Backroads in Arusha, Tanzania
The genesis of any war can be traced back to three ideological maelstrom: politics, religion, and race. At some point one faction disagrees with another and the resulting is quick societal disintegration. There are annals, anthems, and archeology to speak to worlds lost and lands gained. No generation has lived without a story of war.
Beneath that holy trinity of excuse, there lies a deep-seeded hatred between two groups of people so similar that to the un-indoctrinated they appear one in the same. Yet, there can be a lack of similarity in each that is so uniformly different. The only thing that each unequivocally shares is the fact that none are “home.” It is the first world battle forever engaging the tourist vs. the traveler.
The easy explanation is that the uneducated, un-adventurous mass headed over that cliff at the Grand Canyon? Those are tourists. The two people at the cafe in Abu Dhabi, those three at the artisan market in Otavalo, and that solo adventurer coming out of the Mongolian hostel are travelers. That is to say they are the elite, the group with more right to be exploring the unfamiliar.
Because they are not hanging upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone or creating photo magic by holding the Great Pyramid in the palm of their hand, they have staked a claim on the ideals of travel. An exchange of ideas and culture, expelling complacency, and an escape from reality. For the traveller, these ideals seemingly include exclusivity and solitude.
Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, BC
Robert Frost the tourist is not. Preferring the road most traveled…in large groups…with a charming local guide. Making scheduled stops at the large ‘traps’ and purchasing kitschy ‘authentic’ souvenirs from a disparate looking vendor. The tourist is not searching for themselves in an ancient cobbled street or looking to plant the flag of discovery for Smalltown, Middle America. They are participating in the global community at their own pace.
Without forcing the proverbial joining of hands and harmonious rendition of a unifying camp song, can we not co-exist peacefully? By definition, outside of the airport or public transportation, these two factions should never even meet. Over priced admission and guided tours don’t intersect with hidden alley cafes serving questionably eatable cuisine.
I’m occasionally shamed into denying my tourist self depending on the company I keep. But I now know, I am a travelist. When I go to Paris I will stop at the Musee Carnavalet and get creepy at Cimetiere de Montemartre in between climbing the Eiffel Tower and mimicking the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Top three destinations on my list? The Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, and the Sphinx.
I am a calculated wanderlust. I like to research neighborhoods and plan a few destinations, but the route between is fair game for wandering. I like finding the oft overlooked, disregarded history, and the backyard culture. But I’m enchanted by St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I was in London a few years ago for less than 24 hours. I ate samosas in a sidewalk cafe, waded through early morning fog along the Thames – oh and I saw Buckingham Palace, the London Bridge, Big Ben, ate fish and chips, and went to the British Museum.
Pre-packaged culture is better than none at all. Argue that what you are given in a tour is not ‘real’ but it’s more than you are going to get on your couch at home. Travelers are snobs. Tourists are lemmings. We should create a unified force, Travelists. Proudly display your nighttime panoramic shot of the NY skyline, next to your collection of African craft beer labels. And fight the real enemy – the homebody.
London Bridge, London, UK