What’s the difference between these two? To many of us, these two are synonymous, but are they really? These two folks don’t seem to think so. And surprisingly, for once, they seem to agree.
A tourist, according to these guys, is someone who goes visiting places with the purpose of “doing” those places. You can’t miss those types. These are folks who are posing in front of monuments or landmarks, and rushing from one destination to the next. They are on a right schedule, and would like to see or “do” as many of the important places to see in the shortest possible time. In other words, they have destinations in mind, and the idea is to cover as many of those as they can. Among your friends, you will find these as the folks who post selfies of pictures with family at famous places, and nowhere else. And if you have friends who only post pictures from foreign vacations and nowhere else, you have one of the tourists as your friend.
But these are things practically every everyone does. So what are travelers and how are they different from tourists? According to these folks, there are very few travelers today. So who are travelers? Travelers are those who don’t necessarily have a destination when they travel. Someone for whome the journey is as important as getting there. People who aren’t just “doing” places but are living them. These are people who like to experience the places they travel to, would like to feel the essence of the city they travel to, and believe every place has a charm and ethos uniquely it’s own, and while landmarks are a part of this charm, this ethos comes from the culture, which is manifested in the people. So travelers are to be found among the non-descript, not-so-famous places, places where they can meet people, listen to and tell stories, learn about the ethos of the place.
These are people who are to be seen traveling by bus or rickshaw, not by taxi. These are folks seen drinking tea or eating at roadside stalls, not at posh restaurants. Among your friends these are people who post pictures of “unknown” places, but pictures which are poignant, maybe touching, or humorous, basically those which touch you somewhere deep. These are people who will tell you stories.
In short, according to Laurel, if life were akin to a flowing river, then tourists are those walking along the banks, at times getting wet from the splashes of the river, while travelers are to be seen swimming in the river.