Travelers: Embrace Your Inner Tourist
I’m happy to have permission from my friend writer Cynthia Ord to re-publish a blog post of hers: Us and Them in Travel Literature. She voices many of the same thoughts I’ve had over the years, especially regarding the pretension with traveler (seasoned=good) vs. tourist (amateur) although I must red-faced admit I looked for the mindfultraveler.com URL before mindfultourist back when I started this crazazy blogger way of life! Read part of her article below and make sure to click at the end to read the rest over at her blog. Thanks, Cynthia!
Within travel writing, nobody wants to be a tourist. Tourists are amateurs at travel. They have no travel etiquette. They are easily duped and get robbed. Tourists are just on vacation for a week or two, they’re just consumers with mundane lives back home. They take snapshots, get sunburned, then pack up their suitcases and leave.
We travelers are different, says travel literature. We are the master craftsmen of travel. We have artfully escaped the “mundane” and the “back home.” Maybe we started as tourists, but we have evolved. We transcend time zones. We have been everywhere. We take photographs, not snapshots. We are nomads seeking enlightenment. For us, travel is a way of life.
The tourism industry definition
To me, this “traveler” persona is riddled with pretension and cliche. The travel and tourism industry doesn’t care much for travelers either. Based on per-day spending patterns, it would prefer a tourist to a traveler any day. In fact, the industry doesn’t even bother to differentiate between the two. The industry definition, as established by the UN World Tourism Organization, is:
“Tourism: the activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business, and other purposes”
Interesting. So that hardcore “traveler” who cycled from Canada to Argentina in ten months? He was actually a tourist. And that “travel writer” who spent six weeks in Iceland for a feature story? Also a tourist. What about myself? When I volunteered for six months at an ecolodge in Guatemala, that was tourism. My summer internship in Albania? Tourism too. Anything away from home for less than a year is tourism, and anyone who is doing it is (gasp!) a tourist.
A more dignified tourism
I’ve been lucky enough to have done a fair amount of travel. I’ve even done some travel writing. I’ve also studied tourism academically and I’m now working within the tourism industry. So I think about this terminology a lot. Continue reading this post at Cynthia’s blog.