As you prepare to go overseas for your gap year, you might be wondering if you’ll make any friends. Despite reading every blog post and FAQ sheet possible, you likely still have no idea what kind of people you will meet -- and most importantly, whether you’ll get along with them. To be honest, you’ll encounter some peculiar characters… but they’ll offer lessons in their own special ways. Here are 9 travelers you’ll meet during your gap year and what you can learn from them:
1. The Organized, Cultured Traveler
The cultured traveler might seem overwhelming to be around at times, as they can’t help but search for locals to practice the language with, museums to explore, and new restaurants to try. They often prefer to spend more time learning and less time partying -- and feel totally comfortable reminding you how cultured they are because of it.
As unworthy as you may feel around them, remember: when they're not tripping over guide books and language dictionaries in their room, they love flaunting their knowledge by sharing information and tips, and can help you practice a new language and venture beyond your comfort zone.
2. The Rambunctious Partier
You’ve probably tried to avoid the wild partier like the plague while traveling. You know: the one who sleeps all day, drinks all evening, and can’t remember most of the previous night.
But the rambunctious partier could help add to your gap year experience if you are wise. This type of traveler knows where the nightlife is, best greasy food spots, and yes -- how to let loose (maybe a little too much).
When you feel overwhelmed, homesick, or in need of a change, seek some advice from the partying traveler. You might need to tone it down a couple of notches for your taste (and dignity), but sometimes music, laughter, and dancing is the answer.
3. The Wanderlust Couple
There are couples who travel together and then there are couples who meet while traveling and fall in wanderlust with each other. While some of these couples will give you #soulmategoals, the others will teach you a lesson in love and life.
They’ll show you that travel can sometimes mask a situation and, like social media, present relationships behind rose-colored glasses. But travel doesn’t cure toxic personalities -- that requires self-work.
On the other hand, these wanderlust couples can teach you about loving fearlessly. Not wondering about the future or what-ifs. They embody the idea of living and loving in the moment -- even if that means hooking up like animals in the bunk above you as you reevaluate your existence.
Either way, you certainly won’t forget them.
4. The Elder Nomad
The elder nomad is my favorite person to meet while traveling. The 45+-year-old traveler still stays in hostels, moving slowly in both travel and life, with the heart of a 20-year-old.
This traveler is judged unfairly in the beginning because of their age but always becomes your best mentor, and hopefully -- a great friend. They’ll tell you about their past adventures and offer sound advice, but won’t play guardian and tell you what to do. They understand where you are in life because they were there once too.
You get the best of both worlds with this middle-aged nomad: wisdom and a free spirit.
5. The Travel Splurger
Depending on your budget, the travel splurger might be your least favorite person to hang around. Not because of personality differences, but because exploring with this type of traveler will make you go broke -- quickly.
The splurger might’ve taken out an extra loan, saved up four times more money, had mommy or daddy’s credit card, or are just horrible at budgeting. Regardless, they spend more money than you and no matter how fun they are to be around you cannot realistically keep hanging out with them if you want to survive the year.
The lesson: you can find new friends or you can be honest and let them know your real budget. Chances are, they don’t realize how much money they are spending and you’ll be doing them a favor by bringing it to their attention. Nevertheless, keeping to a budget while hanging out with a splurger is a true test of your financial #adulting ability.
6. The Competitive Backpacker
Donned with country patches on a worn backpack paired with the ability to alphabetically name drop every country they’ve been to since their first passport stamp, the competitive traveler equates country counting with award-worthy bragging rights.
As intimidating as it may seem, don’t put off interactions with this globe-trotting contender just yet -- you may learn a thing or two from their enthusiasm.
Not only is this a good person to chat with when it comes to travel tips, someone this travel-savvy might also have perfected a few hacks to get the most out of seeing the world without breaking the bank. Take notes!
7. The Free-Spirited Wanderer
You can’t take a gap year without bumping into a free spirit… or five. The one who found a love for nature in Costa Rica, a yoga career in Bali, and a mission to save abused animals in Thailand.
The free spirit might be a bit aloof at times but has a soul filled with positivity to share. Don’t mistake them with the evangelistic life guru, though: the free spirit won’t brag about their good vibes nor preach to you about changing your life. They flock to positive energy and are in constant pursuit of happiness on their own terms.
While you may want a bit more structure and cynicism in your life, the free spirit is a good person to be around, inadvertently helping you become more mindful and aware of unnecessary worry, anxiety, and negative thinking.
8. The Travel Shamer
There is always one: travel shamers are everything you don’t want to be (at least, I hope so).
These "seasoned" explorers have a list of what countries and cities are worthless to visit. They judge people who stay at hotel chains, cruises, and all-inclusives, and give back-handed compliments to traveling novices (“I guess that’s a fun vacation if you haven’t seen the rest of the world”).
The quicksand of travel shaming is very easy to fall into after a year abroad. From placing a hierarchy on destinations to critiquing how one spends their time exploring -- use your observations as a learning tool so that you can remain humble and kind despite your growing experience.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Don’t let shaming discourage you (or fellow travelers) from wanting to see the world.
9. The Magnetic Attraction
No matter who you meet abroad, there will always be at least one unexplainable connection that reaffirms your belief in soulmates. Soulmates can come in many forms: friendship, romance (see #3), or even past-life déjà vu eeriness.
Human connection doesn’t limit itself to your hobbies, religion, race, gender, or country. It crosses seas and borders, climbs over mountains, and shines through the crowd.
It reminds you why you took the leap to explore overseas in the first place. And if the life lessons you gain from your year abroad aren’t transforming enough, it is the soulful connections you find with people that will make it all worthwhile.