The make-up and qualities of a traveller in comparison to a tourist
‘A traveller enters a new place with an open mind and a hunger to experience’
Being someone who has travelled is unique. There are a number of intricate and integral aspects that I believe set a traveller apart from a tourist, or more informally known as a holiday maker. It is evident that everybody has a choice as to how they like to see the world, but I believe it is also important to respect the values of a person who has experienced what the world has to offer in a deeper cultural sense – to me it is purely a level of exploration.
It is important to mention that this is not meant to be a negative comparison, or argumentative piece, but merely an explanation of values that make up a traveller in comparison to someone who has not travelled. There is no doubt that people in this society would be content and happy with being a tourist- everyone is different and this is not intended to portray a tourist in a negative light. I also do not believe that being a traveller is fundamentally ‘better’ than being a tourist, in fact I do not believe in the debate; just that people decide to explore differently. This is what I believe the experiences of a traveller involve as compared to a tourist:
‘Tourists expect things to come to them or to just be there, but travellers actually go and get it’
Cross any of the big tour companies who run scheduled and planned itineraries off your list if you wish to be, or call yourself, a traveller (Contiki, Top Deck etc.). If not already independent, a traveller becomes fully independent. To do this, following somebody else’s routine, plans and guidelines makes a person a tourist. A traveller will make their own plans (if there even are any).
Rushing through places, trying to see sights quickly, taking as many photos as possible, and then moving somewhere else, is simply not traveling. Travellers slow down, immerse themselves, feel themselves in a previously foreign environment, and become a part of the culture. Meet the locals, work and live, study, or just immerse themselves in the place as a whole, before moving on.
Independence is the essential facet of what makes a traveller. The mental and physical toughness and willingness to carry out your dreams on your own terms. After all, travelling can be brutal as you are away from regular friends and family for a long period of time. I personally, and maybe also others have heard people say that they have ‘travelled’ after they have been on an organised tour for 3 months (for example). Remember, tour forms most of the word tourist.
Budget and experience the real culture
‘A tourist is a subset of a traveller’
Dorm rooms, dirty hostel kitchens, a huge backpack attached to you slowing you down whilst walking for hours to avoid taxi and public transport fares, getting lost, budgeting for and spending less than €30 a day; now this is more like travelling. Add to the miniscule budget that you will be on, a traveller, as mentioned previously, is independent. On this occasion in the sense that the money used is their own- not mum and dad’s, or grandma or grandpa’s, or business funded, or an inheritance. The reason a traveller is so careful with their money is because it is their’s, and only their hard earned money. On a personal note I was brought up in a working class family, but my goal was to travel, and to do it young and the right way- the hard way, but to make sure I could do it completely on my own.
Instead of buying guidebooks and making plans, talk to locals! Instead of dining out, cook local food in the hostel kitchen. Instead of a take away burger, go to a market and sample the unique, fresh, local produce! Travellers meet travellers and genuine local residents by being travellers, not being tourists.
Staying in 16+ bed dorms, sampling the local delicacies whether in the solid or liquid form, is all a part of immersing yourself in a culture, and being able to regard yourself as a traveller.
Duration and substance
‘A tourist goes home having only scratched the surface through photos and sightseeing, a traveller stays the journey, goes deeper’
Travelling is not about the seeing of sights. As mentioned previously, you will immerse yourself completely in another culture – learn and speak another language from beginner level, be in a friendship group of people who come from all corners of the world as well as knowing and respecting the locals. What is the only fulfilling way to fully achieve this? Work and live in a foreign land for a substantial amount of time. There is no other way to fully immerse yourself in another society and culture than to experience real, everyday life in a culture previously unknown to you.
This particular aspect will draw debate (mainly from a tourist’s viewpoint) but it is something that cannot be realised until it is actually experienced. It is often said you will learn more in one year overseas than 10 years at home, and if you want to experience this, then you will have to live and work overseas. Not only is this great for your curriculum vitae, but it makes that change in you, a deep and permanent one that will never leave. This is something you cannot possibly get from just moving place to place, taking a plethora of photographs, getting on a bus, train or car to the following tourist destinations, then returning to your homeland.
This is not to say that a person who has lived abroad in one place for 10 years has more experience travelling than someone who has lived and worked abroad in 3 different countries in two years. As travelling is often associated with the experience of ‘moving’ it is important to note that moving often decreases the longer you are in only one place. I still admire people who stay in one place for a longer, sustained period such as five or more years as it is most likely they were a traveller before they became an expat.
The unknown pathway
‘Not all those who wander are lost’
Travellers won’t always be the ones showing photos, talking about seeing sights or their plans for tomorrow. They will, in most cases, be more likely to be the ones thinking about what they have done and will do that is different to others, and what lies ahead. The life changing experiences, the memories of back streets, beaten paths, adventures not known to the conservative, forests, jungles etc. that a tourist would never have known even existed.
The best sights are not the places the majority see (Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, Buckingham Palace etc.).They will be abandoned, forbidden, hidden, encouraged against visiting, or even in some cases untouched and completely unknown. Independent, adventurous travellers will find these places, sometimes through luck of getting lost, sometimes through research. But one thing is for sure, they will never be forgotten.
Travelling is tough at times, after all, it is not a holiday. It is all of the previously mentioned aspects, and even more. Things will go wrong, you will get lost, you will make friends- and lose friends, you will see things you never wanted to see, you will be emotional, you will miss close ones and of course become homesick at times. A real traveller, somehow, survives, pushes through, because they know that the experience gained will outweigh any reason to return home (if, as a traveller, you even have one) until it may be time. Returning home as a person who has travelled is yet another story in itself…
‘Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves’