Are you a tourist or a traveller?

Why do you travel? Is it to have new experiences or meet new people? Is it out of curiosity? Is it for bragging rights? Is it literally just for a change of scenery or a change of pace perhaps? If you were to conduct a poll of 100 people chosen randomly, chances are that you could get a 100 different answers — such is the diversity of reasons that motivates people to leave the comfort of their familiar surroundings. At one end of the scale, you have those that simply travel abroad for the guaranteed weather. Nothing much else changes for them. They still eat bangers and mash for their lunch or fish and chips for their dinner; drink in an Irish bar or British pub and, by and large, don’t take any opportunity to sample or appreciate the delights that are on offer in their temporary home from home. At the other end of the scale, you have those intrepid travellers who go ‘native’ and go ‘off-country’ and ‘off-grid’. They eat what the locals eat and sleep where they sleep and totally immerse themselves in the culture, customs and way of life of their newly adopted and temporary home. In between these two extremes, reside the vast majority of the rest of us; the 80% of the Bell Curve that indulges itself in some specific aspect of the country or region that we are travelling through. For some it may be the music that attracts us (think Ireland, Cuba, Mali or Chicago for example). For others, the priority may be the food (Italy, France, Thailand, Mexico). For others still, it may be the beaches (Bahamas, Jamaica, Philippines etc) or it could be the activities to be experienced once they get there (shark cage diving in South Africa, Bungee jumping in New Zealand or walking the Camino Way).

Having undertaken a lot of the latter over the years, it never ceases to amaze me how some people can travel yet never really see, taste, experience or appreciate anything about the destination they’ve chosen — other than perhaps the fact that ‘it was hot’, ‘it was cheap’ or ‘I wouldn’t go back there. I didn’t like the food’. G.K. Chesterton, the British author famously defined the difference between a tourist and a traveller by stating

‘The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.’

Which of the two do you think you are?

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