Read My Inventory and Use it as a Model for Developing Your Own Inventory.

“Through travel, you discover a new aspect of your personality. You discover things which you wouldn’t in the confines of your home.”
Imtiaz Ali

How I Developed My Own Travel Personality Inventory

When I (Paul Heller, founder of Fifty Plus Nomad) first started traveling as a young man, I often struggled to adapt to an unfamiliar environment. I suffered from culture shock and often was lonely and irritated by paying foreigner (gringo) taxes during my adventures. I treasured the memories and personal growth these experiences provided, but the result was seldom as easy or satisfying as possible. 

After teaching courses about traveling and living abroad throughout the US between 2005 and 2009, I learned a lot about how long-term travelers and expats can adapt successfully to their new lives. 

After teaching the first couple of courses, I realized that two of the most significant subjects I needed to address were culture shock and travel burnout.

In designing this part of the course, I started by inventorying my past experiences to see what made me passionate about travel and researching what made people succeed as long-term travelers and expats.

To find out more about my travel personality. I took two commercially available personality inventory quizzes: Myers-Briggs and Stanley Plog

When I taught courses in the US, I realized that Myers-Briggs and Stanley Plog, while outstanding, did not cover everything students needed. So, I designed three additional quizzes and exercises to fill in the gap: 

Before I left on my long-term travel adventure (which eventually lasted for nearly five years) in 2011, I reviewed this part of my course and revised my travel personality inventory. 

In 2019 I revised my travel personality inventory again based on my worldwide experiences. I published it here so that fellow long-term travelers and expats could look at the list, choose how they like to travel, and see what details to include in their inventories.

Why You Should Develop a Travel Personality Inventory

I highly recommend long-term travelers and expats develop a similar inventory. It only took me a couple of days to build the travel personality inventory, and it saved me tons of frustration and missteps. I knew my travel style, interest, and how I like to plan my travels.

Over time, I gradually tried out and adapted several new travel-related interests. I also modified my travel style by changing my travel pacing. (I started to travel at a quick pace and got more relaxed over time)

Despite these changes, my travels reflected the travel personality inventory for the most part.

Many of my fellow long-term travelers were not satisfied with their new lifestyle. As I talked to them, I realized that part of this dissatisfaction came from either not knowing their travel style or interests beforehand or repeatedly doing the same type of travel experiences.

Everyone has a different and distinct inventory. What makes me happy traveling will differ from what makes you joyful and vice-versa.

Here is my travel personality inventory. Use this list to help you think about how you like to travel and understand your travel personality better.

My Travel Interests 

I: 

  • Am fascinated by unique cultures. 
  • Always seek new experiences and have trouble settling down into a stable lifestyle.
  • Enjoy starting up businesses that allow me to share my perspectives and experiences about travel with others. 
  • Love exploring many distinct parts of the world, including Europe, Third World Countries (Asia, Latin America, and Africa), and the US and Canada. 
  • Relish participating in many types of travel experiences, including independent travel, cruises, guided tours, and learning and volunteer vacations
  • Do not spend the time and money to learn how to use a new travel technology unless it has many recognizable benefits. 
  • Like to share my travel experiences with others when I get home, I can be good at influencing others to try new travel adventures and experiences. 
  • Watch a lot of documentaries to see places I want to visit or have visited.  
  • Love expanding my knowledge about wine, food, architectural history, cultural differences, geography, languages, and world history while traveling.

My Travel Style  

I: 

