Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Tourist vs Traveller Debate and Why I Think it's Complete B*llocks

Prepare yourselves, I may be getting on my soapbox today...

I recently saw this on the Matador Facebook page - I love the articles on Matador, you read their stuff and you instantly want to travel, they nail social media and the brand defines travel down to a T but the below picture really got my goat.

Image via Matador

I know there are better causes I could focus my energy on but this brand of travel snobbery riles me up even if it is from one of the famous (and quite rightly so) travel writers. It's particularly prominent when on the road, huddled in hostel kitchens or on nights outs, people have to one-up everyone else's stories and literally I cannot stand it. More to the point, I don't care OK, I do care but the 'epic' - a word that is frequently overused amongst such types - stories take so long to tell that I've switched off halfway through.

I am sick of reading about this amazing way to get off the beaten track or how every Tom, Dick and Harry claims to be doing the most crazy, radical travelling to a land that no foreign man has ever set foot on before. Or how according to them, feeble tourists only see an superficial side to the city, country, continent, world etc.

I should make clear that I don't hate the 'get off the beaten track' thing by itself, in fact I lap stuff up like that but what I vehemently dislike is the distinction that they make between their amazing style of travelling and being a 'tourist' along with the massive superiority complex - read, ego - that appears to be inherent in such 'travellers'.

Is the traveller vs tourist debate that much of a big deal?

I'm not going to lie - I am a shameless hypocrite and no doubt, have participated and probably will continue to participate in such snobbery unknowingly. I do to a certain extent aim to see of a 'different' side of a place, wish to emulate 'local' life and yearn to travel deeper. But, with the aim of becoming a better human etc., I'm trying to not judge someone else's style of travelling just because it isn't my method of choice.

But anyhoo, I will turn my attention to the other side of the argument - being a 'tourist'.

Surely, the sites that supposed 'tourists' flock to, are popular for a reason?

On the whole yes, there are of course tourist traps, but the Colosseum is pretty awe-inspiring, Machu Picchu is worth the hike and whilst I risk various inward tuts from Parisians, I reiterate that one of the most beautiful sights to see has to be the Eiffel Tower at night.

I, of course, won't be seen dead in a "My Insert Relative/Friend/Pet's Twice Removed Cousin went to... and they got was this lousy t-shirt" and I detest crowds other than for good reason. However, there are certain aspects of the 'tourist's' way of travelling that are to be admired. Tourists make the most of their time there, making sure they leave no stone unturned. In some respects, you could say they travel deeper than the off the beaten track 'traveller'.

Also, are we not forgetting something? 'Tourists' are already converted to the beauty of travelling, why are we chiding them? Clearly, we are focusing our energy on the wrong people. Because, to be honest, aren't we all the same? Aren't we all in part tourists and travellers?

Well that is a great rhetorical question because as luck would have it, according to various online thesaursuses, tourist and traveller are synonyms for each other. 

So here is my groundbreaking conclusion, there is not one bit of a difference between a traveller and a tourist. There are of course different styles of travel but the fact that both the traveller and the tourist are out exploring, seeing something different, discovering something new means that they have a lot more in common than previously thought. To be honest, I don't understand where the differentiation between the two emerged from in the first place. I'm pretty sure we all have elements of the other travelling style even if we, on the whole, consider ourselves to be more a 'traveller' or vice versa. It's a simple equation: Tourist = Traveller and Traveller = Tourist.

So, can we stop all the travel hating and get back to talking about what we love best?

What do you think about the Tourist/Traveller Argument?

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