Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Be More Than a Tourist

A tourist, by definition, is someone who travels. So why then is a travel professional (me) telling you to be more than a tourist. Let me further explain. I want you to be more than a tourist, I want you to be a traveler. Is that clearer? Maybe not, so let me give you another definition. A traveler is defined as someone who “travels or has traveled to distant places or foreign lands.”

The two terms may seem synonymous, but they are not. Both the tourist and the traveler go to visit places beyond their own towns and cities, yet the tourist is not the same as the traveler. I can drive 3 hours to the east of my hometown and visit a city in which I have never stepped foot in before and be a tourist. I can go learn of its history and see its highlights and be 100% a tourist, but not a traveler. That city or town 3 hours away would still be a town I could relate to. The same types of folks would probably be in that town as they are near my home. I would have food choices that would be well within my comfort zone. I may or may not seek out anything that would be a “new experience” for me because I would not be forced to. So many like to travel only to those places that offer the same comforts of home and where they will not be forced to see things through the lives and eyes of people completely different from themselves.

A traveler, on the other hand, will embrace the “new.” They will seek out the unfamiliar and different as they journey across the country and around the globe. Each step or mile that a traveler takes is soaked in as part of the experience. Now I am not saying that you have to get a passport and plan a trip to across the ocean to a new Country. But what I am saying is that more “tourists” need to look at their trips as journeys and look at destinations that take themselves out of the norm. People need to start their journey from the time that they leave their home and until they return.

Try to look at things through the eyes and lives of others as you traverse from place to place. Take each moment and soak up the sounds and smells of each destination. Each place has more to offer than what is in the tour guide books. There are people who can teach you so much more just by being observant of how life is going on around you. The temptation is to always seek out the familiar when traveling to a new place, but I want to challenge you to search for things that you have never seen or tasted before and use your journeys as stepping stones to personal growth.

We all need to slow down and see the things around us when we take our journeys. My most memorable moments from any of my travels has been the interaction with those who make those places their homes and it is those moments that make me more than a tourist.

So are you a traveler? Do you like to see and experience people and cultures that are far different than your own? When and where was the last place that you journeyed to where you were taken out of your comfort zone? What was that experience like?

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