“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been. Travellers don’t know where they’re going”- Paul Theroux
For most normal people, travellers and tourists are nothing more than synonyms, words that describe the people who’re exploring a new place. But I’ll be damned if I catch anyone calling me just a tourist. You see, we take this seriously. Now, before you go on to accuse me of sporting a partisan attitude and being a hipster, there are certain universally recognised differences between the two. Which one are you?
Tourists pack for a vacation. Travellers pack for a journey.
The biggest difference between travellers and tourists is in the way they pack. Do you carry 3 suitcases with 3 different pairs of shoes in each? Chances are you might be a tourist. Baggage wears you down through process of discovery. Pack light.
Tourists like their comfort food. Travellers strive to taste the local kind.
Most tourists usually arrange the food that they’re comfortable with. They’ll either eat at famous fast food chains or get their own local cuisine somehow. Indians get Indian food, Americans get American food. Can’t bear to eat the local food? Chances are you might be a tourist. Get on the streets. Eat what the locals eat. Just watch out for an upset stomach.
Tourists get a guide. Travellers find the guidance.
Travelling by Thomas Cook or Cox & Kings? Do you prefer a packaged deal with a dedicated driver to get you around? Chances are you might be a tourist. Travellers find their guide in the locals, questioning, conversing, discovering. Don’t get stuck in the commercialism of your dream vacation. Get out there, find your own way.
Tourists say hi, Travellers say bonjour, ni hau, hola, guten tag.
Tourists stick to their own tongue when abroad. Do you expect the locals of the place you’re visiting to understand basic English instead of trying to learn their dialect? Chances are you might be a tourist. Travelling is an opportunity to learn and grow, don’t limit yourself. Learn the alien language, learn their culture, try to live as the local. You might end up discovering yourself.
Tourists tour one country in 14 days. Travellers spend 14 days in one city.
Okay statistical irregularities aside, you do get my point, right? Tourists are governed under the barriers set by their ‘package’. Do you rush through the famous spots in the city, click a few photos and then run to the next? Chances are you might be a tourist. Don’t just go for sightseeing. Take in the atmosphere, become a part of it. Don’t just go to post on your Instagram feed or to prove people you’ve been there, go to enrich yourself with experience.
Travellers already know these things. They are imbibed with the sense of curiosity, of spontaneity, they find their own offbeat path and avoid the traditional outcomes of the ones that travelled before them. They’re storytellers, they’re adventurers.
If you don’t know whether you’re a tourist or a traveller, chances are, you’re a tourist.
P.S: The above article is meant to be kind of satirical and written in good humour, travellers and tourists are words that can be used interchangeably, and there’s nothing wrong with being a tourist either. They’re just different lifestyles, and different ways of approaching travelling with the limited time you have. This article could very well be titled, ‘How to be a Better Traveller.’