Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



August 2016

“I am a tourist willing to scare myself into being a traveler to see and know what I don't know.”


Response to last month’s Judy’s Journal from Rodney.

Traveling On

Dear Reader,

It always feels great when I receive responses to my blogs. Last month’s “Tourist or Traveler?” seems to have struck a chord with people, but one in particular from Rodney made me ask him for permission to use it this month. He said, “Yes” and here it is.

Renée and I just returned a little over two weeks ago from the UK. We were enchanted by the sights in Sussex, the Downs, Monk's House and Charleston of Bloomsbury Group. And were taken aback by the dramatic events of the Brexit referendum. Can a country change seismically in a day's time? Yes, and I don't wish this particular experience on anyone.

I spied your blog to see what my intrepid art explorer friend was considering this month. Tourist or traveler? I agree the former has become a pejorative, perhaps unfairly. But on the other hand, it might be apt.

In London, I saw great swarms of people in their glass tinted mega buses, like blank eyed soldiers disembarking from amphibious vehicles onto a beach head of an unknown island. Red umbrella. Yellow umbrella. Blue umbrella. They follow like lemmings. They never look at anything except through the screen of their smartphone. And when they look, do they understand what they are looking at? What are they thinking? Are they thinking?

Are they just a bit curious about the people, language, and culture they're visiting (invading). Or is this just a moment that fulfills a checklist. Yeah, I did Paris. I did London. I did Madrid. Yeah, it wasn't all that.

They're risk averse. The shelter of the bus, the tour, the schedule, and safety in their language offers them comfort. And so that's where I feel the difference is between tourist and traveler. The latter is willing to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is the sacrifice the traveler makes to learn, experience, and see what you can't see or understand looking through the window of the bus. It can be scary going on your own but the rewards are great for those who are willing.

So just some musing on your blog post. I am a tourist willing to scare myself into being a traveler to see and know what I don't know.

I remain on both sides of the tourist-traveler idea and still look forward to times when climbing aboard that bus presents an option for having an experience otherwise out of our reach. An example is the tour from Paris to Chartres Cathedral – John and I opted not to rent a car and negotiate the trip ourselves. Sure, there were the usual tour bus aggravations: wishing that we could stay longer to explore the town and waiting not-so-patiently for people who don’t return to the bus on time.

Rodney makes a point about people experiencing a trip through their smartphone screens. I just read an article that said taking pictures with your phone enhances your experience because you are more actively involved in evaluating what is “photo worthy.” So, you pay attention more, not less.

This could be an interesting research question: What are the effects on travelers/tourists of having a smartphone on their journeys? When we go to Amsterdam in the fall, will I leave my newly-acquired smartphone at home? How would bringing it alter my experience? What’s the difference between my using a smartphone and John capturing images with his Canon EP-EX1511? I had better keep my notebook handy to capture my thoughts!