  • Enjoy going back and forth between luxury travel (staying at first-class hotels and eating at top-notch restaurants) and budget travel (renting a room in someone’s home). 
  • I need to spend time alone with no fixed schedule or commitments. I relish having enough time to explore exotic sights and pursue my many passions and interests. 
  • Like having a comfortable bed at night, a warm shower, and a delicious meal. 
  • Am easy to motivate to take a trip or buy a ticket for events on the road. If something sounds interesting, I will sign up without doing much other research. I only do more research if there is something that I need to know ahead of time. (Generally, I need to ensure that I, or a travel companion, can do the activity physically). I prefer not to have a lot of details ahead of time because I:
    • Enjoy the sense of discovering something new. 
    • Am disappointed if I know too much about an experience ahead of time. 
    • Am reluctant to visit overcrowded places. 
  • Tend to buy souvenirs that are part of the heritage of a destination, such as Mexican folk art though I collect refrigerator magnets and shot glasses from my travels. 
  • Do not like to sleep in the same room as a stranger and often pay for a single supplement. 
  • Am willing to spend money to have clean laundry. I wouldn’t say I like to wear the same clothes for more than one day and have no luck washing clothes myself. 
  • Do not enjoy taking city buses much. I am easily frustrated figuring out the bus routes and find that I occasionally do not get off at the right spot, especially on a crowded bus. 
  • Dread using public transit to get from the airport to the city in an unknown city. I am more than willing to pay for a taxi to avoid the annoyance of figuring out the public transport system, learning how to pay the fare, etc. (Particularly after a long flight). 
  • Only willingly use city buses if I travel on the same route for several days (i.e., from a homestay to a language school). I am inclined, however, to use the metro or subway to travel around a new city when available. (Metros usually only feature a few lines and stations, whereas buses have multiple routes and stops. I can usually also figure out how to buy a ticket more efficiently on a subway than on a city bus). 
  • Do not want to start traveling right away after arrival, particularly following a night flight. I have never mastered the art of sleeping on a plane. When I arrive, all I want to do is get something to eat, relax, and, if feasible, rest well before starting my new adventure. 
  • Try to arrive in a city at least one day before beginning a tour or cruise. That way, it is less stressful if there is a problem with a flight, and I am not tired when starting a new trip. (Especially now that you cannot rely on airlines to depart when they said upon buying the ticket). 
  • Seek a wide range of experiences when traveling. For example, during my two years in Montreal (spread out over eight years), I attended a wide range of concerts, from hard rock to opera, and tours of everything from a lavender farm to a train museum.  
  • Enjoy city walking tours, food/wine excursions, and any tour (including tours of graffiti) that I will not find in many other cities. 
  • Do not like to drive, particularly outside of the US. I have a history of fender-benders and get easily lost, which causes me frustration when I am driving in an unknown place. 
  • Spend around five to seven hours a day sightseeing and relax most nights. I do, however, also go out a couple of nights a week at night to attend concerts or with an organized excursion. 
  • I like visiting museums and other urban sights in cities independently for a week or two. Then, I use day tours for trips to the nearby countryside. Most tour companies schedule too little time at sites for my taste. 
  • Am more willing to splurge on meals and sightseeing than hotels. Meals and sightseeing help me learn more about the place than hotels.  
  • Find it harder than in the past to stay in hotels or rooms that do not have proper heating or air conditioning. 
  • Enjoy staying in a luxury hotel at least a couple of days a year. 
  • Enjoy renting a car with a driver or tour guide, especially when traveling in places where the cost of these services is small (like India). That way, I can avoid crowded buses and eliminate some frustration from buying tickets. 
  • Like going on organized shore excursions on cruises. The guides are excellent, and the destinations are fascinating. Sometimes, I ask the excursion staff which tours are the least popular because these tours are often uncrowded and attract passionate guides about the itinerary. 
  • When away from home for an extended period, I enjoy spending time in my new culture (eating at small market kiosks). I also like spending time in my own, more familiar culture (i.e., shopping at the same stores as home, visiting with local expatriates, etc.). When I was younger, I was self-critical about enjoying my home culture while living abroad. Now, it is sometimes healthy (but not all the time) to spend time with fellow Americans (or Canadians) and shop at familiar stores. 
  • Have found that the longer I travel, the more relaxed my travel becomes. I used to feel like I needed to schedule every minute of the day when I worked and had only two to three weeks of vacation a year. However, now that I often travel for several months a year, I feel comfortable having more downtime (watching TV, reading, and listening to podcasts). I also like spending more time in one place before traveling to another. 
One of the things I realized when I did my travel personality inventory is how much I love art from outside Western Europe. My favorite comes from Russia. I love the mixture of Russian symbols with Western Painting styles. This photo is from an impressionist painting at the Tretyakov Galeria in Moscow, one of my favorite museums anywhere, called The Soul of the People (1916) by Mikhail Nesterov.
One of the things I realized when I did my travel personality inventory is how much I love art from outside Western Europe. My favorite comes from Russia. I love the mixture of Russian symbols with Western Painting styles. This photo is from an impressionist painting at the Tretyakov Galeria in Moscow, one of my favorite museums anywhere, called The Soul of the People (1916) by Mikhail Nesterov.

