Follow by Email

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Travel vs. Tourism

Common themes for my blog so far:
Travel vs Tourism: What is the difference?
If you sit still long enough...
What have I learned?

Here then is another take on travel vs. tourism.
My friend Gina recently visited Paris. She was asked by friends to bring back miniature Eiffel Towers. And she tried. I watched her on more than one occasion pick up the cheap little trinkets, but she simply could not follow through and take them to the cash. In one store she picked  them up and put them back on the shelf once, twice, three times. No way could she take the next step. The only thing that would have made this more entertaining was if she put one foot in and one foot out, did the hokey poky and turned herself about. It was fascinating and strangely satisfying to watch her attempt something that seemed very straightforward before arriving in Paris, but became impossible after being here. Clearly these trinkets have nothing to do with her experience of Paris.
She did find something particularly personal and meaningful for her daughter, that no one else would have thought of in a place that does connect to the heart and history of Paris. I have no doubt it was received in the same maner it was selected.
I think this is all because she is a traveler at heart. This is definitely not the act of a tourist.


  1. Very well said my dear friend. I just could not purchase those "trinkets". Thankfully I had you to translate in french to what appeared to you as a priest.:) One of the many special moments I experienced during my fabuulous trip to your new home. I definitely felt (and still feel) Paris has become a part of my life...more to come.

  2. Paris is waiting! And I am pretty sure he was a priest (?!...)

  3. I like that you are returning to a theme and adding layers of richness and knowledge. This is certainly one you can explore for a long time.

    I make no value judgment for either one because each serves a different personal need and behavior. However, defining a traveler is a very complex thing. I think you can be a traveler with or without an agenda of “tourist sights.” It is more than the destination. The traveler understands that these sights are part of the definition of place, but not necessarily all there is to experience. They are open to gaining as much from what happens in between the expected, or planned attraction, as the attraction itself. Equally important is sensing the pulse of each place. Toward that more elusive end, travelers have the ability to change the plan and just wander and see what they might find.

    I once had a dance coach tell me that “dancing” is what happens in between the steps. It took a long time for that to become a reality for me. But when it did there was a whole new level of experience waiting.

    I think what separates the traveler is that there big take away is the gestalt of place.

  4. I would like to say I do not make value judgments, but I guess I do, or at least I have a strong preference for one way over the other. Yes there is a trade off between seeing all the tourist sites and slowing down to try to experience life as the locals do. I am sure I miss a lot of sites. And yet I love traveling this way.
    Richard I really appreciate the dancing between the steps thought. It captures the experience for me.


Waiting to hear from you!