The Tourist and The Traveler
I've done my fair share of traveling over the years, including living abroad, as I am now, and have come to realize that there is a big difference between a "tourist" and a "traveler". In Costa Rica, tourism is king. But don't let the word fool you. Not all visitors are tourists...
The tourist stays at an all-inclusive resort, content to be physically present in a country without actually having to experience its culture - or, at best, experiencing it at a "safe" distance. The all-inclusive resort is his/her "nest" and provides him/her with bragging rights for having visited a foreign country without actually having experienced it.
The traveler never stays at an all-inclusive resort, and prefers to stay in small hotels, hostels, peoples' homes, or even camping out, immersing himself/herself in the culture and lives of the people he/she encounters, often making new friends for life.
The tourist wears colored, plastic bracelets that indicate his/her status at an all-inclusive resort, often making him/her the target of opportunists (a.k.a. thieves).
The traveler never wears these things but wears whatever everyone else on the street is wearing and blends in - or, at least tries to blend in - with everyone else.
The tourist asks, "Is it safe?"
The traveler asks, "How do I get there?"
The tourist says, "Eewww, that's gross!"
The traveler says, "WOW! I've never seen that before!"
The tourist never reads-up in advance on their destination in a tour book.
The traveler has a well-read and ragged Lonely Planet on hand at all times.
The tourist rides in large, air-conditioned resort tour buses with large groups of fellow tourists who peer through sealed windows, wide-eyed, like fish through the glass of an aquarium.
The traveler rents his own ride, hitchhikes and/or takes public transportation, and peers through open windows taking in the sights and smells of everything around him/her.
The tourist knows nothing of the native language of the country he/she is visiting, could care less about it and/or won't risk making a fool of him/herself to make the effort to speak it.
The traveler has a basic working knowledge of the language of the country he/she is visiting upon arrival, and makes every effort to speak it, nevermind falling flat on his/her face. Ha, ha!!
The tourist takes him/herself too seriously.
The traveler doesn't.
The tourist is timid and apprehensive.
The traveler is self-confident and adventurous.
Travelers eat whatever is put in front of them.
Tourists don't, and frequently ask for a cheeseburger/veggie burger without mayonaise, lettuce or tomato.
The traveler knows the national drink.
The tourist does not.
Travelers know the currency exchange rate.
Tourists NEVER do!
The tourist whines.
The traveler opines.
The traveler negotiates.
The tourist goes with the fixed price.
The tourist looks at his destination through his/her own eyes.
The traveler looks at his destination through the eyes of those he/she encounters.
I could go on and on about the differences between "tourists" and "travelers", but I think I've made my point - at least to the travelers, because tourists could care less.
Be a traveler, not a tourist. It might take a little work - no one is perfect. Enrich your own life as well as the lives of others. Travelers leave footprints and make the world a better place. Tourists just redistribute a little of its fiscal wealth and evaporate. Which would you rather be?