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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, April 10, 2018
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Travelers and tourists


What is the difference between a traveler and a tourist?

In most parts of the planet, there is a difference but for the island of Boracay that has been closed down by the Duterte administration, there is none because neither traveler nor tourist will be allowed there very soon. Let us hope the people of Boracay and the island the best of luck during its impending 3-6 month shutdown. Hopefully it is enough time to fix the woes of the island/cesspool and it gives the Duterte administration a much-needed win when it comes to its many failed promises that involve a 6-month deadline.

I have been sidetracked. Let us get back to the topic.

It feels like a generation ago but there was a time when domestic and international air travel was expensive and there was no internet. During that time travelers and tourists were essentially the same animal and any sort of travel involved travel agencies. Travelers bought the tickets, accommodations and itineraries from their favorite travel agents who gave them tour packages. Travel was inaccessible to the masses then, so people like me have practically zero experience with this era of travel.

The advent of budget airlines and the internet has changed the dynamics of travel so it is now possibleto divide the people who travel into the tourists and the travelers.

A quick and easy way to differentiate between the two would be how the travel plans were booked. Those who do it via travel agents and tour groups would be the tourists and those who DIY their travel plans would be defined as travellers. There is no right way and wrong way to travel so don’t worry about either label. As long as you and your group enjoy the trip and go home with a better appreciation of our world, you are probably doing it right.

Tourists get to see all the tourist spots, usually have a tour guide to tell them interesting tidbits about their destinations. They won’t get lost and don’t have to worry about itineraries and transportation schedules so traveling is as easy as simply showing up and following the schedule that has been prepared by professionals. The convenience of plug and play travel has its costs but for those who do not have the patience to do intensive internet research, the premium is usually worth it.

Travelers, on the other hand, are a more diverse bunch. There are those who DIY their travel plans due to budget constraints, those who have already done the touristy bits and want to explore further, and then there are the hardcore travelers who want to experience the life of the locals and immerse themselves fully when in foreign lands.

Tourist or traveler, there is no right or wrong way when it comes to exploring strange lands. In fact, before I married a traveler, I was one of those people who would rather not travel at all and to be honest, there is nothing wrong with that. Traveling is a personal experience and it doesn’t matter how it’s done, as long as you don’t break the bank or go into debt just to get Instagram-worthy photos, it doesn’t matter how you do it or what you do to enjoy the experience and learn something new.

In my family, it would be my wife who isthe traveler and I am the tourist who goes along for the ride. She enjoys spendingfree time planning trips, researching and making travel plans and when we do choose a destination, we can count on her to come up with amazing plans that will guarantee unique experiences that won’t break the bank. In this way we are fortunate because our values are aligned so we get to enjoy the journey as well as the destination and we hopefully pass on our values to our kids when they learn to travel the way we do. It’s not that we are belittling the tourists, but those of us whose travel funds are limited have to find ways to get our best bang for our travel bucks.

Some say that it is not the destination but the journey that counts but if you come to think of it, it really depends on why we travel. Some people enjoy the destination, others prefer the journey. Some like to eat, others like to shop. Some like the culture, others enjoy the climate. Some do it for FB, others for Instagram. Some do it for themselves; others do it to keep up with the Joneses. Whether we can be classified as travelers or tourists, it doesn’t really matter as long as we explore the world for the right reasons, make memories, and have fun doing it.

Summer vacation 2018 is going to be extra long for a lot of people because of the late opening of school. With travel opportunities aplenty, those of us who can afford it and find value in it should think about exploring our beautiful planet, preferably with the people we love.*  

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