Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Traveller Vs. Tourist

I think that there is a danger in viewing travel attitudes as a dichotomy. I do not think that a binary exist between the “traveller” and “tourist.” I used to think that the concept of travel was as straightforward as this. However, I now try to consider different peoples travel experiences as a range, allowing for many shades of grey between the extremes of black and white.

The one difference I could still latch on to was that tourists went on holidays while travellers did something else. They travelled. –The Beach, by Alex Garland

Growing up I travelled a lot. This “travel” was always explained by my parents to be different than “going on vacation.” With “travel,” thinking and education was expected but on a “vacation” a person merely relaxed. My parents put a heavy emphasis on the learning potential in travel. Leading up to a trip it was expected that, as a family, we learn as much of the native language of our destination as possible. My mother would read about the history of the area and teach us about it before we left. While we were away, on top of whatever homework had been assigned by teachers from school, we were expected to spend time each day on travel homework as well. My brother and I, dependant on the nature of the trip and our respective grade level in school, would work on a daily travel journal, sketching, financial tracking and budgeting of the trip, planning and researching activities, mapping and calculating distances driven, and in general reflecting and talking as a family about our experiences, thoughts, and emotions of the culture we were experiencing each day. Once we returned from a trip my family would make scrapbooks and photo albums. I often had to make a presentation to my class at school about my experience. With all of this work I could definitely see the difference between this “travel” and the relaxing times in the summer, when I played on the beach at the cottage my family often rented.

Of course this is more than a beach resort. But at the same time, it is just a beach resort. We come here to relax by a beautiful beach, but it isn’t a beach resort because we’re trying to get away from beach resorts. Or we’re trying to make a place that won’t turn into a beach resort. See? –The Beach, by Alex Garland

When I was young I thought that the difference between a “traveller” and a “tourist” stemmed from the locations they visited. Some people went on “vacation” to beaches, cottages, resorts, and theme parks while in contrast others “travelled” to places to see things of historical and cultural importance like ruins, castles, monuments, churches, and museums. By this logic, I could understand my parents having my brother and I attempt to learn basic greetings and nouns in Spanish before our trip to Mexico. We spent our time there visiting old cathedrals, archaeological sites, and local markets. The opportunity for education seemed to surround us. However, the trip before this we had visited Florida to go to Disney World. That trip had just as much homework and was filled with education based activities as well. I remember learning to read a map and helping to navigate on the drive down and back. We made a point to stop at important places of interest along the way like waterfalls, caves, and at least one museum. The trip seemed to be very historically focused and we went to a number of heritage and cultural centres, on the drive and in Florida. Despite merely driving down south to spend time somewhere warm and have fun at this “tourist” destination, we considered it “travelling.”

I had ambiguous feelings about the differences between tourists and travellers – the problem being that the more I travelled, the smaller the differences became. –The Beach, by Alex Garland

As my family continued to travel over the years, I still struggled with identifying why our trips were so learning focused and not considered “vacations.” I thought that perhaps the distinction was based on the time of year. Since my brother and I were often pulled from school for our various family trips, I considered that this emphasis on education must stem from that. Trips taken over the holidays or in the summer were supposed to be relaxing but those during the school year had to be educational. Even a trip to Toronto where we missed only a few days of school was an opportunity for learning. My brother and I did assigned homework from school and further activities given to us from our parents. I believe I wrote reviews of the hotel and different tourist destinations we visited instead of doing a travel journal. We grew older and it became harder to miss school for family trips so my parents bought a camper trailer and started taking us places in the summer. During these long road trips, I noticed that the format did not change and we still made everything educational. We still did the same activities. In these cases the summer trips were much longer, which made budget tracking and navigation more of a challenge. This, therefore, was “travel” and a different experience than a usual family camping “vacation.”

I want to do something different, and everybody wants to do something different. But we all do the same thing. –The Beach, by Alex Garland

I realise now that travel cannot be measured in such finite terms and that saying there are only two ways to take a trip, to “travel” or “vacation,” denies the range of experiences different people have. A trip has so many layers. Each person or family experiences locations differently and puts emphasis on different things while travelling. It is unfair to make such bold distinctions and impossible to rank one persons experience as superior to another.


Hezabelle said...

I love the last quote.

Cool essay, chica! A+!

Anonymous said...

Wow, doesn't sound like much fun! Good essay though.

Anonymous said...

still haven't made it. I'm just going to set aside some time on Canada Day and get'r done then.