Timberwolf Creek Blog

What’s your Travel Personality?

Do you like to return to your favorite haunts, or do you seek out new experiences? Do you have an itinerary? Would you rather let the wind carry you where it may?

For a while now, I’ve been toying with the notion of categorizing travelers – not only my guests, but myself and those with whom I travel. Back in my 20s, I was introduced to the ‘four humors’ proposed by Hippocrates, which has been imitated, expanded upon, and reengineered through a complete metamorphosis into sixteen types by Briggs-Meyers. But the fundamental notion of four basic personality types still holds. Even Hippocrates allowed for a blend of primary and secondary traits.

Given all that, I wondered if maybe there were also four corresponding travel personalities… perhaps a combination of more than one type – or even stepping out to try a new type of travel, now and then.

The only ones I was really aware of, in the B&B business, are the folks who return to the same place again and again, versus the folks who will always go somewhere new. Since I am the former and my husband the latter, I wondered at the motivation.

So let’s start with the original four… Sanguine, Melancholy, Choleric, and Phlegmatic. I’ve heard them described many ways. One that made a lot of sense to me, answered the question, “What do they love?” Sanguine: fun. Melancholy: order. Choleric: control.  Phlegmatic: peace. Another description I enjoyed (because I am, after all, a Sanguine) put each in a role in a theater. Sanguine: the actor. Melancholy: the stage manager. Choleric: the director. And Phlegmatic: the audience. A list of best/worst traits included… Sanguine: loving/ridiculous. Melancholy: generous/depressed. Choleric: willing/angry. Phlegmatic: thoughtful/withdrawn. Anyway, you get the idea.

In our family, we have examples of each. If I (the Sanguine) lose my car keys, and later find them in the bottom of my purse, I’m so happy to have them! Plus, I found a $10 bill, three peppermint candies, and the phone number I was looking for. It’s like Christmas. Nick (my Choleric son) will tell me that I should always put the keys in the front right pocket so that I’ll know where to find them. Larry (my Melancholy husband) will kindly label the pocket for me. And my Phlegmatic boy Gary will just ask, “Why do all that? Dad has a spare key.”

Ok, so you get the general idea. How does that translate to travel? Ok, bear with me…

I love to travel. Travel brings me joy. And the discovery of new and different places, and learning all about them, that’s fantastic! I travel for the pleasure of travel. And yet… the richest experiences for me are returning again and again to the places I love. We’ve been to Cozumel about twenty times, over the course of our marriage. On our honeymoon, we discovered an out of the way place on the back side of the island, populated only by locals, unknown to tourists. We ordered lobster tails, by pointing at the picture menu. A charming little man, Willie, trotted them out on a tray to our table in the sand where we sat barefoot under a palapas-roofed umbrella.  As much I enjoyed exploring all the new places along the way, year after year, my heart would swell as we’d step back into that little restaurant and Willie would come out again to greet us. So. I’m calling the Sanguine version of travel “Norm at Cheers” -you remember the TV show. The theme song was ‘Where everybody knows your name’.

Next, let’s take a look at our Melancholy travelers… They are the Lewis & Clark Explorers, on a quest to organize and document each trip. It’s not about the document at the end, it’s about the planning process and the travel itself – about checking off the boxes. “Oh, let’s go this way. I haven’t driven through that city, yet.” Check. “Let’s try this new restaurant.” And if you ask, “Sure, why?” They’ll tell you, “I’ve been to everywhere else on that street, except that one.” Check. Or, “I’ve never had Chinese-Jamaican fusion food.” Check. The Lewis & Clark Explorer traveler isn’t opposed to indulging a Norm at Cheers traveler by revisiting a restaurant… but it’s a cinch, he won’t order what he had the first time.

The Phlegmatic traveler is an entirely different animal. He, too, is only interested in new places, but couldn’t care less about checking off boxes. (“Boxes? I don’t understand. What boxes?”) His quest is just to see what else is out there. He’s an easy traveler, moving when his party wants to move, but given his own solitary company, he’ll roost in a place for a while, to soak in the ambiance, before moving along to the next. He’s the backpacker in Europe, the retiree with a motor home and no plan, in America. Footloose and relaxed. Our Wanderer, on the poor side, is the hobo. On the wealthy side, he’s a jet-setter. (I wonder if you’ve ever considered the similarities before?)

Enter the Choleric traveler – the Rick Steves/Charles Kuralt of travel, our Tour Guide. They also travel, like Norm at Cheers, for the pleasure of travel. And like the Lewis & Clark Explorer, they like to see it all, even in an organized fashion. But they have an agenda. The Tour Guides aren’t just collecting experiences. They are sorting and sifting through to find the creme de la creme. And they share the knowledge! Nothing pleases our Tour Guides better than saying, “Oh, you’re going There? You absolutely Must stop at this divine little spot.” The Tour Guide is perfectly content revisiting places. For heaven’s sake, why would you skip the very best spots?

Ok, ok, I confess: I’m a sanguine with a Lot of choleric in there. And yes, I’m happy to provide directions to my favorite little restaurant on Cozumel.

So – which one, or combination, are you?





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