Tourist versus a Traveller
Most of us love travel. Most of us dream of faraway lands where everything appear to be picture perfect. Sometimes an escape. Rejuvenation. Freedom to explore. A soothing state of the mind. Food for the soul and delight for the heart.
But are you exploring as a tourist or a traveller?
Recently I had this cognition that traveling as a tourist you tend to be a spectator.
Viewing things from your own comfortable porch. A hit and miss attitude. Someone who has a list to tick off on all the trending sightseeing spots and then be satisfied that it has all been seen and done. Sometimes it could be that a new destination is daunting and that the familiar needs to follow you to an exotic country. It can be the discomfort to be lost, stared at by the indigenous people, bothered by traders, which makes you touch a place through a glass barrier. Pretended interest or a critical viewpoint from the outset.
I personally like to travel to remote areas, off the beaten track, a little unconventional, boutique spots where possible, maybe not always so manicured, owner-managed and owner-run, unique in its setting or authentic and historic. Places like these are where attention to detail is always key, barefoot luxury is a splurge, and the people connection make you yearn to return.
A traveller on the contrary is a participant.
It’s when you dare to eat the local speciality, and perhaps sniff out where the locals go for their favourite dish to join in the delicious delicacies. Diving into an area with an inquiring mind and an inquisitive search for a cultural experience. It’s the connection with human souls that make a destination memorable or …horrible. Observing what makes the people in the town tick, what keeps them at a high (or low) morale. How do they survive and how does daily life work out for them? Communicating with strangers, trading with hawkers, fitting on shoes, bags, clothes and jewellery, engaging with the inhabitants – sometimes mimicking facial expressions or having an entire conversation with hand gestures alone. That is when you realise communication is not trapped in words. It is universal. It is the intention of the message that you can purvey with an action, body language and eye contact that will be understood.
I find that an exchange is always kind to acknowledge the time a person spent with you. Exchanging numbers, photos, stories, a meal, a drink, or buying wares can all contribute. Purchasing an item from a trader is so satisfying if you have captured the connection.
I only buy because of that feeling that I’ve touched the place through its people.
Participating in the heartbeat of an area with all your senses make you feel alive!
Naturally I think everyone starts off as a tourist exploring a new place – looking through maps, ticking off museums, sniffing up the dust, a little apprehensive on eateries, water and ice so you don’t contract a strange disease and tolerating the madness.
Don’t you think?
The transition to becoming a traveler in your approach and expectations, is what turns a trip into an experiential story and makes you adopt various cultural titbits into your own lifestyle. From the recipes, to the spices, the coffee, the little daily rituals… I love them all. Our life and home is a rich tapestry of adopted cultural enhancements and tastes.
We are people of the Earth and no man lives on an island. You can be a global citizen – so much more vibrant and colourful I think.
A seasoned traveler… well I think ends up as an Explorer.
Even in my everyday world, I aspire to always be an Explorer.
Take the scenic route to a meeting. Don’t fall into mundane habits (same old roads, places, food, routines). Acquire a new skill, art or activity, do something completely out of your comfort zone, be willing to be an amateur.
Mixing things up keep life fun and interesting.
Most importantly – get involved in living your best life, the way you create it to be! Keep exploring.