Warning: this post is ranty…
Last week I wrote a post about how much I love the online travel community. And I really do, but every once in awhile (actually it seems to be happening quite frequently lately) I come across a certain kind of blog post that really rubs me the wrong way.
These blog posts fall into the “traveler versus tourist” category, and tend to promote the idea that there is a certain type of travel that is more authentic and serious than what everyone else is doing. It’s not just bloggers who are guilty either; you can see in almost any hostel around the world.
My problem with this attitude is that it turns the act of travel, which is awesome and fun, into a pissing contest. Travel is NOT a lifestyle competition. It’s not a battle for who has the lightest backpack, or visits the most obscure places. It’s not about what you should or should not do; it’s about meeting interesting people and doing interesting things and seeing the world, because you want to.
This made up distinction between “real travelers” and the masses really annoys me. I know that there are a lot of readers of this blog who maybe haven’t traveled that much yet, haven’t backpacked solo through South America or given up their day jobs to travel full time. And that’s OKAY. You shouldn’t feel like you have to do any of those things (unless you want to). Yes, I rant and rave about the benefits of traveling in your twenties, because I think it’s an ideal time to get yourself out there. I do think travel is important. But I also don’t think there’s any one way to go about it.
The thing about travel is that it can take awhile to feel comfortable out on the road. I’d much rather you do whatever works to get you out there then stay home thinking about what might have been. Feel more comfortable taking a tour? Do
it. Learn the ropes; maybe next time you’ll feel more prepared to backpack. Telling people they are somehow traveling “wrong” just shuts them down at the start.
So is there a difference between travelers and tourists? Maybe. Not really. Who cares? If you’re visiting a tourist attraction, guess what you are a tourist. If you are someone who is eager and willing to get out and see the world, then you are a traveler. You are all both (and if you’re wearing a backpack, then that makes you a backpacker too).
The thing is that all of these words are just LABELS. They don’t define us unless we let them. You can work a 9-5 job and still be a traveler. You can Contiki it and still be a traveler if your mind is in the right place. You can have never even left this country and still consider yourself a traveler.
Travel is about a desire to see the world and learn how it works. In which case the only difference I’m concerned about is the one between those who follow their passions and the ones who sit home wishing they had.