Tourists vs. Travelers. Inspiration For The 21st Century Traveler (Part 1)

Definitely taking a nap:-)
The sandy beach is where the tourist goes

"The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see." - G. K. Chesterton

There is a huge difference between tourists and travelers as stereotypes. The tourist is a person who chooses a sunny destination, because all he wants is to relax, disconnect and switch off his senses, feel as comfortable as home and eat his favorite food even on the other side of the world. The tourist expects everybody to speak his language (because he's on a vacation to relax, not to wreck out his brains communicating with the locals, you know?) and goes back home a week later with nothing else but a new tan and some cheap and meaningless souvenirs for the family and friends, if possible picked up at the airport, because during his vacation he was busy toasting on the beach.

The traveler on the other hand, doesn't mind the weather, and is not shy when it comes to going off the beaten path. The traveler has all the senses alert, looks forward to meet new people, have new experiences, make new memories, try new recipes, stays as much on the road as possible and when finally gets back home, he is even more tired than he was when he left. And this is what makes the traveler happy. Now the question is, what do you want to be, a tourist or a traveler?

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” - Miriam Beard 

For the economy of this series of articles, I will concentrate only on the traveler type. There's nothing wrong with being a tourist from time to time, it's just that getting more value for my money appeals to me more. This doesn't mean I didn't climb the Eiffel Tower just because it's "touristy". I have no problem with touristy places. In fact I love them because they are usually culture packed. What I have a problem with is going places without learning anything from the experience, without being moved by what you see, and going back home with the feeling that your culture is far "superior" and "civilized" than the one you've just visited. To be honest, what's the purpose of spending your earnings going to remote places just to sleep on the beach when you could do it so much cheaper and comfortable in your own bed? To be clear, toasting on the beach is perfectly fine, just not when you completely forget to check out the main square.

"The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes "sight-seeing"."  - Daniel J. Boorstin

I had the honor more than once to engage in enriching heart-to-heart talks with grannies and grandpas. They reached into their mental scrapbooks and turned to the pages of their lives that brought them happy memories. To my surprise, they didn't talk about money, nor career advancements, but all of them spoke about the places they've been to and experienced firsthand. When they went flipping through their best moments, the ones that stuck out were the trips they took. And I was brought to believe that what stays with us in the end are the people we've met and the places we've explored; that's what stands out, not the domestic chores we do on autopilot, nor the daily struggles.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away” - Unknown author

On the other hand, I don't believe travelers and tourists really exist in a pure form. Sometimes we are more tourists than travelers, other times we are more travelers than tourists. It all depends on our very subjective needs. Travel and tourism are just the end points of a spectrum and as usual when talking about spectrums, the ending points are rarely met in reality, as they most of the time are pure theoretical notions.

What appeals to you more? Being a traveler or a tourists?

Continue reading The Ups & Downs Of Travel. Inspiration For The 21st Century Traveler (Part 2) and The Reasons We Travel For. Inspiration For The 21st Century Traveler (Part 3)

Photos via Flickr Creative Commons