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Are You A Traveler, An Explorer, or A Tourist?

Edited by – Arnav Diwan 


I love travelling. Be it within India, or abroad, there is a thrill and excitement I feel during a trip, which I do not think I will ever feel anytime else. Travelling, to me, is more than a break away from home. I love the idea of acquainting myself with new traditions and cultures, meeting people from different walks of life, and to see history and modernity clash within a city or town. Just like no two people are alike, no two places are the same. Every city provides uniqueness that could only be associated with it.

This is why I consider myself a traveler – someone who is midway between an explorer and a tourist. The late Paul Fussell, an American historian and author, in his book “Abroad”, made clear a possible distinction between being a traveler, an explorer and a tourist. He said, and I quote, 

“The genuine traveler is, or used to be, in the middle between the two extremes. If the explorer moves toward the risks of the formless and the unknown, the tourist moves toward the security of pure cliché. It is between these two poles that the traveler mediates, retaining all he can of the excitement of the unpredictable attaching to exploration, and fusing that with the pleasure of “knowing where one is” belonging to tourism.” 

While these distinctions are not exhaustive, they create a broad category of the people who love to step outside their home and explore the world before them.

Explorers remind me of people who air on channels like National Geographic, where the thrill of the trip lies in the unknown. They could be lost, with no means of communication, or knowledge of what to do next, but rather than feeling worried, they feel energized and excited. They take every obstacle as a challenge, as if life was a Mario game. These types of people know bravery and courage, literally living life in the moment. They purposely seek the undiscovered, where the sense of beauty lies in the serenity of the place, and loneliness of its location and its lack of human penetration. Explorers range from many fields – photographers, biologists, botanists, archeologists, environmentalists, conservationists etc. One of the greatest explorers in the world is Jane Goodall, who took off from England and went to Tanzania, where she spent over 60 years of her life working with chimpanzees. What makes her an explorer is how she just took off into the unknown, unsure of what she was getting into, but having a sense of thrill with what lay ahead, whatever it might be. Home might not be a destination for people like her.

As the late Paul Fussell mentioned, a tourist loves cliché. They work towards finding things within their comfort zone. Spur of the moment plans might not be within their agenda, due to their outside-the-box nature. They tend to be more planned and systematic, having a fixed map of where to go and what to do. Traveling is basically a holiday, a break away from home. Tourists can tend to be more hurried, moving quickly from one place to another to ensure that they do not miss out on anything, rather than spending time enjoying the beauty of the moment. Conducted tour guides cater to people like them! They have a unique sense of enjoyment and fun within their own sanctuary, and love to take pictures of everything and everyone around them! If you have seen the movie Monte Carlo, the character Grace, played by Selene Gomez, and her friends show the perfect image of a tourist, running around Paris with the tour guide, until all their plans start to crumble!

Finally, there comes the middleman, the traveler. A traveler is someone like me, loves to see places, meet new people and enjoy the vibe that the city gives out. They tend to fit in with the crowd, moving along with the flow. Spontaneous plans are always welcome, especially to unique places. Their risk accepting factor is less than that of an explorer, but they are game to step outside their comfort zone. The places they visit (or would love to visit) tend to be more out of the box than that of a tourist. Backpackers are good examples of travelers. Less effort, less hassle, more in-the-spur of the moment readiness that helps with the spontaneity. Even with the food they eat, they are more experimental and ready to try new things.

Each type of person is unique in their own way, enjoying the concept of travel and the beauty of the world around them to their fullest. Who you are depends on what you want from this journey — how do you want to form memories, perspectives, ideas, personality etc. So, which category do you fall under – an explorer, a tourist or a traveler? Or are you simply a homebird?!

Aspiring Wanderer and Professional Over-thinker
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