Over the last year I have read many articles about how to ‘be a traveller and not a tourist’ or ‘how not to be a tourist’ and the even more cringe-worthy titles like, ‘What makes you a traveller and not a tourist’. I’m sure you will have seen so many of these types of articles. I have to say that I have a slight problem with referencing these two terms against each other– not because either is bad, but because it implies there is a hierarchy in how we ‘consume’ travel.
Having an identity…
There seems to have been a conscious effort for some people to identify themselves totally as travellers and disassociate the identity that they are tourists. On the whole, I have no problem with people identifying themselves as they see fit. Heck, I probably (nay, I know) I have latched onto some ‘identity’ growing up but if I’m honest the whole ‘traveller/tourist debate grates on me and I want to tell you why.
What I particularly don’t like is that these ‘traveller advocates’ seem to push that if others don’t fit within a strange set of rules of being a traveller, you become a social pariah – or worse, a tourist! Many of the articles I have read on ‘being a traveller’ seem to ridicule and belittle the idea of being a tourist, which in reality is nothing more than snobbery in an area in which we can all enjoy and consume travel, albeit slightly differently. Many traveller advocates say how they go ‘off the beaten track’ or how they choose to immerse themselves in the local culture or interact with locals – this may be the case, but do these experiences make them a better human? I think not. I personally don’t think it makes anyone more or less of a traveller or a tourist.
Experience is what matters
In my opinion, every single person is a traveller and a tourist, it doesn’t make any difference if you jet off every year on a long-haul Brazilian adventure where you decide to stay in a Favela while learning Portuguese or if you go to sunny Spain for a family holiday with the people you love – they are both valid, highly personal experiences that you will no doubt cherish for the rest of your life. After all, travelling has always been about making memories. Don’t ever feel you need to travel in a way you are not comfortable with – you are the only person that truly knows the impact that travel has on yourself. After all, we all learn and enrich our lives through our experiences and those experiences will happen no matter if you’re a tourist or a traveller.
Let’s not displace people!
Don’t ever feel you have to be something you are not when you travel. This is really important. This whole hierarchy that exists seems to displace so many ‘tourists’ that have perfectly valid, enriching and beautiful experiences while travelling – don’t ever underestimate that. Tourists are no less travellers than travellers are tourists – we are starting to create a problem by polarising both of these ways of travelling.
A commitment for us travel-bloggers
You’ve probably guessed that I have a real problem in these travellers making people aspire to fit within a certain travel box. I think as travel bloggers we have a real chance to create a connected community of people that explore the world in all its beauty – let’s not push an agenda to make one way to travel better than others or more enviable than others. Let’s not create a hierarchical divide that undermines tourists and elevates so called travellers and let us appreciate each and every experience and each other with the respect we all deserve.