I have recently finished the book Vagabonding (excellent read – I recommend it to everyone!), and one of the chapters talked about classifying yourself as a traveller or a tourist. It definitely got me thinking which one I am.
When I first moved to Europe, I was a tourist. At least for the first six months. I wanted to see all the popular tourist sites in Prague, I wanted to see Old Town Square, and the Castle, Charles Bridge and New Town. I did the tourist thing. I immersed myself in with the crowds, went to the Christmas markets, and wandered through the streets with all the tourists, eating sausage and drinking hot wine. I loved it! But I was definitely a “tourist”.
Since that time, I have become more of a traveller and not a tourist. I have yet to become a vagabond (but it definitely sounds like something I want to be!). I have enjoyed going to places that are not on the tourist scene – for example, when I went to Shenyang in China – it was my favourite city to see when I was in China, but definitely not at the top of the tourist scene for China. It was a fascinating city with a lot of history, I got lost wandering through the streets, found a great little restaurant selling some of the best authentic Chinese food I had. To me, that is being a traveller. Finding places that are ventured to by the locals. It was awesome.
Fast forward to Chile – yes I did some tourist stuff (Santiago – Cerro San Cristobal is the most famous place to see there) but I really made myself go to places that the locals went to. That includes all the cities and towns I visited, save for San Pedro de Atacama and Vina del Mar.
I definitely see myself as a traveller and not a tourist. I will be travelling to my country’s capital in May, and of course I will be seeing all the major sites in Ottawa, but I am ready to find some obscure places, some out-of-the-way places, and discover exciting things in Canada!
So what are you – a traveller or a tourist?