The Difference Between a Tourist and a Traveler

I read a great quote in a book about traveling, explaining the difference between tourism and traveling (and perhaps more importantly, the difference between tourists and travelers). Unfortunately I forgot the exact quote so I made up my own.

The difference between a tourist and a traveler is that the traveler goes to a place without any preconceptions, whereas the tourist already decided on how he's going to experience it. The traveler has an open mind and lets the place happen to him. The tourist brings with him his own environment and expectations, thereby diluting (polluting?) the experience.

The beauty of traveling is that you can leave your baggage behind and re-invent yourself every time you go to a new place. I've encountered the tourist/traveler distinction many times while cycling, and I've been on both sides of the spectrum. You can book a hotel in advance, decide in which city (or restaurant, even) to have lunch before you leave, figure out the exact route you will cycle and just get to your destination with the focus on cycling and following your plan. Although cycling does let you experience every intermediate location between your starting point and your ending point, this way of cycling is pretty close to tourism. On the other hand, you can also start cycling in the morning in the direction you want to go and see which roads you will encounter, wander around until you have to ask local people for directions, and then find a place to stay at the last moment, again following local people's advice. The places that you visit might be exactly the same, but the mindset is different. And the mindset is what's most important.

Posted in Thoughts , Travel