In response to Aly’s latest video, (A really cool Travel Youtuber and Author) I have instantly felt some resonance to the topic and falling guilty of the tourist vs traveller language and mindset. I felt myself coming back to her words throughout the day, demanding to be thought about and my belief examined.
I conclude that I do feel more of a traveller than a tourist because I have done less tourist-ly things over the years, and had integrated myself into daily life with a local family and love. However, when going on a holiday outside of Sri Lanka, I would still act like a ‘tourist’ – staying in hotels, going on the odd tour and taking the tourist ways to tourist sites. Sometimes paying more for the nice organised taxi is just plain easier and less stressful than multiple taxis and two ferry rides. As Aly says, “Just take the damn tour”!
I realised that when I say I am no longer a tourist overall, I mean my travel experiences have grown richer as my perspective has changed, and I have evolved as I’ve gotten older and explored on my own.
I appreciate the places more, I have less care about the quality and amount of stars a hotel has; I want to integrate with people that aren’t the hotel staff and if I don’t meet at least one new person on my trip it feels like a big chunk is missing. It has become so normalised to me now.
A lot of the views surrounding tourists is that they are quite sheltered, hiding away in the big hotels with all inclusive food and drink, surrounded by holidaymakers of similar plans as themselves. They are not immersed in the reality of the country they are visiting. Organised tours rush around with an itinerary repeated on each group day in day out with very little flexibility to get outside of that structure. When everything is shelterd or scheduled it leaves little wiggle room or freedom to experience the life of the country you visit.
I personally feel restricted when I stay in big hotels and like im missing out. To counter this, all I simply need to do is to get out each day and explore the towns and the sites, on my own, at my own pace.
You get what you pay for with a tour, it does what it says on the tin. If you want to have more freedom to wander off down that alleyway away from your group, or to return to a specific town on the 3 day route then you need to do the trip in your steam.
The Tourist Vs. Traveller came into existence for these reasons. People were changing the way that they travelled, and the services they used to do it, or more often, didn’t use.
I figured out that I needed to stop using the language that I have been of segregating tourist and traveller. They are essentially the same thing, just packaged differently, and have us all brainwashed thanks to advertising and the media.
I need to make any distinctions via focusing on emphasising the richness of travel. However you travel, however ‘off the beaten path’ you go (which is just the latest way to say you don’t take package holidays and organised tours and are ultra modern by going backpacking solo, and avoiding the popular sites at all costs in favour of other places the masses haven’t found yet), or however many excursions you take from the 5* resort.
The only things that should matter, be highlighted, and aware of, are how you perceive the world, environment, culture and people around you.
How you interact with them, how much kindness and curiosity to learn new things do you bring to your travels? These are the things that should matter. The more you travel the more these qualities come to the surface. Travel is a journey, they say, and for a reason; its not static but ever evolving.
Travel writer Pico Iyer famously compared travel to love saying, “Travel is a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.”
To end, I was reading an article from Elephant Journal, and something the author said made me realise that this excerpt stands for all things, especially the Tourist Vs. Traveller saga, and why it doesn’t matter, and why we should all stop saying it.
“The only time we should avoid the mainstream is if what is popular is also morally wrong. But there is no reason to judge or avoid something simply to stand out” – rita wehbe.