Life on the Road: Being a Traveler, Not a Tourist

Some people wouldn’t find any difference between the two words tourist and traveler; however, it is the travelers who experience a foreign country unlike tourists do.

Tourists enjoy cushy resorts; travelers prefer to stay with local families.

Tourists go on vacation; travelers go on trips.

Tourists buy all inclusive anything; travelers buy one-way tickets.

Travelers are rugged; they are weathered; their tanned skin and bleached hair have stories. They would sleep on the floor, eat ramen for dinner, and shower in the ocean if it meant that they could be in foreign country. Their backpacks are ripped, their clothes are stained, and their feet are filthy.

And, guess what? They don’t care.

I have found, over the years, that certain things take precedence when you are a traveler: things that matter to you at home, don’t matter to you when you’re away. Your life is enriched with broken conversations on a sweaty chicken bus, and getting lost in the back alleys of a cobblestoned city – not paychecks and high fashion. The life that you live on the road isn’t the life that you live at home, and that’s exactly what you love about it.

And you come to realize that no one in the world can understand this dual-lifestyle unless they, themselves, have been travelers too. It bonds you; it pieces you together. Your heart, and the heart of another traveler become intertwined, welding the particles of your star-gazing dreams together.

You stay in countries for longer than one week; you get “stuck” in places; you quit your jobs and extend your plane tickets; you buy drugs from locals; you take the cheaper, longer buses because you don’t care if a sweaty Cambodian lady basically sits on top of you.

You get Dengue Fever and think you might die; you eat sketchy street food and shit your pants; you get glass in your feet from never wearing shoes; you get robbed, mugged, or held at gunpoint…and even still…

You don’t stop traveling.

These are things that tourists just simply don’t do – and won’t do. But these are the stories that you will have for the rest of your life. They are the memories that you simply don’t get from going on vaca and they are the moments that have defined your youth.

You think that tourists are boring – that they’re missing out on all of the wild, exhilarating, and mind-blowing experiences – and they think you’re nuts. They think you’re reckless; they think you’re irresponsible; they think you are completely deranged in the mind.

And – maybe you are.