About two weeks ago I had the privilege to be invited by a beautiful group of young people to talk about my travel experience in an event along with a bunch of inspiring travelers, by young people I mean college students who were treating me as an adult, while I don’t even consider myself as one yet… (They’re probably going to be reading this and thinking: Yeah about that Imane… well we already knew!)
Anyway, during the whole debate/exchange with those students, something came up many times during the conversation, a concept that we, speakers, mentioned and I have personally come across more often than I’ve found actual travel books. It’s the eternal “be a traveler not a tourist” argument; who is travelling the correct way and who is doing it wrong and what to do in order to avoid being a tourist (wikihow even has a 9 steps process to do it!) the kind of things I find on the internet that confuse my mind sometimes, and I don’t easily get confused!
Well to begin with, I kind of understand the idea behind this argument. There is this general belief that tells that travelers are there to explore the culture and get off the beaten path, while tourists are just following along with the guidebooks. But the question is: Don’t you think that tourists would not travel if they weren’t as curious as travelers and expected to gain lifetime experience?
We all agree on the fact that the whole point of travel is exploring and experiencing, meeting new people and being open to change our way of seeing the world. Thing is, we’re all different people with different perspective and preferences, which makes us all travel in different ways. While one person can argue (and judge) that if your entire vacation is spent at a resort or with a group tour, then you aren’t a true traveler but just a simple tourist, I would say that the stories that travelers live and tell (including myself) are personality-driven and may not interest someone else, this doesn’t not make him less of a traveler, he’s just a different type of traveler with a different style.
For me, my personality and my interests have always led me to do spontaneous activities and try things that usually end in ridiculous “how did I get myself into this situation” stories. I know many of my friends who wouldn’t do any of the things that I do, not because they are more of a tourist than a traveler, they just have different likes, dislikes and comfort zones.
Bottom line, we are all travelers and all tourists. We are all visiting new cities (the same cities) and our individual preferences and personalities take us in different directions. My way of travelling have led me to experiences and opened my world up to possibilities than I could have ever imagined. Whether I was climbing to the top of a Castle in Slovenia, sharing a traditional local meal with a Senegalese family or lost in the middle of nowhere in one of Cabo Verde islands, I was still a tourist in that country, but also a traveler, exploring, experiencing and creating my own path.
It’s not about the labels, It’s more about making the best out of each opportunity and doing the things that appeal to you. After all you don’t travel for anybody else, so why should you let somebody else tell you “the right way” to travel?
Cheers to the places we still have to go to!