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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


Sunday 14th of April 2013

Well said. So true.


Sunday 17th of February 2013

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.

Cacinda Maloney

Sunday 17th of February 2013

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!

Jeremy Branham

Saturday 16th of February 2013

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.

Cacinda Maloney

Sunday 17th of February 2013

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.

JD Teitelman

Saturday 9th of February 2013

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.

Cacinda Maloney

Saturday 9th of February 2013

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!

Marshall Jackson

Saturday 9th of February 2013

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.

Cacinda Maloney

Saturday 9th of February 2013

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.

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