Some of my most frustrating travel experiences have been with people who were impatient, unkind, and unkempt. I won't try to pretend that I'm the unicorn of perfect travel practice, but I hope that whoever journeys with me has at least something positive to say about me.
To help me practice better travel traits, I started a list a few months ago that highlighted some key virtues of a wise traveler. In the time since, I've also realized that there's much more to traveling well than a handful of virtues. As it turns out, there are plenty more for me to work on:
Flexibility: Able to change or improvise under less-than-ideal circumstances.
A flexible traveler knows that ticket reservations don't necessarily mean that events will naturally unfold that way. They're excellent lateral-thinkers and can find alternatives at the snap of a finger when things go awry. Flexible travelers can be prone to bend to circumstance, but the best ones also practice discretion and know when a decision needs to be made.
Frugality: The practice of good stewardship and choosing options that avoid unnecessary waste of time or materials.
A frugal traveler isn't just smart with her/his money…they're also intelligent about time and resources. They're aware of their inventory and have carefully chosen every item in their backpack (usually multi-purpose items, and seldom is anything disposable). They can also distill a tapestry of bus, train, and air schedules down to a select few itineraries that minimize both time and money spent.
Zeal: Strong enthusiasm, usually centered in ethical conviction. Ardor.
Nobody half-asses a big trip, like backpacking through Thailand or parasailing around South America. Zeal is absolutely essential to travel, and the beauty of it is that it can manifest in a number of ways: a zealous person might look like a socialite, a passionate scholar, a spiritual pilgrim, or an adrenaline junkie.
Confidence: Having faith in one's abilities, even when circumstances aren't ideal.
A confident person has a long-term outlook has a calming effect on her/his travel partners. They're the ones striding down an unfamiliar street, instead of sauntering timidly. Confidence leads quietly, never complains, and is always ready to exercise—but never assert—itself for the good of the group. A confident person is usually a great navigator, too.
Magnanimity: A refusal to be petty, a willingness to take risks, and actions that strive towards a higher purpose.
Pettiness varies from person to person (doing laundry, for instance, has its place), but generally it can be described as placing priority on impractical things over practical ones. A magnanimous person is a big-picture thinker, and knows instinctively that an impromptu moonlit snorkel session is more important than an extra hour of sleep.
What about you? Which virtues do you identify with most, and which ones do you need to work on more?