It is true that the quote is simplistic, and a generalisation but quotes lose their impact if too long, a clumsy and lengthy phrase is far from effective.
There is not any ‘official’ line of distinction, everybody chooses to travel for their own reasons, and enjoys their particular experience. However, there are those that wish to immerse themselves in a culture, to delve a little deeper into the nooks and crannies of a city or destination. They are seeking to understand as well as merely ‘see’ a destination, this to me defines a traveller.
It is this attitude that is what sets them apart, regardless of whether they have visited one or one hundred countries, this is immaterial. There are ‘travellers’ that have only visited one different society, and not even need abroad, just as there are ‘tourists’ that have visited many countries.
People travel for their own reasons, they wish to enjoy of course, and it is all about experiencing a destination on their own terms. There are some that choose to travel to the same all-inclusive resort every year, meeting the same friends and never leaving the grounds of the hotel. Nobody has the right to criticise this; they are getting away from work and relaxing, in their own way.
Similarly those that choose to drop out of their normal work routine to spend months or even years on an extended trip are travelling for their own motives. This is all that matters, that everyone enjoys their own experiences, looking down or any feeling superiority in either direction is simply wrong.
We have all probably experienced some form of travel snobbery, those that judge their credentials on the number of stamps in their passport. The use of guidebooks, or the services of a guide is looked down upon as the requirements of the less knowledgeable, experienced or savvy traveller.
It’s possible that too much reliance on a guidebook, exploring a destination rarely looking up from a book will almost certainly mean many sights, and opportunities are missed. However guidebooks are extremely useful for researching a destination, both before visiting, and during the evening for the following day.
It does not matter how experienced the traveller maybe, the services of a guide are often indispensable. Either for finding the interesting sights of a city with an informative, and often entertaining narrative or because it is simply safe to do so when tackling a dangerous activity such as ski touring. Occasionally it is necessary to just suck it up, and join the crowd, more is likely to be learned, and it is less likely that many of the ‘must see’ attractions are missed.
Visiting any destination will include seeing all these sights, but there will always be some that wish to see more and those that are perfectly happy just ticking off this list. There are even some that will not bother doing that. There really is nothing wrong with any of these choices, there is not any judgement involved, just accepting facts.
Visiting ‘tourist’ traps whatever style of travel is preferred, just needs accepting. After all who visits Rome and does not go and see the Coliseum? Those that dismiss purchasing souvenirs that can be purchased in local shops as just kitsch are often being unfair. Sure there are many cheap, tacky articles for sale, but equally there are many quality items made by skilled craftsmen or artisans.
There are few that genuinely hold these rigid misconceptions and generally those that do are only really depriving themselves of all the opportunities that travel offers us.
Any traveller should certainly be respectful of the culture of any destination, regardless of how often they travel.
Not all people who travel either long-term or annual vacationers have this attitude. There are unfortunately, drunken groups fighting, swearing, abusive towards the local population, and some that completely ignore the local customs dressing totally inappropriately. Sadly, they are more common than we may hope.
Do the destinations or the choice of accommodation we choose matter? Is staying in a luxury five-star hotel in the Maldives more indicative of a tourist than those preferring a village homestay somewhere in Myanmar? It is not this simplistic of course, but the homestay is much more likely to involve immersion in the community and it is the attitude that led to this choice which defines somebody as a traveller in my opinion.
There is one thing which is common to all travellers; to the locals we are all merely tourists, at least initially. I was recently in Marrakech where refusing the services of a particularly persistent ‘guide’ meant I was considered a bad tourist!”
The truth is that we are all tourists at times, and all sometimes ‘travellers’ we all enjoy relaxing on a beach, having a drink in a lively bar, getting involved in a festival. We all visit clichéd sights, buy souvenirs, hopefully usually quality items, but sometimes cheap rubbish.
Provided the choices made are thoroughly enjoyed, and done for the right motives, it really is immaterial whether we are tourists or travellers. We travel; we are all citizens of the World, the tourist versus traveller debate is irrelevant.
So what is your viewpoint, do you believe there is not any real difference between tourists/travellers, is it just ego or are travellers a breed apart? Please comment.