Tell me how old you are and I’ll tell you how you travel
The young traveller
When you’re a child everything appears big and new. From the Tower of Pisa to the buttons in a car. You can’t vote, but you can express yourself: howls, cries, kicks, bites and other basic types of freedom of expression. You usually win, and end up at the water park.
You decide almost nothing: you leave everything in the hands of your hormones, your girlfriend or an acquaintance who the year before was at the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan and had a great time. Your backpack weighs twice as much as you and still doesn’t necessarily contain anything you truly need to climb to Machu Picchu. Your criteria for choosing a destination are: that nobody gets up early and that it doesn’t make too big a hole in your pocket. The holiday that you’ll remember most fondly is the same as the antipodeans visiting the village next to you: it doesn’t matter; for you, everything is new.
This is due to two factors: a) you have suffered your first massive romantic breakup and you decide “I’m getting out of the city” and b) you start not to know the difference between a backpacker bar in Kazakhstan and a hipster beach in Vienna. The books you take on your trip are less intense: you have progressed from Nietzsche to Ken Follett. Your conversations in the evening are long, but you choose the bar and your drinking companions better, and you select an iced drink that you swill in your hand.
You’ve definitively exchanged the backpack for the trolley, cheap plastic cups for woven tablecloths and any polluting kind of transport for air conditioning. When leafing through brochures you move rapidly from snapshots of the beaches in Bora Bora and linger at photos of the beds. You look at them with fascination: if the pillow seems comfy then the holiday will be a success. A good explorer at 40 knows that not far from a good bed there will be a restaurant serving wine at the right temperature. A civilised beach in the Algarve is enough nature for you. When you are asked to decide between the Galería Vittorio Emanuele II shopping centre in Milan or the Amazonian jungles that offer ayahuasca, nine times out of ten you choose the place where shoes reach the evening intact.
It’s not that there aren’t any more surprises; it’s just that there are things you’ve already seen. We all know the “guide’s cousins who have a shop here on the way back” in the old quarter of Marrakesh and you search for something in the all-you-can-eat buffet that your doctor hasn’t forbidden you. What you most appreciate is a) the company, b) the views and c) the service. You also set limits, such as only queueing once a day, or scheduling one day of doing nothing for every four on safari.