Are you a Traveler or a Tourist?

Are you a tourist or a traveler? Most of us prefer to think of ourselves as travelers rather than tourists. But are we really?

Tourists stick out like sore thumbs. They separate themselves from the people and the places that they visit. Tourists go sightseeing, expecting interesting things to happen to them. They are over-anxious over their annual vacation, determined to record every moment on film to bring home and show their friends and family and then stick the pictures in a family photo album. Tourists do not seek out adventure and are not at ease with the locals.

Travelers on the other hand immerse themselves in the people, places and cultures. They seek out adventure. They have a reason and a purpose for their trip. They make new friends, laugh, talk and debate about life with local people. They are not afraid to walk in the markets, mingle with the locals or eat local food. Their objective in travelling is to broaden their mind, and see their lives through the eyes of other people. They are eager to gain new experiences and perspectives. When a traveler returns home, they come home with experiences that have shaped their lives and their values. A tourist on the other hand, does not learn anything on vacation. They come home the same person that left, with the same values and misconceptions or preconceptions when they left home.

So, you may be asking, how do I become a traveler? To become a traveler you must experience the people and culture. You have to learn to accept the culture of the country you are visiting. You have to accept the fact that India is crowded and dirty, that people are going to be begging you for money, and the temperature will reach 100 degrees. In Vietnam, you have to accept that the cars are not going to stop for you, that you are going to have to literally run across the street. While visiting the souks in Morocco, accept everyone is a “guide” and they are very eager to show you their shop and sell you their overpriced merchandise. In the Caribbean, you have to realize that absolutely no one is in a rush, so wait patiently for your food. A traveler accepts these things and embraces them. A traveler wants to learn more about the people and culture than what is found in the glossy travel brochure that they read before they left home. They embrace the people and culture. So I ask you again – are you a traveler or a tourist? I am eager to hear your comments.

Cynthia Amin Hall is the owner of Colesville Travel. We specialize in groups, international travel, destination weddings and honeymoons.

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