"Are you a tourist or a traveler?" This question has bugged me since the day I started to go from one place to another frequently. This was two years ago. Honestly, the question has affected the way I've traveled.

Whenever I come back from a trip and people would ask me where I went, what places I've visited, and what I did while I was there, there's always at least one person who'll tell me, "Oh that's so touristy!" or "Ha? Sayang lang imong time didto. You should've gone to this place..." 

This made me create my itineraries carefully. I tried to include as many off-the-beaten-path places as I can and less "touristy" ones. You know what, I always end up wishing I visited more of the iconic spots or wishing I spent more time in a certain tourist spot.

Not that I didn't enjoy seeing the less popular places, I simply felt like something's missing. And I try to cheer myself up by saying that I'll go that place when I visit again, which hardly ever happens.

When I was planning my 12-day trip to three countries in South East Asia, I remembered the question and I shrugged it off completely. Why do I have to let a label dictate how I want to enjoy my trip? It's so silly! So what if I want to see and take photos of the Marina Bay Sands or the Petronas Towers and want to experience more than the usual too? So what if I want to check off all the must-visit places (even if they're tourist traps lol) on my list? It doesn't mean that I don't want to experience living like a local too.

Is there even any difference between being a tourist and a traveler?  

I did a quick Google search of articles about Tourists vs Travelers and I've stumbled upon absolutely ridiculous articles such as this one from Bored Panda, or this one from Huffington Post. I'm not sure if these are satirical articles. I hope they are.

Further scrolling had led me to this insightful blog post by The Backpacker's Paradox. I absolutely loved this line from the post:

"...the whole ‘traveller vs tourist” argument is bullshit. What makes someone a better traveler than someone else? Travel means different things to different people.

If you only have a limited number of days to spend in a certain place and you want to hit up all the must-dos on your list, then, by all means, go do it! If you're traveling long-term and you want to experience living with a local family or a tribe, go for it! I honestly believe now that there isn't any right or wrong way to travel. Your own experience is what matters the most.

This TED Talk by Cassie de Pecol, an incredible solo female traveler who broke a world record by traveling to 196 countries, is an absolute eyeopener. Here's the video and I hope you get some incredible insights:

"We all have our own way of traveling and discovering a culture and it doesn't matter what you see or where you go, what matters is your own experience while you're there. Some people think that only spending a week or an hour in a country doesn't allow you to see it, but if there's one thing I know to be true it's that just one brief experience can shape your whole life."

So the next time you plan you list the spots you want to go for your trip, forget about the labels! Travel however, whenever, and with whomever you want to. It's your trip, not the people who are making you feel bad for wanting to see the Merlion Statue for the first time. Walang basagan ng trip 😆.


Pearl Aton is a freelance creative from the Philippines. She posts her work and thoughts on her website, pearlaton.com.  

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