There’s a difference between traveling and being a tourist. There’s a pretty big difference, in fact.
Scenario: You take a cruise to Turkey with your family. While there, you walk around the capitol city buying expensive trinkets to show your friends at home that you are a world traveler. You hurry back to the boat after shopping to get away from those weird people who dress funny. They’re heading back for the pre-paid dinner on the boat and to relax by the pool.
Pop quiz. This describes:
a. A tourist
b. A traveler
(Answer at end)
The tourist takes a week off work after carefully studying where the Internet says to go and getting advice from their other tourist work friends.
They make a packing list from tips they learned on a Rick Steves series. Then they go to REI and other highly recommended travel stores to get:
- 1 pair of pants that unzip at the knee, so they can conveniently convert into shorts (2 in 1!)
- A breathable button down that is conveniently also sun-resistant (move over sweaty pits!)
- 3 pairs of socks
- 10 pairs of underwear (plus a few extra)
- 1 shower towel (these are too ‘cute’ and your friend’s sister’s cousin took one on a trip and said they save SO much room, and you are packing light!) Disclaimer: I DO have one of these.
They travel in groups, packs, or pairs. They eat the foods they know, use guidebooks, and impose their own language and cultures.
As I’m writing this 2 German tourists are sitting next to me on the subway with… wait for it… giant cameras around their necks (you thought I was gonna say fanny packs, didn’t you?). After just having been at Battery Park, feeling like I was at a camera store slash outdoor photo shoot.
The tourist plans a trip around his/her work schedule. The traveler plans life around his/her travels.
Travelers often travel alone, avoiding groups and packs. They seek out the local foods. Instead of asking questions, tourists make assumptions based on what they already know versus what they could learn.
Travelers see through the trinkets. They collect little bits of conversations with locals, new foods, foreign vocabulary and customs, and non-audio-headset tours of local history. These are their souvenirs.
For example: Collecting a non-engraved pebble with no price tag (translated: real) from the beach at Plymouth Rock in England, versus a skewed picture of you in the I <3 NY tee (oh you know the one) pretending to squash the statue of liberty with your ‘huuuge’ finger. Or better yet, posing in front of the GW (thats g-dub-yuh) statue with yo’ best gangsta poze so all your homeys on Facebook can give u props. Word.
The traveler learns about themselves, history, culture, and embraces differences. The traveler has washed their underwear in the sink and has dried off using their t-shirt.
(Answer to question above: if you don’t know, you’re a tourist)