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Sunday, July 14. 2013
I suppose the tourist goes to see certain things, eg The Grand Canyon or Harrod's or St. Peter's. The traveler goes to "be there" and meander and to soak it up.
Mrs. BD and I are somewhere in between. We like to rent a car and pop into unknown places, farm town greasy spoon in Colorado, a little local ristorante in an unknown village in Italy, but we also want to see the cathedral, the Norman castle, and the famous gardens. My lad, a true traveler, just likes to wander with a backpack. If he sees a ferry to Sardinia, he hops on. If something looks interesting, he'll walk in.
My pic of the piazza on the dock at Bellagio on Lake Como. There is nothing much to see there, but it's a nice little place to hang out for a while.
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There is no difference. Hipsters and limo-liberals just hate to think of themselves as tourists. My favorite is when people claim they "lived" in a foreign country after visiting for a couple months for a study abroad or whatever. You're a tourist, deal with it.
Peter Biddlecombe wrote (paraphrasing) that the true traveler is the business traveler. The tourist can do as he pleases, but the business traveler has to get involved with the local people and therefore with their customs if he wants to make the deal.
I would add to that the people who go as missionaries, or with Habitat or whatever. I spent three two week periods working in Romanian orphanages, clinics, and villages. Not a deep penetration of the culture, but I saw very different things than I did in the countries I toured.
I got two teenaged Romanian sons out of the deal as well, and absorbed more Romanian culture indirectly, even while in the US.
OMG! Do not get me started on this one ! I know one female professor who has spent 20 + years of her academic career claiming to be a "China Expert". Her actual experience: two weeks on a tour bus and the establishment of a sister city relationship with a small town in China (20 years ago also! The sister city thing was pretty easy to do given the Seattle Chamber of Commerce will almost always support that effort. So maybe this gal spent 3 months writing letters to the local government officials in a small town to set up sistercityhood. Has she ever gone back--hell no! Does she have a scholastic background in anthropology,history,Chinese culture,geography, business, economics, etc.? NO--of course not! What she has is her own political/tribal links!
I know another 'faculty member' who for years took student groups to Bali--to study the culture. What academic/scholastic background did she have? ZIP What did she and the students do on those trips--you figure it out!
Except for two weeks in Mexico with my family when I was a teenager, my foreign travel- all south of the border in our hemisphere- has been where I had a good to fluent command of the language. That makes a big difference.
Tourist or traveler, call it what you will. I considered myself a backpacker/mochilero. I have also worked abroad. I recommend working in a third world country for all guilt riddden liberals, as exposure to local practices makes the US look pretty damned good by comparison. Not because we are richer, but because we are more honest and give the common man more of a chance. I would also add that living abroad will divest one of the belief that the US is the most racist country on earth. By comparison, we don't look bad at all. At the same time, I was exposed to much gracious hospitality, so my comments are related to systems, not to individuals.
Over the years, I would estimate that of my time traveling on a tourist visa, about a third of the time was spent at houses of local friends, not at hotels. That would not have occurred if I didn't have a good command of the language.
The famous places are worth seeing. Perhaps because I was born and raised in the sticks, I was much more impressed by day hikes or multi-day hikes in the mountains in Latin America than I was by the famous ruins or buildings. After a while, I threw away the tour guides, either because I already knew where to go, or because I figured I would have a great time just walking around and seeing what I would see.
I would like to second faculty wife's disparaging comments about people who, because they have made a two week trip to some country, believe they know the country in depth- a belief which is even more absurd when the two-week-visitors don't know the local language. The Sandalistas making pilgrimages to Nicaragua during the years of Sandinista control come to mind. The Sandalistas had no idea about the deep roots of authoritarian government in Latin America- they assumed authoritarian governments in Latin America were merely impositions from the US. Similarly, the Sandalistas assumed that simply because the Sandinistas were against the US, that the Sandinista government was a good one.
The Sandalistas were also unaware of the continuities between the Somoza regime and the Sandinista regime. Both used mobs to enforce conformity- Nicolasa for the Somozas, turbas divinas [divine mobs] for the Sandinistas. In many cases, the Sandinista neighborhood watch person performed the same function under the Somozas. Corruption- need I say more?
The Sandalistas were blissfully aware of the Sandinista support of Soviet imperialism, which was evident well before Ronald Reagan became President. Much damning Sandinista support of Soviet imperialism has never been translated into English.
Althouse asks "What is the difference between a tourist and a traveler?"
Althouse recently cut off comments in response to the many flame wars in the comments section. Say what you will about the comments, the comments were more interesting than the original postings.
I bet her traffic is way down.
For what that is worth.
I was just about to post the same thing. Her posts were never that great. The comments were the point. I can't imagine what she's thinking.
I'm 1st generation Canadian of German origin. My first language is German. My wife is similar for Hungarian and Czech. We go visit the relatives, or just bum about Mittel-Europa often.
None of you who have traveled there, or even lived there for even a long time, know very much about who they are and what they really think.
Middle Europeans, probably like everyone else, lie like crazy to outsiders. It's all smiles, politeness and disinformation. The only people in the world who seem to be open are you Americans. Five minutes after you meet a Yank he's telling you his life story and trying to get you to look at surgical scarring in some revolting part of his body. No complaints, because he's also buying you a drink, and being totally helpful otherwise.
To illustrate one of the differences, some years ago a friendly bartender in Whitefish Montana heard me and some cousins yattering in German and inquired. He thought that Germans visiting in Canada, then the USA, was cool and bought us a few rounds of drinks. My German cousins response: "What does he want?"
As the saying goes, you aren't just whistling Dixie.
As an example of Americans' attitudes towards outsiders compared to how Europeans view outsiders, I recall a fellow tourist- she was French- I met in Colombia in the 1970s. We spent several weeks together.
One time she told me about a fellow Frenchman's experience of being a tourist in the US. He hitched around the US- which was much more common in the 1970s than it is now. She informed me that many times when her friend was hitching around the US, the people who picked him up would invite them into their homes. That wasn't a surprise to me, as I had the same experience hitching long distance during that time. She told me that there was something sick about Americans, that they would be so hospitable to a stranger.
I made no reply. What can you say to that? It showed me there was a definite difference between Americans and Europeans. [Of course, the French had experiences in the 20th century with not-so-friendly German strangers in jackboots.]
I also knew people whose parents were both from Europe, who, having spent most or all of their lives in South America, went to Germany to study or to work. One had a German passport- his father was an expat mining engineer.They found Germans to be most inhospitable. If your family hadn't been in town for 500 years, the Germans didn't want to have a thing to do with you.
Coincidentally, my sister and her German-born husband are currently touring Germany. Visiting childhood friends and the like.
A tourist has plenty of money for traveling, and a plan. And fancy duds.
A traveler might have to sleep in the back of his pick up truck with a dog that rolled in buffalo crap that day, because he can't afford to stay in motels every night and, even if he could afford it, they wouldn't let his stinking dog in.