A good mate of mine is a travel snob. I don’t mean he only flies first class and only stays in five star hotels – quite the opposite. His snobbery is rooted in the fact that he would NEVER do those things.
– Paul Theroux
He looks down his nose (or should that be up) at people who only travel for a week at a time, and stay in all-inclusive resorts in Fiji or Mexico. To him, travel must be difficult, dirty, possibly dangerous, but most importantly – cheap.
Now don’t get me wrong, pretty much all of the travel I have ever done has been difficult, dirty, dangerous and cheap – but now that I’m getting older (and wiser), I start to wonder if there is merit in the easy, organized, pre-booked sort of travel.
How does one make the transition from traveler to tourist? As I make the shift myself, I’ve compiled a short ‘to do’ list:
1. Ditch The Backpack
Yes it’s probably just a symbolic gesture, but the crappy old backpack that’s been around the world with me a few times will have to go. I’ll miss the vaguely spicy scent of clothes that haven’t been washed for two weeks, but I’ll get used to it.
I’ll start shopping around for a smart little bag that rolls on wheels. After all, I’m not going to be climbing up waterfalls in some remote village in Morocco anymore.
2. Find A Travel Partner
My fiance will be very happy with this suggestion. While backpacking travelers often vagabond solo, few ‘tourists’ go it alone. For a start, the luxury hotels in which I’ll stay would charge me extra for a single supplement.
Plus, since I’ll be visiting notoriously dangerous cities like Singapore, Vancouver and Cabo San Lucas, there will be safety in numbers.
3. Hotels – Not Hostels
From now on I’ll stay in real hotels with double rooms, no sleeping bags, no bed bugs and – best of all – no Japanese girls rustling plastic shopping bags while they pack their bags at 4 am!
(What is it about plastic shopping bags inside people’s backpacks? I think they should be banned from all hostels – not that it matters to ME anymore…)
4. Find Some Extra $$$
Since I’ll no longer stay at places like the hostel in Chichicastenango that charged me .80 cents (US) for the night, I’m going to need more cash – lots of it. When you add in the private transfers from the airport to the hotel, mini-bar costs, tips to private tour guides and so on, it really starts to add up.
5. Go Easy On The Gut
No more wondering which member of the rodent family my “beef steak” came from, no more buying bottled water with broken plastic seals, and no more “authentic local delicacies” in the streets of Asia, inevitably followed by five days of agony in “authentic local bathrooms”.
From now on my meals will be served, on plates – white plates – with knives and forks and everything.
Will I miss anything from my hobo-traveler days?
No… I will be deliriously happy reclining by my massive pool, in my massive hotel complex, sipping ridiculously expensive cocktails served to me by my massively underpaid and exploited waitress. I won’t ever need to think about what’s going on outside the fortified walls.
It will never occur to me how fortunate I really am to live in a country where I take things like civil liberties, personal security and the availability of affordable fresh food and clean drinking water for granted.
Big pool, hot sun, a new issue of Vogue…how about another Pina Colada?
So there you have it. Just five easy steps and I will easily transform myself from traveler to tourist.
My mate has it all wrong doesn’t he? He can have his impromptu dance lessons with local folk in underground clubs. Who wants to spend a whole day exploring a new city on foot, with no itinerary? Why bother learning to speak another language by haggling in markets for fresh fruit?
I’ll take the massive swimming pool and cocktails.
What do you think of the tourist/traveler distinction? Share your thoughts in the comments!