Why I Choose To Be A Traveller Instead Of A Tourist

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My second day in Thailand I meet a guy on the train and after our brief chat he said to me “Don’t be a tourist; become a traveller.” I remember thinking, “what the hell does he mean and how do I even do that?” I did understand what He meant until just a couple of days back when I decided I needed to change how I’ve been travelling.

So what happened was, after several days travelling, seeing all of the museums, temples, national parks and historic sites I started to feel out of place. As the number of tourist sites I saw increased, the less fulfilment I got from each. I felt exhausted from running around from one temple to the other and from being herded like a couple of tourist cattle by the different tour companies. I found that I was more focused on ‘seeing what “we’re” supposed to see’ and ‘doing what we should be doing’on a trip to Thailand, even if half of those activities did not gel with things I’m personally interested in or passionate about. To be honest, this type of travelling was depriving me of a real and lasting experience I so yearned for.

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So, just 7 days back, I set down and did an in depth analysis of my current travel style and it hit me that I’m more interested in experiencing the culture outside of all the tourist and attraction sites. I want to meet the people of that community and culture.

Instead of booking tours with tourist companies I opted to do things on my own and walked around the city to try and explore. I decided to start taking local bus system, the train system, and other modes of public transportation used by the locals. And since I've always preferred to walk, it has allowed me many opportunities of interacting with the local people and I can take in much of the culture and the city better. Like the best part about all this is that I can stop whenever I feel like it and take a closer look at things if I want. In fact, the majority of my travel time lately is spent walking and interacting with those I meet, which most of the time they are happy to chat since I’m usually the only black person they would see that day.

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Travelling the world opens your eyes a lot, especially when you decide to immerse yourself in the peoples culture, you get to see how others live. Some may have it better, and some may have it worse. And this will usually not change the situation you are in, but it will make you appreciate the life you have or at least for me it was a wake-up call to start being grateful for the life I have.

I genuinely believe that to have an amazing travel experience, you have to be honest with yourself about what you truly wish to get out of your trip. Why are you travelling and what do you want to get out of it? These are questions I wished I had answered before embarking on this trip.

Because when travelling, especially in a highly tourist country like Thailand, you don’t have to feel pressured to see everything ‘worth’ seeing as this will literally drain the excitement out of you as it did for me.

So, in the words of G.K. Chesterton I’m learning that “The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.