As a casual weekend hiker would you enter an Ironman contest with a veteran Ironman contestant? Probably not. Why? Because your goals, experience, conditioning, and approach are fundamentally different. This is an important lesson when picking a travel partner. While not an exact science, travelers can be broken down into three easy categories: novice, intermediate and expert travelers.
When trying to find a travel partner it initially appears to make sense that novice travelers should seek out expert travelers as companions. It’s like having a guide, but better—right? Not really, and in most cases, it’s a bad idea for a fairly simple reason: Expert travelers tend to be at a very different place with their desired experiences, where they find value, and their travel goals.
Travel for a novice traveler is flush with brand new experiences, even on the most basic levels. These are the things that make travel terrifying but also add fantastic depth to it. The novice traveler is far more inclined to want to see every museum, every major historic landmark, and to stop at major tourist destinations. For most, they’re at a stage that mirrors a child’s love and lust for discovery, and that should be embraced and nurtured. And, just to be completely clear—yeah, that means photographing the first twenty cobblestone streets you see and posing for every cliche tourist photo you feel tempted to pose for along the way. All without guilt or apology.
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The challenge comes when you try and pair a traveler in that novice state with someone who has already gone through that phase. They’ve not only seen many of the major cathedrals and architectural wonders but have probably done tens if not hundreds of museums. and if they’ve spent time in Europe this likely includes the main museums in England, France, Italy and Greece which house the lion’s share of the world’s most famous wonders.
For many of these experienced travelers, the experience has shifted from observation to immersion. They’re still setting a fast pace at times but their approach is usually more haphazard, and they may not go out of their way to chase pure novelty experiences. They also typically travel slower, are on tighter budgets, and relate very differently to their environment.
As far as the intermediate traveler? They’re ordinarily a combination of the two—somewhere in the middle as they transition from wide-eyed novice to storied veteran. It’s also not always cut and dried. Depending on the region and culture or travel style, we tend to fluctuate, which is another dimension to bear in mind. Just because your companion has backpacked the world for a year, don’t necessarily assume that they’re well versed on the logistics and experiences of luxury spa-based travel.