Friday, February 10, 2012

Tourists, travelers or just confused?

In Asia I often meet Westerners who feel offended if someone calls them tourists.

"How come? Do you live here, by any chance?"
"No, I don't"
"Well, then, what do you do?"
"I travel."
"And how would you define yourself, if not a tourist?"
"A traveler!"
"Oh, I see..."

- Definition of "Tourist" from the Oxford online dictionary: "A person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure".
- Definition of "Traveler" from the same dictionary: "A person who is traveling or who often travels". Not a huge difference then. A more general definition, which refers to an activity carried out not only for education purposes or leisure but also, for example, for work or other reasons (health problems, visiting relatives, etc.)
Actually there is also another definition, and it might be the one those people are referring to.
- "New age traveler: a person who holds New Age values and leads an itinerant and unconventional lifestyle". But then, why do I always meet these self-proclaimed New Age travelers in places where traditional tourists go?
Has "tourist" finally become a sort of insult? If someone gave those people the chance to travel from now to the day of their retirement, good salary, expenses paid, free choice of destinations, first class and five stars, definitely old age style, allowing everybody to call them "tourists" as the only condition, would they refuse due to a terminology issue?

Photo by danorbit (CC)

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