I am a very big believer in the idea that there is a definite difference between a tourist and a traveler. I like to think of it as a shift that happens along the way, I don’t think anyone ever really starts out immediately as a traveler. My change from a tourist to a traveler happened in a teeny tiny medieval town in Northern Italy in an ancient orange throwing battle. But I didn’t understand the shift for a while, not until pretty recently when I started talking to people about my backpacking trip to Europe this summer. You see, when I tell people that I am going to embark on a solo trip to 11 countries around Europe for 5 weeks just because I want to, I get three very popular responses. First and foremost, “oh my goodness you are so lucky!” Then, “aren’t you scared?” And finally, “I wish I could do that!” It’s the answers to these comments that I think describe the difference between being a tourist and a traveler, and where I fall in that mix.
The difference is most apparent in my response to the comment, “aren’t you lucky!”. Yes, I have been extremely blessed (well beyond what I deserve), but not just because of this trip that I am embarking on or the semester I was able to spend abroad in Italy. I’m blessed that I was raised in a family that was very supportive of passion. I think most kids grow up in families where the parents are concerned with their kids being ‘successful’. All parents are, they want their kids to be financially stable, healthy, safe, and secure. But whereas many parents encourage their kids to work to become successful as doctors, lawyers, and CEOs, my parents took a different approach. I was raised with the understanding that the best way to decide what you were supposed to do with your life was to figure out what you were passionate about, how to help others through that passion, and how to get paid for that. Now I am sure that my parents second guessed this parenting method a bit when the first child studied theater and moved to Chicago to pursue that for a few years. The next three took their time finding their passions before finishing their degrees after varying amounts of time, and switching many majors and schools before truly finding what they loved. And then the last one came around, me. I was the one who was determined to learn from the lessons of her older siblings, never wanting to get in trouble and always striving to fulfill expectations. So much so that after hearing my parents say many times that they wished one of their kids would study abroad because it was such an amazing opportunity, I did it.
I spent an amazing semester living in Torino, Italy where my change from a tourist to a traveler began. When I came back from Italy after learning a lot about myself in one short semester, I changed my major for the 7th time and told my parents I had found my passions, traveling and eating. They thought that was fantastic, but wondered my plan for making a living at it. I wasn’t sure but I was determined to figure it out. So yes I am extremely lucky to have parents that are supportive of their daughter wanting to get a college degree to travel and eat around the world. But more so I am extremely lucky to grow in a family that encouraged passion over a paycheck.
To answer the second question, am I scared? Without a doubt. There is nothing about the uncertainty of travel that is not at least a little scary. The entire unknown is cause for anxiety. But that is what makes travel exciting.
In response to the third statement of “gosh I wish I could do that”. This best shows the differences of the mentalities between a tourist and a traveler and where I fit. I believe that tourists see the world when it is convenient. They go when enough money has been saved, when the kids are grown and out of the house, when there is enough vacation accumulated, when work can spare them, they go when it is convenient to travel. These are all considerations tourists take into account before they leave. But for a traveler, they go not because it is necessarily convenient but because it’s vital to life. Because the longer they spend in one space, the more the light within them dims. There is absolutely nothing wrong with living in one place and settling down and raising your kids, for many people that is exactly the life they were meant to live and thrive at. But for some people’s souls, they have to see and experience the world to feel fulfilled. That’s the evolution I am experiencing because truly, this trip isn’t built on convenience. It wasn’t convenient to work for 45 hours a week during my second to last semester of my undergrad work. It’s not convenient to make sure that I am sleeping enough, exercising, engaging in class, and being present at work. It isn’t easy to keep to a budget of only 25 euros a day to still come back to only $200 in your savings account after paying bills. None of it is. But I wouldn’t change a bit of it because it means I get to go explore. I get to experience new cultures, add new stamps to my passport, meet new friends and visit some old ones. I get to go taste perspectives of the world. That’s the difference.
After deciding that this kind of traveling is what I wanted to do with my life, I still had to figure out how I was going to make a living. I stumbled along travel blogging in my trip planning research. After my 4 years of business school, I saw this as a service to a market, which meant there had to be revenue somewhere on the other end. I started thinking if I have learned anything about business it’s that in order to be successful you need to find a demand in the market and how you are going to remedy it. In other words, what do I bring to the travel market? I think I bring a perspective of traveling not because it is convenient but because you have to. It’s more than traveling on a budget, or 3 day guides to seeing a city. I bring a determined spirit, hungry for experiencing the cultural perspectives of the world.
In less than two weeks I will get back on a international flight for the first time in two years, first stop Iceland, bound to continue this quest for understanding the big world outside of this small space I currently possess. As I experience the world and share these experiences, as well as tips for traveling on a budget, solo female travel, and then some, I will also be sharing these learning experiences or “growing points” as my mum would say, and I invite you to join me. Share this with your family and friends, because it is more than learning about different facets of travel, or living and eating vicariously through me. It is going to be a daily evolution of the understanding of traveling and coming into my own as a traveler and citizen of the world. My hope is that I can help people with their own evolution through my experiences, the tips I share, and the products I use to encourage you to find the traveler within. I invite you to taste the perspectives of the world with me.
-The Very Hungry Traveler