In his novel, The Sheltering Sky, author Paul Bowles wrote,
“Another important difference between tourist and traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveler, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”
This quote really started to make me think, is there a difference between travelers and tourists?
In a gramatical sense, the answer is no. Looking up synonyms of ‘tourist’ in a thesaurus, you’ll find ‘traveler’ as one of the first suggestions. So, in one sense, there really isn’t a difference between the words.
However, in modern terminology, I think there is a huge difference between travelers and tourists, and I think the quote above sums up the difference perfectly.
Having traveled throughout the world and having worked as a travel agent for the past four months, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “Can you believe what they do there?” or “It’s not safe” simply because of cultural differences. While there is nothing wrong with appreciating your home’s culture, refusing to accept the differences you observe in other cultures can be detrimental to both your understanding of the world and how much you enjoy your travels.
That’s not to say that travelers never encounter culture shock. Despite how much I pride myself on being a seasoned traveler, I definitely experienced some culture shock during my time China. However, the difference between a traveler and a tourist, in my opinion, is that a traveler accepts that it’s okay for things to be different, while a tourist thinks those differences make others wrong.
For this week’s discussion, I want to know what you think? Is there a difference between travelers and tourists, or am I just creating a division that isn’t really there? Let me know in the comments section below.