Are you a tourist or traveler? There’s a difference. Tourism is running from destination to destination with strict agendas and to-do lists. Traveling is flying with the wind and trusting your instincts on the road. Tourism is waiting in a two and a half hour-long queue to walk slowly behind the person in front of you in a crowded museum. Traveling is exploring the streets of a foreign city without a map, eagerly waiting for the next local hole-in-the-wall restaurant you can find after acquainting yourself with the people who live there. There’s a fine line between travel and tourism that continues to be more blurred with every day that passes.
When you’re a real traveler, you will notice the tourists when you’re on the road. The ones moving at the speed of light, hopping countries and keeping a checklist just so they can have ‘bragging rights’. Touring a city gives you the ability to tell friends at your next dinner party, “I’ve been there” or “I’ve seen that”. And although the tourist industry as a whole has proved to be a great thing for the world; improving living conditions in some parts of the world that do not have the industrial or economic system to do it on their own, it has also affected what some consider the true spirit of traveling.
The Difference Between Travel and Tourism
For those of us that prefer traveling over touring, we prefer the slowed-down, simplistic lifestyle of adventure that the world has to offer. We want to walk through the artisan shop or the small farmer’s market not only to see what treats it has to offer but also to strike up a conversation with the ones that can tell us a thing or two from everyday life in the city we are in. So that we can become knowledgeable about cultures that differ from our own. Understandably, and rightfully so, there are going to be some places that are must-sees. Not every city has these kinds of sights, and if you’re on the road in the spirit of true traveling, you’ll be one of the lucky ones who runs into the real treasure that sits far away from these must-see places; you’ll run into a “must be there” moment.
However, the impact that tourism has on real travel aspirations is frightening. Tourism provides enough revenue to rid the hidden gems from the relatively unknown destinations and replace the local delicacies with large industry-leading chains. In these villages, towns, and cities that were once untouched, beautifully kept secrets, you see McDonald’s being placed on every corner just so that the tourists who are there for a week will not have to sacrifice their Quarter Pounder and French fries to see the most beautiful places in the world. That’s fine, but those McDonald’s are also replacing the small-town prices. Inflation is through the roof and traveling is becoming more expensive than ever even in the towns and villages you’d least expect it.
What can you do to save the traveling spirit?
In most parts of the world, development is making it more and more difficult to sustain long-term traveling and thus leading to more week long tourism stints. That is why it is becoming increasingly important that we start practicing budget traveling techniques in order to stay on the road longer and avoid pouring more money into the silent monster that is the tourism industry.
Besides, what’s the point of attempting to see everything at once? It’ll only lead to you really seeing none of it. So take it all in, enjoy the slow ride. Meet a stranger. Try an exotic local food. Do something that brings you out of your comfort zone and grow as a person while you are traveling. No one says only long-term travel is real travel. You can do some real traveling in a weak, but it requires a desire to experience more than just the sights of a place.
However, you’ll notice real quick that the sights are only a fraction of what makes unknown places great. Touring is better than staying home, I think we can all agree on that. But traveling is what will bring you alive. There’s a difference between the two, and it’s about time we acknowledge it before all of the small treasures vanish before our eyes.
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