Defying Tradition: A Travelers Life For Me!

It seems everyone who travels these days has their own name for what they do.

Some will bicker the difference between a traveler and a tourist, while others who stay in one place for a while might classify themselves as a nomad while others who take multiple small trips over the course of a year might call themselves vacationers.

Some will even stress the difference between a person who embraces travel as a way of life and one who travels for a vacation from life.

Those that believe travel defines them will of course say it with more conviction while those that question the distinction generally don’t see the difference.

Charles Kosman at Ayer's Rock

Ayer’s Rock

With all this terminology surrounding people who, at some point in their lives, leave their traditional environment and who opt to spend some time in another location I wonder if the argument is worth it. Regardless of the dozens of highly respected dictionaries out there, people tend to hold onto a definition well past its intended use.

In the past few years I’ve read dozens of travel posts and articles explaining the key differences concerning the philosophy of travel. Some are incredibly concise and well written and others tend to be more like this and ramble on. What I believe they all had in common was the need for the authors to define themselves. I think, as humans, that is one of our primary concerns.

To give you an example, one of the first questions someone new will ask you is where you work. It’s as though what you do has any bearing on who you are. Sure, there are typically some common traits in every position, but work is only one small facet of who we are. Instead of asking us what are our dreams or where would we rather be, we ask each other what we do to put money on the table.

For those that are in love with their jobs, the question of what they do can be a defining question. I work here, I enjoy being here, I want to be here. For the vast majority of us though, a job is strictly a means to get where we’re going.

I would be thrilled if upon meeting someone rather than ask what I do they would ask me where I would rather be. Telling them you’d rather be hiking in the mountains, hanging out in Hong Kong, paddling a kayak over pristine water or, my favorite, swimming in a warm, sparkling crystal clear emerald ocean in a private cove off an uninhabited virgin white sand beach with a bucket of ice cold Coronas waiting for you would be much more indicative to who you were then whatever job you were working at the time.

I think the biggest problem with us travelers is that our goals are less clear than you average worker. For them, it’s easy to say I’m saving up to buy this or do this and their purpose for the next amount of time becomes clearer.

Oftentimes, simply the journey from one place to another is the reward of traveling. When was the last time someone from a mediocre job said they worked for the simple joy of working? Of course there are exceptions just like there are some travelers whose primary goal is simply to brag about the amount of countries they’ve visited.

The problem with classification is that regardless of how we define ourselves, others will define us differently. All we can hope is that the idea of who we are, what we want from our one shot at this life and what parting knowledge we can pass onto others is understood and accepted.

Charles Kosman ziplining in Costa Rica 2011

Ziplining in Costa Rica

I travel, I love to travel and I will continue to travel as long as I can. The enjoyment I get from meeting new people, exploring new things, tasting, smelling, hearing and seeing new places fills me with such joy that no worldly possession or fear of the unknown can equal it.

Call me what you will but I live to see that my dreams become my reality, and my current reality only represents a fraction of what I eventually hope to be.

Define that.

12 Responses

  1. Bret @ Green Global Travel

    I think the traveler vs. tourist debate is one of the most pointless exercises in the travel blogosphere. As I said in the FB thread the other day, I consider myself an “experientialist”: I travel to seek out new and interesting experiences, wherever and however we may find them. Sometimes, as on our latest trip to see polar bears in Churchill, we travel with an eco-friendly tour group. Sometimes we blaze our own trail. I don’t think one is better than the other, they’re just different. Bloggers who try to convince readers that their way of travel is the best way to travel are probably selling something.

  2. Charles Kosman

    You know Brett, I agree whole heartedly. We travel to experience new things. Whether as part of a tour or driving a beat up van alone through the outback the point is the same. We have a desire to see what this big old world has to offer and will take whatever means we can to make it happen.

    I haven’t come across any travel writers claiming themselves to be experientialists before. I think if anyone could call themselves that it would have to be an avid traveler. I missed that FB thread. I think I’ll have to go back and look it up

    Great philosophy and thanks for the comment!

  3. Ava Apollo

    It’s a pointless debate! I also hate when people ask what i do before they ask any other questions. I prefer to ask people what they’re “all about,” which a lot of people have trouble answering. I simply want to know what they enjoy, so that we can find some common ground. I guess giving your job title helps people put you in a group, but I have to admit, I don’t like saying I was an investment banker. The most common response is “but you don’t seem like an investment banker.” Not sure what exactly that means!

    • Charles Kosman

      It’s funny that you say that because it totally reinforces what I was getting at. Being an investment banker was what you did, not who you are. These days when someone asks me what I do I usually have an instant smile on my face and either make up some crazy job or simply say “I do whatever I feel like”.

      The truth is I’m many things at once and not all of them fit within western societies general structure. The sooner they realize I don’t have a normal 9 to 5 job the sooner we can get past stereotyping me and have a meaningful conversation. I’m always surprised at the amount of people that never question the path their on, why they’re on it or where they hope it takes them.

      BTW, you DON’t seem like any investment banker I’ve ever met however most have been pretty darn boring so take that as a good thing!

  4. Penny Sadler

    I wish I had your unwavering faith! I think what travelers have in common is a need to feel like everything is new and there is an adventure waiting.

    • Charles Kosman

      Penny, thanks for the comment. It’s no secret that travelers travel to see and experience new things. It can be highly addicting and going back to a predictable 9 to 5 job can be quite hard for some. The truth, though, is that at some point most travelers come to the understanding that life is fleeting and the world holds so many marvels and wonders that limiting themselves to only a small window of all the possibilities is like cutting off their oxygen.

      Defining themselves as travelers versus vacationers for instance implies that they see life differently from your average person when in reality they have no idea what the other persons views or thoughts are. For good or bad, they are just as guilty as labeling themselves as others are of labeling them. In my experience, the only times labels are good is when they’re on the side of a box letting you know where your toothbrush is hiding. 😉

  5. D.J. - The World of Deej

    Totally agree…why do we all have to be “about” something…why can’t travel just be what it is without having to label it. I like traveling like a local just as much as I like being a tourist, it’s all the same to me…new and amazing experiences that I’ll hopefully remember forever…

    • Charles Kosman

      It’s a great view you have D.J. and I totally agree. Just let me explore the world as I see fit until the colors dim, the aromas vanish, the tastes fade away and all that remains are glorious memories of a life truly lived.

  6. Jennifer

    True, the “traveler” versus”tourist” nonsense is wearying to keep reading and hearing about. People are allowed to live their lives and take their trips however they damn please, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. And plenty of people don’t even have the luxury to bother getting worked up with this sort of nonsensical debate. With very few exceptions (sex trade, endangered animal hunting) all travel is good travel, it does not have to be mind expanding if someone doesn’t want it to be.

    • Charles Kosman

      Jennifer, I like your line about travel not having to be mind expanding simply because when I wrote this article the notion of travel to expand my senses was at the forefront of my thoughts. You reminded me of another reason why I love to travel; the notion of rest and the need to regather myself. When I was a regular 9 to 5 guy with all the stresses that it included I often went away just to regroup who I was and get away from the normal routine. That kind of travel is just as important as any other.

      Thanks for the comment and you’re right, all travel is definitely good travel.:)

  7. LeX @ LeX Paradise

    For me, either tourist or traveller, it is the same! maybe traveller travel more often than tourist? who’s care? The main thing is, we enjoy our stay, meet new people, experiencing local culture and make good documentation! That’s it! 😉


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