Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tourist vs Traveler

From the title I am sure many people imagine this will be a post about how it’s “oh so much better to be a traveler”.... And while I hate to disappoint, that isn’t really my opinion on this matter. (And as someone who has been traveling for pretty much all of my 24 years of life I feel like I can speak confidently on this topic.)

Although I have been traveling since I was born I haven’t always been running off to Europe and traveling far and wide. For the first 19 years of my life almost all of my travel was done by car with my family, and almost all of it within my own country. I even stayed in hotels (as opposed to hostels, *gasp*) for the first 20 years of my travels. Since my first trip to Europe at age 20, however, I have traveled more and more in the stereotypical style of a “traveler”. I’ve stayed in hostels, I’ve done trips alone, I’ve met new people, gone off the beaten path, been to uncomfortable and challenging new places, and skipped on the expensive tourist traps. And having done both the typical tourist and traveler styles of travelling, I’m here to tell you, stop hating on the tourists!
Many people in the “traveler” community get VERY high and mighty when discussing the dreaded tourist. There seems to be a lot of significance among travelers on trying to act local, to get off the beaten path, and to definitely, definitely, NOT act like a tourist. (God, those damn tourists ruin everything! Am I right!?!) 

But it doesn’t really make sense to me. Shouldn’t we, as avid travelers, be happy that people who might not be comfortable staying in hostel are at least getting out of their comfort zones and seeing something new? I know there are some things that the tourist stereotype does that I don’t love, but overall, I am really happy to see anyone going out to see and visit a new place, in whatever way works for them.

I fear that the chatter in the common rooms at hostels could actually be discouraging to new travelers sometimes. Could you imagine being a teenager, you’ve saved for months and months to get your 1 week vacation in Europe and now your knee deep in this pretentious world of people who claim to have been literally EVERYWHERE on only 8 cents a day. It would be overwhelming and worse it could scare them away from travel in the future. 

I wonder sometimes if travelers get nervous about tourists because they think if too many people have seen what they have seen it will somehow make it less special/amazing/moving/ or even life changing. I really don’t think they have anything to worry about; having been to many far off the beaten track places my favourite and most moving travel experience is still visiting the Coliseum in Rome. It’s probably the most touristy thing someone can do in Rome, but you know what, that doesn’t take away from my experience at all. I was moved in a way I can’t really describe, and I’ll be honest, I even teared up when I first saw it. There was something so beautiful about that building that I can’t really explain it in words. And I refuse to think that makes me a “lesser” traveler because it’s a touristy place to see! 

So here’s my idea. Let’s stop hating, and start celebrating the fact that people want to experience the world! Even if it is a pre-organize trip, or a full on red double decker bus trip (side note: I’ve been on one, and it was a blast! No shame!). They are getting out of their comfort zones to see something new, and I think that deserves credit! 

Ps: Yes I did make a t-shit that said “When in Rome” for when I visited Rome. Best life choice of all time!
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You can also find this post on the Wonderly Blog!

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