Experiences Over Adventures: How to Be a Low-Key Traveler and Still Challenge Yourself

by Sam Wu

Don’t be ashamed of your travel style. Image from Pixabay.

Confession: I like my ice cream plain, no mix-ins. Same with my frozen yogurt; give me the yogurt and some fruit, please.

And when it comes to travel, I’m pretty low-key there, too. I’m one of those travelers who likes the historical tours and is very hesitant to go on the adventure excursions.

In Vienna my friend and I “wasted” an entire day in the art museum looking at the collection of the Hapsburgs. It was…amazing. I wouldn’t give that day up for any activity that’s more daring or picturesque. I got nothing out of that day that would incite envy — no pictures or stories. Even so, it was absolutely one of the best days we had on our trip.

The places I want to visit are all established cities/towns where I can dive into how it was founded, the myths and legends around some of its personalities, locations, and historic architecture. Food, is of course, included on my list of to-dos, but I dream about everyday local fare.

Sometimes it’s hard to look at travel blogs or photography without feeling like a failure, without feeling like my low-key travel style is not enough.

Am I still a traveler?

How can I call myself a traveler when I don’t want to climb up the highest peak to get the best view of the sunset? Am I still a traveler if I don’t really want to rough it in the wilderness or visit places beyond the well-worn paths? Recently I’ve started wondering: Is what I do still traveling?

Some weeks ago, I was posting on Go Girl Travel Network’s Instagram during a trip to Maine to visit a friend. And the feed kept showing outrageously beautiful pictures of exotic locations that I probably wouldn’t see because, well, it’s quite an adventure to get there. It’s a much more intense experience than my trips have ever been.

And, to be honest, I felt like a fraud as I posted pictures of lobster rolls and the New England coastline.

But aren’t I still engaging with new cultures? New ways of life? Even if I’m not doing the extreme, I’m still learning and exploring. And I still enjoyed my trip fully. I saw a new city, tried new foods, had fun.


Train travel can be relaxing and adventurous! Image by Flickr user Cliff.

I could pretend that I’ve become 100% comfortable with not being an adventurous traveler. And yet, there are days when I wish I were more daring. Sometimes I wish I had the crazy pictures or stories; sometimes I wish I could say, “One time, when I was in the jungle…”

Still, I’ve begun to process those gorgeous pictures and stories with a grain of salt. The same way that your Facebook feed is probably skewed towards all of the positive and picturesque things your “friends” are doing, there’s likely a slight skew away from low-key travel.

And yet, I should probably never become 100% comfortable. After all, travel is about trying new things, right?

And that’s something I’m working on. I hope to explore my travel boundaries and push against them. I probably won’t ever be the adventurous traveler, but that doesn’t mean my low-key trips are any less valid. The best thing about traveling is learning and growing from it. And I can do that, I think.

How I’ll push my travel boundaries:

1. Go solo.

I have traveled solo. But usually I travel to a destination on my own and meet others at the end of flights, bus rides, etc. In Europe I traveled and handled all of the hurdles of a London snowstorm solo, but I knew I would meet my family at the end of it all, which gave me a certain level of security.

Because I always meet someone, I’m not really doing these trips on my own. Well, now it’s time.

I’m not going totally out there. I’m remaining within the USA. I’m going to use the train and stay at places with all of the basic amenities. I’ll always have my phone and Wi-Fi to remain in contact with everyone who cares. In the end, it’ll be pretty typical of my other trips, but I, myself, will have to make all of the decisions and handle all of the consequences.

2. Go on a trip without planning all of the details.

In the past, most details of my trips have been locked in before I even depart. I know what cities I’m visiting and where I’m sheltering. I have exhaustive lists of places I’d like to visit and where I’d like to eat. Reviews are reviewed, websites explored, friends’ advice noted.

But now I’m going to test myself by building a trip that allows a lot of flexibility.

I will be using Amtrak’s 15-day Rail Pass, which will permit me to play around with cities. I’ll have a basic idea of my major stops but not the timing. And I’ll have a plan for which hostels I’ll stay in so that I can at least feel safe and comfortable at the end of the day.

Having a secure base will make pushing my other boundaries easier.

3. Ask strangers for advice.

Usually, I don’t talk to other travelers/strangers about my plans. When I’m traveling with other people, there’s usually a game plan. And I let my companions ask all of the necessary questions.

But now that I’ve committed to traveling solo, I won’t have that fallback anymore. I’ll have to talk to strangers for advice since I won’t have all of the details planned.

Explore; engage; and try new things, behaviors, attitudes, and activities. That’s my travel mantra. It’s why I travel. So, here’s to low-key travel that still pushes me to follow it.

Are you an adventurer, or do you prefer low key-travel? How do you challenge yourself? Share in the comments.

You may also like

Leave a Comment