Are you a tourist or a traveler; Travel Agents can’t tell the difference anymore

English: Travel agents in West Street

English: Travel agents in West Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It amazes me how many people want to call themselves by words that invoke something that they are not.

A person with an iPhone wants to call themselves a photographer; someone who manipulates the hell out of an image wants to call themselves a “photographer” instead of a “graphic illustrator”.

The latest to join the list of mistaken?

Tourists who want to call themselves travelers. And along with them, ‘travel agents’ who do nothing more than book tours for the people who are tourists but want to be known as travelers.

On Skift.com recently there was an article about “Travel Agents”. Titled “Travel Agents Get Angry About the Internet 15 Years Too Late”,  the article has raised the ire of many travel agents all over the place.

The article on Skift was partially in response to a great article in Woman’s Day  magazine that pointed out the flaws, foibels and faults of relying on “Travel Agents”.

Justified? I don’t know, but I had to put in my two cents. There seems to be enough ‘blame’ to go around; mainly the cause is the average person who wants to take America with them on the road and still call themselves ‘travelers’.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

If a ‘traveler’ is someone that wants to get from point A to point B and back, then the term is proper and OK to use. But I’ve sat in too many plazas, parks and bistro’s and watched too many people rush in, grab an image or two with their trusty iPhone and rush back out before the bus leaves to not know the difference between a traveler and a tourist.

Traveler vs Tourist

Most people today are not travelers — they are tourists. There’s a difference. If you have to ask what the difference is, then you’re probably a tourist.

Tourists go somewhere to see what there is to see. Travelers go to discover.

While tourists like their trips like they like their dinners — ready made, pre-packaged and ready for mass consumption, travelers like to get out and explore. A traveler goes off the beaten path to find the unique in each city or country in which they find themselves.

A traveler isn’t afraid of getting lost in a land where they don’t speak the language and can’t read the signs. A traveler is willing to buy that meal from the curbside vendor even though they don’t know what the main ingredient is — actually they don’t care — it’s part of the adventure.

Tourists though want to know if the meal is safe, can the lactose or glutin intolerant eat it without any problems and they want all this before they disappear back into their four or five star hotel for the evening where they will get on their laptop and blog about what “great adventures” they are having.

Travel agents just can’t do it for you.

Travel agents sit behind their desks surfing the computer trying to put together the best “tour” pacakage available for the most number of people. A typical travel agent these days hasn’t been anywhere or done anything. And many travel agents reading that line will get their knickers in a twist pretty quick.

But that’s ok.

One problem with most travel agents is they themselves have never done any traveling. Oh, they may have been a tourist somewhere, but they’ve never experienced the taste of something truly local. What they have done is experience America in foreign countries.

On a posh, all expense paid, familirazation — or FAM — trip. But they’ve never pulled on the hiking boots for a day in Tuscany or sweated in the stalls of Port Said. And this is another reason that travelers don’t use travel agents — only tourists do.

If you were going to have heart surgery, would you rather have a surgeon that has actually done them? Or one that has only read about doing them?

I think you know which one I would choose.

What are your thoughts? Are you a traveler? Are you a tourist? Is there a difference? Give some feed back in the comments section.

 Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist from America.  His latest book of photography, Suenitos tells the story of the only daycare inside the dangerous Hidden City.  Now based in Argentina, he continues to turn his lens on social justice issues around the globe.  Connect with Jerry on MosaicHub, Facebook or LinkedIn today.  Have a story that needs to reach national media?  Email him today.

In addition to being photo editor for the Internet’s largest collection of Travel Articles, Outbounding, he is also the lead photographer for BuenosTours, the specialists in private walking tours of Buenos Aires

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