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Tourist or Traveller – an Essay on Modern Tourism

“The tourist takes his culture with him, the traveller leaves his behind.”

The quote above, taken from a paper lying in front of me, describes the relationship between tourists and travellers. It describes the impact they cause on the country they visit as well as their general attitude towards another country, culture or other people. What exactly does it mean, though?

I believe it means tourists are unwilling to spend time and effort to try and adapt to the country they visit or to the cultural habits they are facing. Tourists see themselves as by-passers, trying to enforce the “watch but don’t touch”-idea at all times. They do not foresee how much impact their own actions do, meaning that they generally negatively impinge on the surrounding area and environment.
The quote describes travellers as people whom whole-heartedly attempt adapting to the culture and the ways of the country they visit. They are very aware of how to behave, what to not do and why, thus by also “leaving their culture behind” they take in a lot more knowledge and positive impressions from the visit.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard about the dangers of tourism, and it surely is not the last either. Often the environment has been victim of littering and other harmful behaviour, resulting in a lot of attention from the press and environmental organizations. Tourism can of course be a negative thing, and it probably mostly is, however it does have some bright sides to it. Tourism is to many countries the foremost source of money and fame, and in some rare cases big areas live solely on the profits from tourism. Although perhaps this looks like a symbiotic relationship, wealthy tourists visit the area and receive great service whilst the people obtain money to build schools and hospitals, it is absolutely reliant upon tourism. There is no “partnership” in this case, consequently if tourism dies then so do all the funds. Not vice-versa.

In comparison, travellers are tourists with an open mind and a conscious way of living. They do practically no damage to the environment, they interact in a helpful way with the people and their culture, they live on what is available more than trying to acquire what isn’t there.

Personally, I consider the main difference between tourism and travelling boils down to be the attitude. With an open mind and a positive attitude towards other cultures and ways of living I think humanity can come far, not only solving problems with tourism but also solving major environmental crises. I believe the cause for most problems on the Earth is attitudes and the way they affect how we act and think. Seeing the key role advertising plays in how we consume I assume it’s the best way to combat habits that affect the environment negatively, as consumption is closely linked to how much we influence our surroundings.

Which type of visitor I would rather be? That’s a difficult question! In most cases I do not wish to endeavour the lengthy process of becoming part of a culture nor do I wish to live by its rules even though I may deeply respect them. I am more of something in between; I avoid both affecting nature but also the affecting the culture, a moral I live by and which works for me. Admittedly none of us can be perfect, but I say let us overcome our differences and unite to save the Earth from what awaits it!

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