The Traveler’s Dilemma

The Tourist vs. The Traveler

I’ve heard someone say that one should be a traveler and not just a tourist. What does that mean? Maybe it’s the difference between going on a vacation and going on an adventure. A tourist goes away to relax and enjoy as much luxury as one can afford. It involves a comfortable hotel, having recreational activities like lounging on the beach or going skiing in the mountains, and doing touristy stuff like sight-seeing and such. I am only assuming. Indeed I am partly a tourist. I’ve gone to the popular stops, joined tour groups, taken a lot of pictures of very familiar landmarks. One steps away from one’s own reality to relax a little bit, and see the things that most other people travel to see.

I do wonder if I can already consider myself a traveler. Every now and then I’ve tried to step away from the usual busy track, and try to immerse myself in what the real local scene has to offer. I usually do this by just taking a walk around. I still remember those baseball-sized buchi that we found on the side streets of Beijing. There was a time I’ve tried walking around the community in Vancouver with my little 5 year-old cousin who, turned out, don’t know a bit about where we were going. And of course my last trip in KL, which allowed me to go wherever I wanted, and as far as my body could bring me. I wonder how much of the city I would’ve explored and discovered if I had stayed a little bit longer. But that’s left to be done another time.

I am a “cowboy”, ready for anything, and perhaps that gives me the potential to be a good traveler. I’ve tried sleeping, taking baths, and traveling in certain odd and absurd ways from during my college days. Very strange to give examples now though. I may be able to take and tolerate a little below comfortable, if needed.

Maybe one should be both a tourist and a traveler. To see the usual popular things, and at the same time be able to immerse one’s self in the scenery, the culture, the people, and most especially the food. To be able to relax and be comfortable enough, but still go beyond one’s comforts to be able to discover what can be discovered.

Would you rather be a tourist or a traveler?

 

On taking pictures

I love taking pictures of beautiful places and beautiful things while traveling. I also am a frustrated photographer. But sometimes I am caught in between taking lots of pictures or just slowly moving around an soaking in the beauty. There is a certain beauty that one cannot completely experience looking behind the lens.

I tell people that when I travel and am not able to take a lot of pictures, it’s most probably because I enjoyed the trip so much. It’s true most of the time. There is that part of me that forgets about the camera when I truly enjoy what my senses capture. I forget about the camera when I am with really good friends, or having a great time with new people. I hate bringing the big, bulky camera to the beach or high up the mountains. It’s just so wonderful to experience the beauty of things around you first-hand.

How can one strike a balance between taking pictures and just enjoying the scene?

 

To travel alone / with a partner / with a group

There are pros and cons to the three possible scenarios: traveling alone, traveling with a partner, or traveling with a group. There is a beauty in each, and also a disadvantage. I’ve tried doing all, but I can’t say that I prefer one the most. Maybe the most important thing is to just enjoy the trip whether you take it alone, or with other people.

Never travel with people you HATE. You can maybe travel with people you have not yet decided on liking yet. Trips and being away from the usual hustle and bustle of life can actually catalyze any relationship. It can help jumpstart or develop relationships (not just romantic, but also friendships, work relationships, family relationships, and what-nots), or sometimes sour relationships if a trip does not go well.

Do you have a preference between traveling alone or with someone?

 

Finding one’s self while traveling

Besides catalyzing relationships, traveling and being away from the usual stuff can help one discover deeper into one’s self. When away, there are a lot of things which may be new or unfamiliar to you which can make you realize different things, both good and bad. Sometimes, the mere feeling of physically moving (while on an aircraft, ship, or land transportation) can also move your thoughts and emotions.

I love being away. It always gives me a chance to really think, to be introspective. I always try to bring a notebook and a pen when I travel (although lately the Evernote on my iPhone does the job), and I do scribble down thoughts when they come, even in the middle of my trips. There has been a time when I wrote an entire blog while aboard an aircraft (perhaps out of boredom, but also maybe because of a spark of inspiration). There was another instance I drove alone all the way to the nearest “mountains” (it’s just Tagaytay actually), to just sit and think, and then drive home at the end of the day.

How does traveling and being away make you feel and think?

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3 thoughts on “The Traveler’s Dilemma

  1. Your last point resonates with me. I think the greatest value in travel is in the self-discovery it so often inspires. A pivotal experience for me was a two-week sailing trip in Greece, which I took after my marriage ended. Every day I’d slip off the boat when we reached a new destination, and spend hours wandering alone. In losing myself in the back alleys and side streets, I found myself once more.

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