Rarely do I ever blog about myself unless I have to get something off my chest. And this is one of those moments. Don't be fooled by all my photos and my blog posts making it seem like I go on these trips or adventures - usually with a Mayan theme.
But I'm no traveler. I'm still just a tourist. Physically I move from one location to the next. I learn new things, experience new sensations, and see life from a different point-of-view. But not to the extent I can call it "life-changing", which is what traveling potentially offers...
Traveling versus Tourism
They both involve moving from one destination to the other. And they both involve leaving your comfort zone and abandoning your regular routines. Physically, they are difficult to distinguish. But traveling requires a greater deal of mental fortitude. Of courage. Traveling requires for you to completely leave your comfort zone whereas being a tourist lets you keep one foot in the door.
Tourism is completely still a consumerist way of going about things. Not to say there will be no commerce with traveling. But with tourism, it's still just a purchase-consume mentality. You buy your plane tickets, book your hotels, or your packages and go. You are within a (generally) safe confine already with a set of lists to do.
Depending how task-oriented you are, you're probably setting schedules and checking off stuff as you do it. You enjoy yourself and take beautiful photos and videos. You're in a different place meeting different people and trying different food or different activities but you're still within a similar mindset. Sure, you're not thinking about work or the city you reside in but you substituted one residence for a temporary one.
There are usually two kinds of tourism I consider: the all-inclusive versus the adventure packages. All-inclusives speak for themselves. These are where you just laze around in a picturesque resort rarely ever leaving and just staying in to unplug from "reality". This is akin to substituting your grey snowy backyard to white sand and 30-degree weather. There is little leaving your comfort zone here.
The "adventure packages" as I call them is when you go around visiting different areas whether within a city, country, or continent. But what separates this from backpacking is it's pre-set already with hotels, some food etc. The destinations are usually chosen and there's a schedule. You usually go with groups. This is a step further than all-inclusives because you actually go and experience some culture, interact with some real locals, and do activities you won't likely do when at home. But mentally, you're still not challenged enough to reap the true rewards that traveling may offer.
With traveling it is more about that mental journey as much as the physical ones. People who travel usually learn so much or come upon profound discoveries that change them significantly. I have yet to experience this. And that's because there's greater challenges to traveling: budgeting, always planning despite the constant spontaneity, and getting lost.
I look back to the few times in my life I got lost. Whether it's taking the wrong bus, getting the address wrong, or simply missing your highway exit. And it shakes me. That feeling of chaos and not knowing. Being completely oblivious and without a destination. You can only achieve that when you travel. Independently. Away from the safety of tour groups, or family, or even a solid and planned schedule or destination.
With touring, getting lost is kept to a minimum. But with traveling getting lost is a reality. And it's the greater presence of a challenge that separates both. The risk-reward factor and pushing yourself to truly break out of the little box you've trained your mind in.
If you want the simple pleasures, unplug from reality for a short amount of time, and just relax, touring is for you. If you want to discover more about yourself and truly learn, you should travel. Me, I'm still just a tourist.