While travel and tourism may seem synonymous with each other, I believe that they are anything but. Tourism brings to mind large groups of white people navigating busy streets while following some person carrying an umbrella. Tourists tend to be the ones who visit a place purely for sensory pleasure. They seek out the beaches of the Caribbean, the food of Italy, and the sites of Paris. While tourism isn’t necessarily something to be looked down upon, it is a trip solely focused on relaxation and pleasure. A tourist wants to experience another country or state while still keeping the comforts of their own home.
Travel, on the other hand, is an opportunity to step outside of one’s comfort zone and dive headfirst into a different culture. It gives one a chance to experience an alternative way of life and escape from the vice of comfort and routine. As Paul Fussel wrote on the first page of his introduction to The Norton Book of Travel, “The escape is also from the traveler’s domestic identity, and among strangers a new sense of selfhood can be tried on, like a costume.” When one loses oneself to another culture and fully embraces all that culture has to offer, true travel is experienced.
Travel is about understanding others. One cannot do this without experiencing their lives firsthand, and that includes the troubles they endure. While tourism is focused on pleasure, that is not on the radar of a traveler. Travel is best when it is uncomfortable. In every area there are poor and suffering people and if one truly wants to know what it is like to be a part of that city or country, they must immerse themselves in every aspect of the culture, including the impoverished. Trips to areas like India, Central America, and Africa are far from vacations. They are excursions taken by those who want to empathize with the world and feel that face-to-face interaction with their brethren is the best way to do so. Global travellers are not visiting these areas to relax and have a good time. They journey to these places as a way to better understand humanity and how to help others. Rick Steves really emphasizes this in the video. He talks about how one has to have a particular mindset if they are going to visit India or Africa. One cannot go to a place like that and expect to be comfortable; they have to be willing to not only step but leap outside of their comfort zone in order to make the trip worth their while. It is that leap that distinguishes a tourist from a traveler. While a tourist steps, travelers leap.