Travel Planning

  • Sometimes, I plan my trips because I love having something exciting to look forward to. I also find that if I wait to plan something until the last moment, I: 
    • Am prone to forego participating in events. 
    • Usually, regret this decision afterward. Get lazy and spend time relaxing and doing nothing.  

I also:

  • Usually do not return to the same place, though occasionally, I enjoy revisiting places I have not seen in a long time. 
  • Plan some downtime into all my independent travel experiences to do laundry, and chores, arrange tours, organize transport, and watch TV/read. (Usually one day a week). 
  • Use travel tales from friends, associates, and books to determine where I want to visit next. I also read a lot to learn about interesting out-of-the-way places and experiences. 
  • Start planning to visit someplace before it becomes popular. Usually, the places I visit become popular two or three years later. 
  • Plan flights to avoid airline connections, if possible. When I need to connect between flights, I try to allow at least an hour and a half for the connecting time between flights. I hate having to run across an airport to make a connection. While it is more expensive than eating outside the airport, I often use the time during connecting flights to get a bite to eat. 
  • Organize hotels in advance after experiencing several times when I could not find a decent hotel room at the last moment. 
  • Choose cruises to see places that would be difficult to visit otherwise. For example, cruises are the most efficient and least expensive way to see the North Atlantic and Patagonia because flights between these ports are costly and infrequent. 
  • Select tours to see parts of the world that take more work to comfortably travel independently, such as Guatemala (bus travel there is difficult). 
  • Always select the cheapest cabin on a cruise ship when traveling alone. I like the darkness and small size and do not spend much time in the cabin, anyway. I also find that choosing the cheapest cabin is the only way I can afford most cruises. 
  • Decide whether to take a multiple-day tour or travel by myself, depending on how easy or hard it is to travel to a given destination independently. I am incredibly comfortable visiting Mexico by myself because: 
    • I speak the language well and am at ease with the culture. 
    • There is a lot of tourist-related infrastructure.  
    • It is easy to pay for little “luxuries” that help me to travel more comfortably in Mexico. (i.e., having someone do my laundry or taking taxis rather than city buses).
  • On the other hand, I travel with groups to rural parts of Western Europe because I wouldn’t say I like to drive, and it is expensive to hire a car and a driver. (The public transit can be terrible, especially in Italy). 
  • Am increasingly happy to allow other people to plan parts of my adventures because: 
    • Preparing long, completely independent journeys all the time can grow tiresome. 
    • Organized tours and cruises come in more styles and go to more destinations than when I was younger. 
    • I enjoy getting to know the other tourists and guides. 
    • I sometimes like having a clear sense of what to expect ahead of time with an organized tour. 

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Paul Heller has been a lifelong avid traveler and language learner and teacher, Even as a child, he told Santa Claus that he wanted to visit all the children worldwide. At seven years old, Paul wanted to retire to Mexico. At eight, he memorized the name, capital, location, and some facts about every country worldwide. At twelve, he found a book "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and started developing his own itinerary for a future round-the-world trip. He remained obsessed with travel; after getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and working as an administrator, He spent his vacations going to different countries around the globe studying language, touring, and volunteering. In 1994, he quit his job and lived in Russia as a volunteer English instructor. He discovered that he loved teaching languages. In 2004, he decided to make a living out of his travels and founded a community of people who love to travel just like him. He developed 5 three-hour classes about living and traveling long-term worldwide which he taught in over 50 adult education programs throughout the US. After his parents passed, he realized his dream of traveling around the world; cruising and touring some of the most remote places like the North Atlantic, Patagonia, and Oceania; and learning new languages (he knows Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian). Paul encourages everyone to learn foreign languages. He knows that it can be frustrating and slow but that anyone can learn a language if they put in the work and, most importantly, learning a language is well worth the time and effort because it opens up a whole new set of people, ideas, and cultures. He is currently spending the next chapter of his life in Mérida, México. He is excited about using this blog and his classes and workshops to inspire and equip fellow Fifty Plus Nomads with the language, cultural, and psychological skills necessary to be successful and happy long-term travelers and expats over 50.

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