My thoughts on Tourism vs Travel

By Cacinda Maloney

Effel Tower, Paris, France

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Travel is one of the greatest human freedoms and all of us are free to travel.

Rome, Italy

Where is it that you dream to go?  for me it is…

This year… Greece

I want to go on an adventure, a  journey.  Not  a tour.   I am just not a  tour person.  Maybe a smallish tour, but not with a huge group of people who are waiting for the guide to take them around and create their experience.  I went on a Contex Travel Tour one time in Barcelona, Spain.  Now that was an amazing tour, just a small group of 6 of us, walking around town being led by a docent. I saw things on that tour, that I probably would have missed had I not been with the tour.

To me tourism and travel are two very different things.  Mega tours are a multi-billion dollar business these days.  It is travel that is sold as a commodity.  People pay for it and they expect a certain experience,  they expect certainty.  They go and they have an experience.  A “certain” experience, but for me, that is not what I really want to have.  I want to have an adventure, I want to go on a journey. Journey’s are never perfect, they have difficulties, but in the end, you learn something, something about people and places and how things work and in the end, it is all worth it.

Guayquil, Ecuado

Between Guayaquil and Montanita, Ecuador

Not every place I go is beautiful.  Although, of course, I prefer it.  It makes for better photography!  But sometimes, you need to see this way of life and area of the world to better appreciate your own life and you usually meet really great people along the way.

I accept that the experience I have can be a wild ride, bumpy and uncomfortable, but yet it can also be enriching, fulfilling, stunningly beautiful and mouthwatering scrumptious as well.  I have realized that these tour companies can’t really sell me an experience, they can’t sell me a country.  I have to figure that out on my own.  I mean, I love Rome, and Paris and Barcelona, but it is the things I find as I wander the streets that make my experience so surreal.  Just look at this post on Istanbul call Aristocrats,  I mean, when you are on a tour, you don’t get to stop and take a picture of a cat!  (Now I didn’t start out taking photos of cats, mind you, they just happened.)  But what I am saying is that when you travel as an individual, you have time to stop and see the things that are interesting to you.

People say they “do” Rome or Paris, but no place is ever done.  I can return over and over to the same place but never “do” it.  Each time, upon my return, it is a different experience.  To me, travel, real travel is when we are open to what what the experience is going to be, be it thrilling,  joyful or miserable.  As I have experienced all of these in a single journey.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Also, as I travel, I like to use the public transportation, the experience can be difficult, but it is usually rich in experiences.

Mind the Gap London, Great Britian

Mind the Gap London, Great Britain

Traveling fills me with wonder, and it seems to be a natural wonder that cannot be duplicated by not doing it.  As I see in my own kids and myself, unfortunately, efficiency and technology is killing our sense of wonder, which is the very thing that causes us to travel in the first place   Today travel is almost predictable, because tourism is a business.  We can see Paris on the internet, in three dimensions, 24 hours a day.  And although I love TripAdvisor, we can see the same room that 100 others have already slept in, it gives us a sense of certainty.    And I do like that too, since most of us can only travel a set number of days or weeks per year, and we are tired and worked to death,  so we want to know that when we step off that airplane, that we can enjoy those moments forever.  Most of us want to minimize this uncertainty.

We are all writing the stories of our lives right now, and we all want to control our story, but if we do that too much we will delete the sense of wonder, but maybe we cancel out something that is more enlightening as well.   So my advice to you is “don’t be a tourist, travel more, plan less.”  Sometimes we should take the bus, don’t always fly once you get there.  I urge you to take a look around and get off the beaten path, go see the world with wonder.

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”
Paul Theroux

2017-06-25T11:38:38+00:00

15 Comments

  1. Jeff Broman February 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    I could not have said it any better. I get the most enjoyment by walking down the side streets just to see what I find. I usually wear myself out because I always want to see what is around the next corner. If you are on a big bus tour that is on a tight schedule you will never get the time to experience the place.

