Travel, or tourism?

I’m a self-confessed travel addict. And equally fortunate to be quite well-travelled for a 24 year old, thanks to my travel-obsessed family and our trips over the years – traveling extensively, both within the country and abroad. And I’ll credit my family for introducing me to the art of what I’ll call ‘eventful travel’, for our style of travel was anything but conventional. From a tiny unheard-of European town to a jungle in Africa, we went all the way when it came to exploring the globe.

Despite this, if you asked me a few years ago – my definition and understanding of the term ‘travel’ would encompass a journey to so
me place on the planet, the idea of being in the place itself and few activities – shopping, sightseeing, adventure sports – depending on the place e visited. Travel meant a holiday, a break for a temporary period from the routine of everyday living, and an activity I enjoyed being part of.

However, particularly over my last few travel jaunts, my understanding of travel has come to mean something else altogether. I’ll say I’ve gone from enjoying travel as an activity, to appreciating the life-changing impact it has on me personally. I’ve gone from being a tourist to becoming a traveler. Which means that I don’t enjoy only ‘seeing’ new places. Seeing new places is tourism. Travel to me, has now become an experience, not an activity. One where you don’t just see places. Travel is ‘feeling’ places. Getting to personally appreciate the uniqueness of each place and taking that back with you, is the true gift of travel.

Feeling the organized mayhem when you’re riding the London tube. The coiffe & culture when you’re in the quaint sidewalk cafes in Paris. The undying vibrant chaos on the streets New York. The old-world charm of New Delhi, You get the idea.

travel or tourism

In my books, there’s a marked difference between a tourist and a traveller. The tourist is the person you’ll spot at the so-called tourist spots, all armed with a map, camera and an itinerary with a clear agenda and idea of what he’s looking for. The traveller, on the other hand is the person you’ll find aimlessly walking around, seeing everything and everyone, soaking in the place and not knowing what he’ll find next. The tourist takes back pictures, the traveller takes back learnings and memories and experiences. I’m not saying that one should be only a tourist or traveller. Be the tourist, but also be the traveller. By all means visit the famous places, but also take out time to explore the place like a local. Walk the streets without knowing where you’re going, try the local cuisine at a restaurant you’ve never heard of, strike up a conversation with locals if you can. If all you’ve done over your trip is visit tourist spots over the day and then stick to McDonald’s for meals because it’s a ‘safe’ option, then you might as well have done this by seeing pictures of the place in the comfort of your bedroom.

Travel isn’t about being in your comfort zone. Rather, it’s quite the contrary. Travel is about accepting the challenge of physically taking yourself to a place that you’ve possibly not been before, and experiencing what it feels like to be part of a different culture, even if temporarily. Travel is about taking the opportunity to expand and grow your horizon. Travel is the realization that there is just so much more in the world beyond the radius in which you exist, work and live. And while the tourist may return with more photographs, souvenirs and shopping, it is the traveller who truly comes back richer.


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