I can be a bit of a snob at times. I like to boast about not visiting tourist attractions in Paris, about being able to see the back streets of Rome, and having slept in bamboo huts rather than comfortable hotels in Thailand.
In my eyes, I was the ‘real’ traveler, and chuckled at the sight of tourists being unpacked from their package tour buses to see the sights.
I have since grown up and matured, and having experienced different styles of traveling, I realized that there isn’t a lot of difference between a traveler and a tourist. In fact, they are all really the same thing.
Those who claim to have seen the authentic so-and-so, don’t realize that everything else can be just as authentic, and all that seems authentic can easily be superficial at the same time.
What’s the difference between independent travel and package tours? The only difference is independent travel often takes longer, and much more tiring than the tours as we need to organize everything ourselves.
Either way, you are seeing the same sights, taking almost the same routes and attracted to the destination for the same reasons.
Some prefer to travel in comfort, some prefer to rough it out, but it does not make either experience any better than the other. The bus in the package tour is just a form of transport between one place to another.
Then there are some who see being able to visit places that no one else visits as real traveling, without realizing that the experience can still be the same.
Popular or not, any place open to visitors is classified as a tourist attraction, and I felt equally foreign to those I meet in the back streets compared to those I meet at a crowded site; the difference being I had more room to move, that’s all.
There are reasons why popular tourists’ sights are popular. They are generally significant and have rich stories to tell; they are prompted to be an icon for visitors to associate with the destination, and they create jobs and opportunities in places where locals often struggle to make a living.
We travel to learn new things, meet new people and to get out of our comfort zone. Everyone’s comfort zone is different and some are more adventurous than others. However, traveling, by stepping out even on a package tour is still stepping out of someone’s comfort zone. At least, they have traveled.
Travel or tour, it’s just semantics in the end.
What do you think? Do you prefer the package tour or the intrepid, off-the-beaten-track type of travel? Tell us what kind of travel suits you best in the comments below. We love hearing your thoughts!