Vagabond Travelers, Tramps, and Hobos: Traveler Character Overcoming Shyness

Traveler Character Overcoming Shyness

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Traveler Character Overcoming Shyness

Question: Does Travel require a particular kind of temperament, personality or style?                               

Answer: No. Travel can shape, make, and adapt a person's character. The traveling lifestyle also makes allowances for limited social skills. 

Answer: No. Travel can shape, make, and adapt a person's character. The traveling lifestyle also makes allowances for limited social skills. 


From what you wrote in your question, I believe that you would enjoy traveling immensely. I do not believe that there are any real personality restrictions on traveling, other than whether you enjoy it or not. The only way to find this out is to try it. There can be no litmus tests for international travel other than traveling. So I say try it out, buy a one way ticket to somewhere, and see if you like it.

The only thing that matters is if YOU like to travel. Once out on the Road all of the strictures of the home environment and all of your social restrictions vanish. Traveling sets you up in a dichotomy in which it is just you and the world - you and strangers - and nobody knows anything about you and you can act anyway you want to. So it is OK to be shy, there is nothing to overcome, and you can act just as you feel like acting. If you don't like someone, you can leave them, if someone doesn't like you, they will leave you. It is very simple. Socially, nothing should really matter too much to a traveler, and you should not worry about your perceived character flaws at all, and just have faith that everything will always work out and that, in a world of limitless possibilities, you will always be able to find people to communicate with if you want to. Don't pressure yourself to act any certain way. I think that traveling may be the perfect thing for you to do.

So, to answer your question, there is no "right" kind of personality for traveling, and, from my observations, it is the misanthropes and people with limited social skills that seem to enjoy traveling the most. I have found that the people who seem to be socially at ease at home often have a difficult time wandering on their own because they are without the social support network that essentially holds together their character. If you are shy, if you are content with your own sense of self, and already do not rely on a social network to patchwork together your own sense of person, I think that you are miles ahead of most people who want to travel. In travel, you can really just be yourself.

I also do not believe that there is any certain time that anyone should begin traveling. If you have the urge to strike out into the world right now, then do it. You will know when you are ready. There is never tomorrow . . .

I have pretty much always wanted to travel. There was no moment of epiphany when I realized that I wanted to be a traveler. My parents always provided me with a huge supply of maps, atlases, and encyclopedias when I was young, so my map gazing tendencies turned into tramping the world rather smoothly. I left home when I was 18. You can read more about my early travel days by following some of the links below. 

My Early Travels

To ready yourself for traveling, I say just read, dream, look at maps, and watch documentaries.

Read as many ethnographies and and interesting anthropology books as you can. I recommend enjoyable case studies in ethnology as oppose to reading anthropology theory. After studying anthropology in university there is not much that I can say for it as a science. Kevin Duffy's work on the Mbuti Pygmies, Children of the Forest, is really good; everything by Colin Turnbull I find excellent reading for travelers, Return to Laughter by Bohannan is good as well, and check out Claude Levi-Strauss. Just go to a university library and start reading ethnographies.

Read biographies of travelers, anthropologists, and explorers is also good preparation for travel. I recommend reading about Richard Francis Burton, David Livingstone, Isabelle Eberhardt, Bruce Chatwin, Turnbull, Santoka Taneda, Jack Kerouac, and Wilfred Thesiger to name a few.  

Read good travel books. Harry Franck's A Vagabond Journey Around the World is the traveler's classic; Richard Halliburton's Royal Road to Romance is also really inspiring; Andy Graham's website is also a really good resource of the day to day activities of a real life hobo; Santoka Taneda's haiku poems and diaries are also really amazing - I always carry a copy of the Burton Watson translations with me. Also, Tim Severin writes some pretty exciting books.  

Studying maps also helps to give you a good picture of the world. Just map gaze the days away, as you probably already do, and the world will begin to come together for you. Doing this will make your Path jump out at you, and you will eventually start imagining lines across the map which you will soon be traveling.      

As I wrote previously, the fact that you are a "shy, quiet, and introverted guy" is probably more of an advantage than a disqualifying factor for traveling. When you travel, you are free to be yourself. There are very few social pressures outside of the few backpacker circuits that cover a scarce few regions of the planet. Don't worry about being shy, it really doesn't matter. 

It can be said that I am actually a pretty shy and socially awkward person. I have found it good for a person to find their personal weakness and somehow to turn them to their advantages. I believe that most character faults can be turned around if you can view them from another angle.

About your father: Don't worry about what other people say, ever. Follow your own intuition.

About school: If you are interested in going to school, studying about other cultures, and traveling the world at the same time, you could go to Global College, Long Island University. It is a four year, accredited international studies program with centers in Costa Rica, China, Japan, India, and South Africa. This is the school that I went to. It definitely has its ups and downs, but, taken all together, it is a good program. At the end, you get a B.A. in Global Studies with a chosen area of concentration, and get to study in at least seven or eight countries. I was able to get scholarships, financial aid, and loans to cover most of the cost as well. If you are interested, send me an email and I will put you in touch with some people to talk to. For more information about this read, International Study Travel.    

I hope some of this information helps.

If you have any more questions, just ask.

Thanks for reading!

Walk Slow,


Related Pages:
My Early Travels
Interview with Wade on Travel
Interview with Wade about Working on the Road
International Study Travel
Question About Travel Money
Free Accommodation while Traveling
Money for traveling, travel necessities?
Global College Long Island University
How to Finance Travels and Study Abroad

(If any of this information helps you - or if you just appreciate me trying - please tell a friend about Thanks!)

Question: Does Travel require a particular kind of temperament, personality or style?

Hi Wade,
I'm just sending you this message hoping for a little advice. I've always dreamed of traveling, and the word "vagabond" has a particular romance to it that, I cannot deny, greatly excites me. Now, I'm not completely naive. I know that travel comes with hardship, loneliness, fear and certainly with a healthy dose of uncertainty. That won't deter me, however, because I've come to consider it my duty to pursue this dream of mine no matter the difficulties or dangers.

Unfortunately, I find myself in a rut. I'm not exactly the best person for travel. I'm shy, I've lived a fairly sheltered life and have only ever left my home country in the company of family or friends. I've never gone it alone. But that's exactly what I want to do. With friends come strict itineraries, schedules, plans and all spontaneity is lost. So I feel I must go it alone. My Dad doesn't seem to believe I'm capable of living my dream.

He is encouraging me to go to college as I clearly have the skills to succeed there, but it's not what I want. Sure, I could back down and spend four years learning a subject of little use or interest, staring out the window dreaming (as I dreamed all throughout highschool) of traveling or I could cut out the needless prologue and get moving right away!

I guess my questions are these:

*What kind kind of person is "right" for travel? Does it require a particular kind of temperament, personality or style?
*How soon is too soon? I'd like to begin my vagabonding venture as soon as possible and continue for as long as I can, but I'm only eighteen years old. Is that too young?
*What inspired you to travel and how did you get started?
*Is there anything I can do to make myself "ready"?
*Considering I'm quite a shy, quiet, introverted guy do you think I'm disqualified for travel like vagabonding? I'm trying to become more outgoing, but...

Thanks a lot for your time, Wade, I really appreciate it.
Hope to hear from you soon

Traveler Character Overcoming Shyness

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