Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Traveler or Tourist - Which Are You?

I came across a quote the other day which, at first, seemed very self-explanatory.  I wrote it down and thought, "I'll just tuck this away for future reference.  It will certainly come in handy for something."  Then the more I tossed it about in my mind, I felt there is more to this than meets the eye.  The quote was simply, "Don't just be a tourist, be a traveler."  

When I think of the word "tourist", I immediately conjure up images of humorously clad men and women, decked out with wide-brimmed hats, smeared with sunscreen and laden down with a variety of camera equipment.  These people complain when residents of the foreign country they're visiting don't speak their language and can't understand why things look, taste and sound different from home, where, of course, it's always much better.  I often wonder why they don't just stay there. However, with all their perceived faults, tourists are welcomed just about everywhere on the planet because of the green they drop along the way.  The economy of many regions can rise or fall on the money spent by tourists.

Travelers, on the other hand, are those folks who appreciate different cultures, like to sample new foods, and try to learn at least "Hello", "Please" and "Thank You" in their host country's language. They may look the part of the tourist in their garb and accents, or not, but their attitude is what differentiates them from the quintessential tourist.

I'm not a linguistics expert, but these terms seemed pretty clear to me.  But, what do other people think?  I ran to my trusty computer and started searching comments about tourists and travelers and the differences between them.  I'm not sure that anything I read could be considered expert opinion, nor is mine, but it was interesting to see what was out there.  Some responded that there is no difference.  It's just a matter of semantics - a slight nuance of meaning between words.  However, for the most part, the consensus of opinion is quite close to my description.  Perhaps in different words, but with the same implication.

Being a tourist is only seeing a place on the surface; trying to take as many pictures as possible of sights you won't remember once you get home; and, not really caring about the impact of your visit or the people you meet along the way.

If you prepare for your journey or visit by researching where you are going, what you will be seeing and the people you will be meeting, you're on the road to being a traveler.  If you consider yourself an ambassador for your country and realize that every action you take, will make an impression and you want it to be good, you are a traveler.  If the highlight of your trip is mingling with the locals, you are definitely a traveler.

To get the most out of any itinerary, we need to be part tourist and part traveler.  It is as important to see all those sites for which a place is famous, even though they may be labeled touristy, as it is to get up close and personal with the people.  Just appreciate the fact that you have the opportunity to travel.

Until the next blog - happy and safe travels no matter where you go.

Barbara Voerg, Travel Consultant
Hudson Valley Traveler