Monday, March 23, 2009

A Traveller, Not A Tourist...? What's The Difference?!


Yes yes, its an old adage. "Be a traveller, not a tourist..." so said traveller come celebrity chef and foodie Anthony Bourdain. But really, the traveller-tourist dichotomy has long been one of the most talked about, most discussed and argued "controversy" of the travel world.

Honestly, is there really a difference?

Not much, according to me. I mean, regardless of the kind of vagabond you think you are, or whatever label you place upon yourself (i.e. backpacker, budget traveller, shoestringers, luxury, pleasure, business etc etc.), you are still universally called a TOURIST (except if you are travelling into the United States - they just completely remove all labels and call you, Aliens... err.. thanks *snort*).

Meebops said: "To me, a tourist is someone who is snap happy and will go all out, at all expense, in order to visit popular, must-see areas within a city. It can be up the Eiffel Tower, or into the Pyramids or even a picture of them standing at the Taj Mahal. They care less about how it came to be, or what was sacrificed in the process and worse, they care less about the surroundings around them - poor people, beggars, locals... They don't bother to create conversations or make friends along the way..."

"A traveller is someone who is there with an open mind and someone who wants to do what the locals do... immerse in their culture, make new friends, volunteer if they have to and just have a good time mingling with like-minded strangers... that's me, that's us..."

Well said Meebops, as always... The Wiser One of the Two :P

Vagabondish wrote this piece of article i came across a few days ago while researching on my trip to Melbourne. Pretty insightful tips that, amusingly, many are aware of.

What we really want to do is get to know a country, rather than just visiting it.

But often, due to home-bound commitments (like work, and limited annual leave entitlement, finance etc), we get so bugged down by the limitations of time and budget that we find ourselves covering all the tourist hot-spots and hardly had time to sit down for a cup of coffee at a local sidewalk, people watch, talk to locals and do what they do... Simply becoming an audience to a culture is different from participating. I suppose the latter, brings greater appreciation...

But does that make us any different a traveller to a tourist (or vice versa)?

The idea is simple really, you travel to another country, immerse yourself in another culture, talk to locals and snap pictures of their properties and their people - what makes you any lesser a tourist than someone who probably paid more, make an effort to talk to locals too (esp. when in McDonalds or when asking for the price to the cute little handbag) and snap all the pictures they can in 10 minutes before boarding the tourist bus (according to the itinerary..)?

Its the same to me...

The only stark difference i can see is budget. One sleeps at cheap hostels, eats at cheap places and uses a public transport to move around. The other sleeps in hotels, takes a tour to move around and dine at restaurants.

Whatever you do - "tourist" or "travellers" - keep an open mind when travelling and appreciate the grandeur of what others, outside your world, has to offer. If you have to take the bus to blend in with the locals, do so. If you paid more than you can afford just so you can live it off at the Hilton's Waldorf Astoria in NYC, then by all means. Just be respectful to the cultures and societal beliefs and ideologies that is different from yours. The more you travel, the wider your perspective of life and the world around you is and the more you appreciate what it's like to be alive and be human ;)

Most importantly when you travel, Take Your Time... What you can't do during this trip gives you all the more reason to come back to the city again in the near future ;)



Blog Widget by LinkWithin