art galleries, and museums.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love all of these things, but they only speak to about half of traveling to me. There is this whole other half that is experiencing other cultures and people and ways of life that are outside of our own.

    I enjoy to go somewhere, find a local with similar interests as mine, ask them what they like to do, and go do that. I don’t mean going to the mall, but local (read: non-touristy) hangouts/pubs/bars/clubs/restaurants. Things of that nature.

  24. Sitting on the beach, I agree with you, I don’t mind sitting near the beach with a beer in hand, but to just sit in a chair all day does nothing for me.

    Cruise Tours, would never consider it, I work offshore 6 weeks at a time on a boat, I totally can’t understand why anyone would want to cruise, the ocean is just a big wet desert.

  25. Funny that most of us believe that travel makes us more tolerant of people who are different from ourselves–but then have no problem criticizing travelers who just have different preferences. Live and let live, right? As my mom always said, “That’s why they make chocolate AND vanilla.” Deep breaths, everyone!

  26. I agree. Live life to the fullest, become powerful and don’t let silly things you’ve made up stop you from doing that!

  27. I don’t know if it’s still time to post a comment… Anyway, I would mention an issue nobody seems to have raised : I can’t understand people who travel in a country where they don’t speak the local language. As an American, you probably consider that all the world is supposed to speak English, but even so, you will miss a lot as you won’t be able to understand shop signs, street advertisements, newspapers headlines, museum labels, and many other items that make the cultural context and help understand the country.

  28. I will tell you the real number 1 reason why the majority of people like nothing but laying on the beach, and i am suprised no one else has mentioned this…….The reason is because it is cheap, you dont have to pay for public transport constantly, you dont have to pay for entrance fees, you dont have to pay for food because most of these kind of trips are all inclusive…..My last holiday was to New york for 16 nights, (this was my 3rd visit to New York) I have been to many other places in the world too:) Anyway that holiday cost me £9000, hotel, flights, eating at my own choice restaurants, entance fees, and boat cruise along the hudson, hop on hop off expenditures and just normal spending money……..Trust me the majority just lay on a beach mate because it costs nothing….this is your answer…..90% guaranteed:)

  29. Mike Powers says:


    Let me first say that you think and write well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. Regarding sitting on thr beach, day after day, reading a book, swimming, napping, eating a nice lunch washed down with a strong drink, doused with episodes of 70s and 80s music, being relaxed and lazy knowing there is no better place in the world. Yes sir! Finding a perfect beach with turquoise clear swimming pool put to shame water ….I’d never trade it.


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