Why is it that people have such an aversion to being called a tourist? It’s like we’ll go out of our way, trudging through the arse-end of nowhere and resting our bodies in cockroach-infested dives just so we can distance ourselves from that label. When we are described as such, we shiver in disgust as though we’ve just been accused of suffering from leprosy.
In fact, we might go so far as to veto the trips we actually want to do because we will be looked down upon for doing so. Like there’s some holy travel god who waggles his finger, tutting and shaking his head saying “really? That’s awfully touristy of you” when you hover over a package holiday for a nanosecond too long.
Blah blah blah…
Tick-Box Travel vs Elitist Exploring
In recent years, people have been planning more and more adventurous trips as if this is excludes them from the dreaded tourist tag so they can sit there afterwards, laughing at those who are excited about seeing the Eiffel Tower. Almost as if they will be excluded from the tourist jokes and nostril-filled views for a while if they grab the bull by the horns and spend two months surrounded by leeches and god-knows what else in the Amazon. Even if they hate it, that’s fine because they’re not a tourist. And if you haven’t noticed, that’s the goal we’re aiming for. Tourist; bad. Traveller; good.
There seems to be some confusion between the words traveller and tourist; a confusion that has arisen since travel became accessible to the millions, allowing for different styles to develop. To the traveller, a tourist is a drunken lout passing from one popular attraction to the next in a haze of alcohol and bad behaviour. To the tourist, a traveller is a bearded hippie on a long haul backpacking jaunt around South East Asia.
The view that annoys me most, though, is the view of the tourist. Sure, there are some exceptions to the rule; you know, the drunken louts who do cause a scene and give everyone else a (very) bad name, or the overly loud bus group who simply shout louder when their request goes unanswered by a local. But most tourists are very well behaved and enjoy discovering new things.
This One Time When I Was in (Insert Isolated Dive)…
In the same way that there are tourists who want to be treated like they are at home and have the same experiences that they have sitting on their pay-monthly sofa, there are travellers who wander around with a sense of entitlement. They think they are better than other visitors because, oh, they’ve been to more countries, or they’ve been welcomed with open arms into a Shaman ceremony, or they’ve roughed it in the African desert.
They’re the kind of people who rain stories, advice, and “this one time when I was travelling” scenarios into any and every conversation. For some reason (maybe it’s the weather in Patagonia) they think we actually want to be pummelled by their holy advice because they have been to over thirty countries. Of course, that certainly makes for some interesting stories, but a guy who races ferrets every Monday and snails every Saturday is likely to have some stories that are equally as interesting. And guess what? He might just holiday in the Costa del Sol every year. Same resort. Same hotel.
Lovin’ life at the Eiffel Tower
You Aren’t Travel and Travel Isn’t You
Travel doesn’t define anyone, and we should probably start wising up to this before staying in a Mongolian yurt becomes “Urgh, so clichéd”. Let me help you out. If you introduce yourself to someone as Steve-who-has-travelled-to-Antarctica-by-raft, you’re probably placing too much emphasis on this part of your life. Whilst it is a great achievement (pats and claps for you), it is not everything. It is not you. It is something that happened to you. When we start realising that we are all in this together, that we are all as equally clueless as the next person, we might be able to shed these labels that have caused a divide in the travel industry.
Oh and by the way, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been in India for three days, three weeks, or three months, you’re still a tourist if it’s not your home country.