Traveller Vs Tourist

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, I thought. Travellers don’t know where they are going.”

This quote is cited by Paul Theroux in his book The Tao of Travel from The Happy Isles of Oceania.

I guess I have never felt worthy of a holiday. A true flop-and-drop holiday. A sip, flip and tits. A bum and hum in the sun. But that is what people want. That is what people like. And I thoroughly enjoy planning these experiences for people. I like sharing imagery of distant exotic lands like (Sydney, Gold Coast, maybe even Tasmania) Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia or Croatia, to entice people to open their minds. To reward themselves from a hard days work. Who doesn’t want to lie back on a beach, or in an infinity pool, knocking back cocktails and people watching. Maybe even eating some yummy food.

I’m not a world traveller but I’ve left a few footprints in some distant lands and each time I have done it my own way, taking the back roads and not the highway.

I tried to ‘holiday’, like the verb form of the word recently in Bali, and to be honest, it was quite enjoyable. I became quite relaxed and drunk and even brought on the ability to ignore the people around me. Even the food was alright.

It was difficult. I tried so hard to be a tourist. I was so bored at first. But I did it in the end: I have the ‘tan’ to prove it. I don’t really tan, just burn to the point where I resemble a crab: red on the outside, white on the inside. The tan has faded now, since I wrote that sentence.


Thinking back to those times when I sat on the street at dawn, drunk on arak, eating nasi kuning with my Balinese friends as well as friends I had met from all around the world, playing music and joking in many languages; or, when I was talking to a lovely lady named Rafaela in broken English, in a random French pub off the Champs-Elysees about the world and what’s in it, while an 80s French rock n roll band played in the background; or, when the eight-month, pregnant wife of a lovely Berlin couple decides to inform us that her husband will be taking us on a late night tour to all of the underground KGB bars for a historical drinking tour; it was during those times that I quoted frequently, a song by Supertramp: take the long way home. I took many risks so that ‘Lost’ became the proper noun that is my preferred destination.

So it makes me think that travellers could very well be searching for a way home, or a home at all. Whereas tourists have a home and have the luxury of leaving the comfort of it to enjoy themselves and relax and think about the home they have.

So what happens when people get home? They go back to work. They do the hard yards again, stomping back and forth on their welcome home mat like a dog burying a bone, and once again, the imagery of holidaying in distant lands seems appealing.

And what about the traveller?

Well I guess going home is inevitable, and possible, if home is in the heart.

What are your thoughts?