    • admin February 8, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      I know, it just freaks me out when I see all those people on those buses or hear stories of Mom, when she is on a trip and she tells me that she had to wait for an hour so that all the bus tour participants got back to the bus … Or when I see these huge groups of people with a guide that has an umbrella in the dead heat of the summer. We have all seen it at a UNESCO world heritage sites or in a famous city, where they all line up thru the crowd and follow the guide with the yellow umbrella. I feel sorry for them, in that they are getting a manufactured experience instead of authentic experience. Like in the case of my own Mother, she wouldn’t go, if she didn’t have that type of certainty, so at least she goes. As for my Father, he doesn’t even go. But to each his own…

  2. Marshall Jackson February 9, 2013 at 6:41 am

    This probably sounds odd, coming from a serial cruiser, but you are so right on this. I don’t always cruise, and sometimes, I even manage to get off the “beaten path” when cruising too. I’ve spent a total of 7 days walking around Rome, and I could go again, and again….and I’ve only seen less than 1 percent of what there is to see. I could say the same about Florence and Capri too.

    • admin February 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Off the beaten path is such an over used cliche in the travel world, but it is so true. You will have to teach me about cruising, because I find it a bit too mainstream, at least the big huge ships from North America! I would like to try some from Europe, that may be a totally different experience.

      • admin February 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm

        and I love, love, love Italy!!

      • Marshall Jackson February 11, 2013 at 5:24 am

        Med cruises have a different vibe than the Bahamas party barge. Though I’ve learned how to separate myself from most of the masses on the party barge too. 🙂

        Small ships and river cruising are something else too. River cruise on my bucket list.

        • admin February 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm

          Yes me too! I do want to try some international cruises, to see if this changes my mind as well. I have done what scuba divers call Liveaboards and they are amazing, only maybe 6 or 8 people, but we scuba dive every day 3-4 dives a day, plus night dives, so it is very specialized type of boat trips, but fun nonetheless.

  3. JD Teitelman February 9, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Great Post! I could not agree more. Sometimes the best finds are off the beaten path. I always walk the path less taken, sometimes it can lead to some scary situation. I must have my grandfather in me. He would always walk down little ally ways to see how the locals live. A few times he wound up in people outdoor courtyards while the residents were having lunch or dinner.

    • admin February 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      So true! Once I ended up in a rental car in a “no turn around” spot from some alley way in Naples. It ended up being a family’s backyard, where they were outside eating dinner! I said hello and quickly turned the car around! But most of my “off the beaten path” experiences aren’t scary, but amazing!

  4. Jeremy Branham February 16, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Love the idea of a small group tour. Those are OK. Still prefer more solo and independent travel. Love the use of public transportation. Really want to connect with the place. Tours and cruises aren’t for me.

    Some places really aren’t beautiful. However, I believe we can always find a way to connect with a place and create some travel memories.

    • admin February 17, 2013 at 12:10 am

      Absolutely. I do go to places that aren’t beautiful, but you are right, there is always a way to connect with that place to create that travel memory. My recent visit to Montanita,Ecuador comes to mind. It is not for everybody, but I was able to truly enjoy the surf camp I stayed at and the simple things the locals do for everyday entertainment.

  5. Cheryl February 17, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Definitely agree! Any destination can be turned into a memorable one with the right attitude. I don’t usually do tours but tried one of those free tours in Prague once and opted for the Spanish guide as she only had 1 tourist to take around as opposed to the 100+ with the other English speaking tourists. Definitely turned into an adventure as my other friends didn’t fully comprehend so she spoke Spanglish and she was able to take us to her favorite places as we had extra time and flexibility as a small group. Besides that, I really prefer to explore on my own and meet the locals to gain their perspective.

    • admin February 17, 2013 at 12:07 am

      Only recently have I even engaged the idea of going on these small walking tours and I have enjoyed them. I do like independent travel. I hated my one and only mega boat Cruise and would only entertain the idea of a cruise,if it was small and luxury and preferably in Europe!

  6. Anonymous March 9, 2013 at 5:37 am
  7. Sheldon April 14, 2013 at 6:43 am

    Well said. So true.

Comments are closed.